New sustainability maturity model, assessment tool helps organizations develop sustainable products

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A new sustainability maturity model and assessment tool will help guide research and development organizations to create sustainable products and services that drive business growth.

A panel led by the Industrial Research Institute (IRI) conducted an 18-month study and built the sustainability model and assessment tool to allow companies to measure the progress of integrating sustainability into new product development. The study was recently published in Research Technology Management

Jamie Pero-Parker, Ph.D., a research engineer at RTI, was a member of the Sustainability Maturity Model Research-on-Research working group that conducted the study and built the IRI Sustainability Model and Assessment Tool. Others firms participating in the working group included Ingersoll Rand, Energizer, Schneider Electric, Lord Corporation, and Intertek.

“Sustainability has become an important factor for the success of a business,” Pero-Parker said. “Companies need to adopt a framework or model with clear and relevant metrics to track implementation progress and meet the sustainability-related needs of customers, employees and other stakeholders.” 

The maturity model tracks an organization’s progress toward sustainability through four levels defined as beginning, improving, succeeding and leading. For each level, the model defines a set of behaviors, processes, tools and outcomes that should be demonstrated. 

The model also contains 14 dimensions organized into two focus areas, strategy and design tools, to differentiate between planning and tactical activities. The actions demonstrated by an organization within each dimension are mapped into the maturity levels. 

To develop the IRI Sustainability Assessment Tool, the panel captured each dimension by developing a series of questions with assigned point values. Organizations are given a maturity level based on the overall response to the questions. 

When combined with the maturity model, the assessment tool allows organizations to benchmark their sustainability performance for new product development. The tool helps companies understand their core strengths, key needs and how they compare with others in their industry. 

The IRI Sustainability Maturity Model and Assessment Tool is different from existing frameworks due to its focus on new product development. To validate the model and assessment tool, the panel gathered data from 20 companies and compared the model to other sustainability ranking systems. 

“This model is a less expensive and easier to use framework for developing a strategy to improve a company’s sustainability practices,” Pero-Parker said. “The tool can also be self-administered as often as desired.” 

The IRI Sustainability Maturity Model is available at no cost at www.iriweb.org/sustainabilitytool

 

Highlights

  • A new sustainability maturity model and assessment tool will help guide research and development organizations to create sustainable products and services that drive business growth
  • Jamie Pero-Parker, Ph.D., a research engineer at RTI, was a member of the Sustainability Maturity Model Research-on-Research working group