A green mortgage from Rabobank or an energy-saving adapter from BCC: products with a green twist are hot. And yet it is not that hint of green that will determine the success of a product; consumers still place the highest priority on quality and function.
In his dissertation entitled 'The organization of greening. The integration of environmental management in new product development', Mark van der Veen analysed the development process of 34 environmentally friendly products. He will take his PhD at Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands, on Thursday, 6 December 2007.
In order to solve environmental issues it is vital to develop new, environmentally friendly products, such as fuel-efficient and non-polluting cars, low-solvent paints and biodegradable plastics.
The purpose of Mark van der Veen’s research is to provide a greater insight into the process of eco-friendly product development. Why was the product developed, how was the production process organised and are the managers satisfied with the results?
Van der Veen followed the development of 34 eco-friendly products of leading concerns, such as Philips, Akzo Nobel, Ahold, DAF Trucks and Shell, as well as lesser known companies. The products varied from natural dog food to a cleaner lorry. A remarkable outcome of the study was that there was hardly any involvement from the company’s Environmental Manager or specialist Environmental Department. Instead, the main roles were assigned to the Research and Development Manager and the Marketing Manager. Whereby the latter’s main concern centred on the effects of the environmental improvement on the quality of the product.
Because a product still has the greatest chance of commercial success if the customer is satisfied with its quality. Regardless of how important environmental issues might seem, consumers will not settle for paint that starts peeling sooner or a smaller car. The greatest chance of success is when the product is not only friendlier on the environment but also clearly of a superior quality. A lighter lorry that offers a larger load capacity, for example, or a bio-degradable soap that is gentler on the skin.
Mark van der Veen (1964) is a former director of the Scientific Institute for Environmental Management and currently lectures on Corporate Social Responsibility at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam.