Uncovering ecodesign dilemmas: A path to business model innovation

The aim of this article is to explore how ecodesign dilemmas contribute to a firm's ecodesign evolution. The article achieves this through empirical research into a process of ecodesign decision-making in a single firm. The study spans a timeframe of nine years. The article describes how recognising and dealing with ecodesign dilemmas fuels cycles of learning, leading the firm towards business model innovation. The study classifies a unique set of ecodesign dilemmas: hierarchies; tensions; contradictions; and oversights. Through this classification, we show how firms need to adopt a unified approach combining operational (ecodesign principles approach), tactical (ecodesign management processes) and strategic actions (business model innovation), to systematically manage ecodesign dilemmas. To support this, the article presents a framework describing key actions for operational, tactical and strategic ecodesign decision-making and the types of ecodesign dilemmas typical to each approach. Through this study, we show that the business model is critical to inform effective ecodesign decision-making and illustrate how design can drive firms towards sustainable change, from the bottom up.