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Free Content Employee Empowerment for Sustainable Design

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In sustainable product development literature the main focus has traditionally been on the development of tools and methods to integrate sustainability aspects in company processes. The literature hereby focuses on technical aspects of products and processes, and has largely ignored the role of the individual employee and how this role can make or break the implementation of such processes. A number of case studies in Belgian and Dutch firms, relatively experienced with implementation of sustainability in product development, reveal that empowerment and communication are of utmost importance. Training has been indicated as an important way for transferring knowledge on sustainability issues within the cases. Together with training, also support for the employees was indicated as an issue that should get sufficient attention during the implementation process. The empirical data from the case studies, gathered primarily through semi-structured interviews, suggests that this support first gets provided by external experts and evolves towards internal support by the internal experts, sustainability coordinators or a group of ambassadors. At the moment when a larger group of employees gets involved, support for them needs to be readily available. A firm thereby needs to be ready to provide this support e.g. by a group of trained ambassadors. The acquired insights have been summarised as implications for managers, with a distinction between firms that have less and more experience with integrating sustainability criteria in product design.
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Keywords: Change management; Employee empowerment; Sustainable design; Sustainable product development

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2014

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  • The Journal of Corporate Citizenship focuses explicitly on integrating theory about corporate citizenship with management practice. This means that the journal provides a forum in which the tensions and practical realities of making corporate citizenship real are addressed in a reader-friendly, yet conceptually and empirically rigorous format. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship aims to publish the best ideas integrating the theory and practice of corporate citizenship in a format that is readable, accessible, engaging, interesting and useful for readers in business, consultancy, government, NGOs and academia. This peer-reviewed journal encourages practical, theoretically sound, and (when relevant) empirically rigorous manuscripts that address real-world implications of corporate citizenship in global and local contexts.
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