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1 The Transition to Sustainable Product Development and Manufacturing Robert C. Carlson and Dariush Rafinejad Management Science and Engineering Department, Stanford University April 2008 1. Introduction In this chapter we provide an overview of the state-of-the-art in sustainable product development and manufacturing and of the challenges in ubiquitous adoption of sustainable development practices in business. Environmental and business sustainability are examined in an holistic framework underscoring their interdependence on both spatial and temporal scales. We review the evolutionary rise in sustainability awareness including the development of methodologies for assessment and development of sustainable products/manufacturing. The major global corporations and manufacturers like IBM, HP, 3M, Toyota, Shell, Nestle, Monsanto, GE and others have gone through multiple evolutionary phases in their outlooks toward environmental sustainability. These and other companies have generally evolved through stages of no-concern, to pollution-control, to pollution-prevention, and to resource efficiency maximization in lockstep with governmental regulations. And in all these stages, firms have sought opportunities for product differentiation/branding, tried to influence governmental regulations, developed relationships with environmentalists, worked with their suppliers and adopted environmental and social responsibility metrics for internal audit and marketing purposes. However, the adoption of sustainable development as an imperative strategic vision is often lacking in the industrial enterprises. 1 According to the UN Commission led by Gro Harlem Brundtland in 1987, sustainable Development is “ development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. ” This definition has led to much discussion in the fields of (ecological) economics, public policy and environmental ethics. The prevalent interpretation of (economic) sustainability in business is growing (or at least non-diminishing) economic output (that is generally measured in terms of gross national product or GNP). This interpretation of sustainability is referred to as weak sustainability . On the other hand, sustainability that is interpreted as non- diminishing life opportunities is branded as strong sustainability . In the latter, human focus is extended
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2 beyond economic (manufactured) capital to ecological and social capital and development is considered as human development in quality of life. An extension of strong sustainability is coined “deep economy” where humans, as integral part of the environment, seek development in harmony with nature. An excellent overview of the concepts of weak and strong sustainability is provided by Robert Ayres, et al.
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This note was uploaded on 09/28/2010 for the course MS&E 264 taught by Professor Rafinejad during the Fall '10 term at Stanford.

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