Time To Take Responsibility

The road to a more sustainable everyday life is long and demanding. In Norway, we often talk about regulating material selection so that products are less harmful to the planet.

By Anne Marie Brady, MD Scandinavian Design Group (SDG)

The road to a more sustainable everyday life is long and demanding. In Norway, we often talk about regulating material selection so that products are less harmful to the planet. We limit the use of harmful materials, recycle what can be recycled, use air blocks to limit city traffic, and subsidise zero-emission cars. In this way, the government, businesses and regular people do their best to achieve the UN's climate goals together. But if we remove the “sustainability element”, the truth is that none of these measures, nor their results, are very attractive in the eyes of the consumer. Often, “sustainability” is the only thing that differentiates a brand. Is that good enough? Shouldn’t sustainable products and services be at least as good as those that are less sustainable?

The opportunity to contribute to sustainability has increased. We participate in workshops on circular business models, run innovation processes, and talk about the UN's sustainability goals. All of this helps raise awareness and increase our knowledge of sustainability. But there is still a distance between words, actions and impact. Workshops with Post-Its, knowledge maps and positioning exercises are good tools, but these good ideas are often far from our day-to-day businesses. Our aim is to go from thought to action; from design thinking to design doing. We strive for a stronger focus on what we can accomplish today. We take steps to increase the competitiveness of the brand and create profit in both the short and long term. This is our responsibility.

There is also a clear purpose. Designers control the experience of using different products and services. Designers can turn business plans into products for consumers, through the development of new concepts and by designing deep brand experiences. Design adds value to products and is a key differentiator for consumers. We have a real impact on Norwegian consumers and businesses. With that influence comes responsibility. We must use that responsibility for something that's more important than ourselves. The design profession has to work with a multifaceted business sector, so there are many solutions for sustainability. However, it's too lazy to transfer the responsibility to consumers when it comes to keeping up to date with the benefits of unified value chains, biodegradable and recycled materials, or how digital solutions can replace physical ones. We designers work on the side of the public and represent the voice of consumers.

Just as design is more than shape and colour, sustainability has expanded to deal with more than just environmental protection. The UN's Sustainable Development Goals include poverty, gender equality, energy, peace work, environmental work, innovation and education. Within all these areas, we need attractive, differentiated and well-functioning brands. In order to do that, we obviously need to work on innovation, but perhaps - most importantly – we need to improve the products and services that are already on the market. At Scandinavian Design Group we have embraced Goal No. 17, “Collaboration to Achieve the Goals”, and seek to develop good partnerships across national borders, the public and private divide, and organisational life. It's time to do something – not just to accept the consequences of what others do.

Published at: https://cordmagazine.com/corporate/time-to-take-responsibility/