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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

Climate change and environmental degradation caused by human activity have become pressing global issues. The increasing demands of a growing global economy have put immense pressure on the environment, calling for a systemic response to address these challenges. One of the most critical solutions lies in sustainable design – creating products that have a reduced environmental impact and can contribute to a more sustainable future. Let’s explore the whitepaper titled "The Sustainability Imperative: A Value Chain Response to a Systemic Issue" by CIMdata, Inc., (see link at the end of the blog) which highlights the importance of sustainable design and the role of digital tools in achieving sustainability objectives.

The Global Sustainability Challenge

The facts and figures related to the current state of global sustainability are alarming. Over 45% of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from the use of materials, and microplastics are now found in the ocean and even in the air we breathe. The extraction and processing of raw materials have resulted in a staggering 90% loss of biodiversity. Additionally, the economy's "Take-Make-Waste" model is at a tipping point, where only around 9% of the 100 billion tons of material resources used each year are being recycled or reused.

With this data in mind, it becomes evident that a global, systemic approach is necessary to address the environmental impacts of various industries. Sustainability should be the overarching goal, aiming to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Sustainable Design and its Benefits

To combat the environmental challenges, companies must embrace sustainable design as a core principle in product development. Sustainable products, which are designed to have reduced environmental impacts throughout their lifecycle, hold the potential to improve a company's environmental record while simultaneously enhancing revenues.

Research shows that an increasing number of consumers prioritize environmental responsibility when choosing products. Embracing sustainable business models and practices can lead to a 21% increase in profitability and positive outcomes for companies. Moreover, companies that offer sustainable products can attract a growing market of environmentally-conscious customers, creating a positive feedback loop that benefits both the environment and the bottom line.

Digital Twins and Modeling for Sustainable Product Development

Digital twins, modeling, and simulation are crucial in achieving sustainability objectives. Digital twins, the virtual representations of physical assets, enable companies to understand the impacts of new materials, manufacturing processes, and field support changes. They provide valuable insights into product behavior, manufacturing processes, and maintenance in the field. By leveraging digital twins, companies can identify high-impact actions in development, manufacturing, and field support, thus reducing environmental footprints.

Implementing the Circular Economy

The circular economy is a concept, promoting a model of production and consumption that emphasizes sharing, reusing, and recycling existing materials and products. Adopting circular economy principles involves making products and their lifecycles more sustainable, which can significantly reduce environmental impacts.

The Role of the Digital Thread and Enterprise-Grade Platforms

Sustainability efforts demand data collaboration and integration across the value chain. A digital thread, which connects data flows across traditionally siloed functional perspectives, is essential for this purpose. Enterprise-grade platforms that support PLM strategies are increasingly critical in managing the expansive web of data and facilitating value chain collaboration.

Addressing Regulatory Requirements

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regimes are becoming increasingly prevalent and will require companies to provide value chain reporting related to sustainability metrics. To meet these requirements, companies must develop a baseline understanding of their current state, assess packaging techniques and materials, and leverage digital tools and platforms to support compliance efforts.


Sustainable design and product development are crucial components of the global effort to combat climate change and environmental degradation. By adopting a systemic approach and integrating sustainable principles early in the product lifecycle, companies can make significant progress in reducing their environmental impact. Digital twins, modeling, and the digital thread play a central role in achieving sustainability objectives. As regulatory demands increase, companies must act proactively to embrace sustainability, drive change, and become leaders in building a more sustainable future for generations to come.

Read the report - https://www.sap.com/documents/2022/02/f4b4e460-157e-0010-bca6-c68f7e60039b.html
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