A Pragmatic Approach to Green Product Development

Balaji Jayaseelan

Why do companies talk about and pursue ‘green’ products when there is often very little resonance among consumers? Is it because it is the right thing to do?  Does it offer a competitive advantage to their brands? Or is it a strategy to achieve cost savings through energy and waste reduction?

It depends upon who you talk to.

There are some companies that get it right with the consumers and become successful, while others are constantly looking at ways to get it right.  For the latter companies, here is my advice for a possible approach towards greener product development.

At Newell Rubbermaid, our first step is to understand that there is no such thing as a ‘green product’.  Every product has potential trade-offs and we need to understand what ‘green’ attributes can be a good incremental value or a game changer. Some of the methods in understanding consumer relevance are through market research, either by primary or secondary insights and/or benchmarking with your peers and competitors.

Questions we need to answer to influence green product development in early stage gate processes are:

  1. To what extent are your consumers interested in ‘green’ products?
  2. To what extent are your consumers demanding ‘green’ for your product categories in particular?
  3. To what extent are consumer ‘needs’ related to environmental issues being met in the marketplace?
  4. To what extent are market trends forming that might drive greater desire for green solutions among consumers, retailers, and governments?
  5. Are there certifications/Eco labels available in the market that resonate with the core consumer of this product?  To what extent is certification required to make a credible claim for this product category or market segment?

It is important that we understand these answers before we influence green product development. In the case of existing products, we should map out the green benefits using product mapping exercise like Value Analysis and Value Engineering. For those of you in pursuit of the green products,

  • What kind of roadblocks have you found in innovating green products?
  • Are we constantly looking out metrics to measure the green attributes to our revenue growth in our brands?
  • What kinds of Green platforms do the consumer really care?
  • What are the other effective methods to map out green attributes in our products?
About Balaji Jayaseelan

Balaji Jayaseelan is Head of Global Sustainability at Newell Rubbermaid, where he is in charge of providing strategic advice to business units on a wide range of sustainability issues including energy/climate change, waste management, product claims, green product innovations and Life cycle management. He is a Chemical Engineer and holds a Masters in Environmental management concentrating on Sustainability.

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1 Comment
  1. sunil dev

    November 24, 2011

    A number of green products aren’t flying off the shelves the way companies anticipated. Why is it that the green revolution has taken companies by storm, but not consumers? With the environment at the forefront of consumer concerns, it makes one wonder, why consumers aren’t dropping the bad stuff and buying the good stuff. We build it, but they just won’t come.

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