Follow these steps to help your business design products in a climate-positive way, from sourcing materials through to packaging responsibly, or getting accredited as a sustainable business.
The design of your product will have the biggest impact on its carbon footprint, so do your best to get this right up front.
- Incorporate climate thinking into your product’s value proposition and your research and development (R&D) plan.
- Investigate and choose low-carbon, reusable, and recyclable materials for your products.
- Design your production process to minimise waste (e.g. through optimised cutting patterns) and find ways to manage unavoidable waste, like composting or re-cycling materials.
- Design products to last by choosing resilient materials and considering how the product could be repurposed or recycled at end-of-life.
Your production process will be where most of your emissions actually come from. Getting the process right, and keeping it running optimally will help your finances and your emissions.
- Choose low emissions energy sources and energy efficient equipment for new production lines.
- If you’re using existing production lines, consider getting an energy audit and developing an energy management plan to optimise your energy use.
- Understand how the production process should be performing and keep track of any variations from this.
- Keep a close eye on manufacturing failure rates. Failed products can’t be sold – and can lead to wasted time and materials.
- Invest in energy monitoring to track the energy you use in production and create a plan to reduce it.
- Keep in mind that reducing material and energy waste will almost always result in cost savings.
- Make sure your staff are trained and supported to keep production running efficiently and to report or escalate issues immediately.
Suppliers, Transport and Packaging
Your suppliers are a part of your product's lifecycle, so choose suppliers who have the same values you do, and work with them to improve efficiencies. Transport and packaging can be a big part of your product’s emissions and waste footprint.
- Choose suppliers who are measuring and reducing their own emissions and ask them to disclose their emissions if they don't already
- Use local suppliers and materials to minimise emissions from transport, but make sure the supplier uses clean energy, otherwise it might add up to more emissions overall
- Use a waste management provider that actively diverts waste from landfill
- Ask your logistics providers about lower-carbon delivery options (e.g. rail, EV trucks or vans, and load or route optimisation)
- Choose recycled packaging like certified paper sources (FSC, SFI), bio-based plastics or bamboo fibres, and avoid sealants, glues, colourants, or additives that can't be recycled
- Minimise your packaging sizes or use several packaging sizes rather than one size for all products.
- Try to give your customers lower-carbon delivery options, e.g. if they don’t need it tomorrow, don’t use next-day delivery.
- Likewise, try to plan your deliveries of materials, supplies and spare parts ahead of time to avoid urgent deliveries and extra trips.
- For refrigerated products, consider the whole product supply chain, including spoilage and the emissions impacts of refrigerants, which can be significant.
Consumption and customers
Consider what happens to your product when it arrives in the hands of your customers, and look for ways you can communicate your climate commitment to them.
- Give your customers the information they need to make good decisions about the product, like clear operating and care instructions, and clearly marking materials or packaging that can be recycled.
- Make product information available on your website, in case consumers lose the manual or instructions that come with it.
- Consider providing a repair service so that you can maximise the useful life of your products.
- Consider providing a return service when products reach their end of life, so you can control the process and recover valuable materials.
- Investigate getting a sustainability accreditation through an organisation like Toitu or Ekos so customers know you're the real deal.