Material selection for eco-innovation: SPICE model

© 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Achieving a sustainable society requires design practitioners to eco-innovate through material selection. Material selection resources are evolving, including physical material libraries, databases, software and tools that connect materials with designers. However, the material-properties focus of these resources risks over-rationalising material selection within the context of technical material properties. Material selection needs consideration of a broader material system, reflecting sectoral behaviour, stakeholders, legislation, access to knowledge and networks. In light of this, the aim of this research is to deepen understanding of ecodesign by investigating the role of key stakeholders during material selection for the development of eco-innovative products. The research method is an in-depth case study at a sustainability-focused furniture design business. Four embedded case studies of New Product Developments (NPD) are drawn from within the main case. The case study methods include interviews, site visits and observation activities spanning three years. The case studies uncover the role of stakeholders in eco-innovative material selection during New Product Development of office furniture. The paper presents eco-innovations based on standard portfolio materials and new material adoptions. Ecodesign strategies employed include (1) Design for Disassembly (2) Dematerialisation (3) Material Streamlining and (4) Part Reduction. The results uncover how the efficacy of ecodesign decision-making is strongly dependent on stakeholder knowledge, characterised by heuristics with conflicting trade-offs along product life cycles. From this the paper presents SPICE, a new conceptual model and material portfolio classification. By linking stakeholders, material selection, ecodesign and trade-offs, the SPICE model aids strategic design management and material selection for eco-innovation.