Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

A Maturity Model for Sustainability in New Product Development: A New Assessment Tool Allows Companies to Benchmark Progress toward Sustainability Goals and Drive NPD Growth

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

A Maturity Model for Sustainability in New Product Development: A New Assessment Tool Allows Companies to Benchmark Progress toward Sustainability Goals and Drive NPD Growth

Article excerpt

Sustainability, first defined in terms of the "triple bottom line" of people, planet, and profit by John Elkington (1997), is no longer a fleeting consumer trend (Nidumolu, Prahalad, and Rangaswami 2009); it has now become an important consideration for business. This has led an increasing number of companies to integrate sustainability into their business, operational, and developmental activities (Haaneas et al. 2011; Dyllick and Hockerts 2002). Various motivators drive companies to adopt sustainability practices, including a need for regulatory compliance or anticipation of regulatory change, an understanding of limited natural resources, consumer interest and demand, or a desire to limit expenses associated with consuming resources and disposing of waste. Many of these drivers are so inherent to business that a recent MIT Sloan Management Report found that companies believe that sustainability will eventually become a core function that is central to a business's success (Haaneas et al. 2011).

Although achieving true sustainability means integrating triple-bottom-line concerns into all aspects of the business, companies often adopt environmental strategies as a first step to incorporate sustainability into their business practices. However, limited work has been done to look at the relationship between environmental strategies and green product development (Albino et al. 2012; Knox 1999; Fussler and James 1997). The Sustainability Maturity Model Research-on-Research (ROR) working group focused on sustainability in new product development (NPD), picking up where the previous Sustainability in R&D ROR group left off (Chapas et al. 2010).

Although many sustainability frameworks exist, they do not meet the needs of IRI companies because they focus more broadly than NPD and do not provide detailed enough guidance for NPD professionals. The existing models that are closest to the model presented here are either hard to use or not generally available. There is therefore a need for a new model, one appropriate to NPD. The model developed by the group fills this need, providing an easy-to-administer, freely available tool with a deeper focus on NPD. The IRI model has been implemented as a maturity assessment tool that allows companies to measure their sustainability efforts with regard to various aspects of NPD. The assessment tool presented here correlates reasonably well with the more general models, but provides finer distinctions in areas where NPD professionals need to focus.

Maturity Model and Sustainability Frameworks

A maturity model describes the development of specific capabilities within an organization over time. Maturity models for a particular capability build on empirical data derived by studying companies that display varying levels of the capability of interest. Most frameworks for maturity models include four or five levels of maturity, with each level representing a greater degree of competency in the capability than the previous one. For the purposes of this work, the four levels were labeled beginning, improving, succeeding, and leading. At each level, the model references a set of behaviors, processes, tools, and outcomes that a company at that particular level of competency should demonstrate. This is the framework the IRI sustainability maturity model ROR group drew on to create its sustainability maturity model for NPD.

A plethora of different frameworks is available to describe the various elements of sustainability. Most of these frameworks provide for consistent measurement and reporting of the sustainability-related attributes of companies and the offerings they provide in the form of products and services (Table 1).

Perhaps the best known is the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI). The index, which encompasses a broad-based assessment across 20 economic, environmental, and social dimensions, is useful as a benchmarking tool at the company level. …

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