Big data for sustainable design

big dataWhat has big data to do with sustainability and an environmentally friendly future? A lot, according to Ford and Nike. Both brands are using big data analysis to design new products in a more sustainable way.

At Ford HQ,  teamwork between Ford’s sustainability strategy and core research groups resulted in the new F-150. John Viera, Ford’s global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters, explained to The Guardian: “We wanted climate science to be our foundation to determine our CO2 targets for fuel economy from now into the next century. Our analysts worked with an energy provider to kick out models for Ford to do our share of climate stabilization.”

Ford has taken the “heavy” out of its best-selling F-150 heavy-duty truck, with the help of big data and climate change models. The car brand has redesigned its 2015 model to be 700lbs lighter using aluminum alloy components similar to military and aerospace materials. The new version also adds a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine option with start-stop technology to further reduce fuel usage. In addition, life cycle assessments helped Ford see that it was more sustainable to incorporate recycled materials from waste streams of industries like carpets and denim rather than materials (such as bamboo)grown across the globe, Viera explained.

With these steps Ford showed a radical switch in their F-150 design, especially the change of body, but will it satisfy the needs of the hardcore fans? On the other hand, if Ford had chosen not to make a step in sustainability, they might become the ‘Hummer’ of the future.

big dataAt Nike HQ, data analysis, future casting and scenario planning are helping the sneaker brand find ways to reach its vision of decoupling growth from constrained resources like fossil fuels and water; they designed products that reduce manufacturing waste, such as its Flyknit shoes and developed a water-free dyeing technique called ColorDry. They also researched alternatives to cotton, which is a water intensive crop. 

Hannah Jones, vice-president of sustainable business and innovation with Nike: “The consumer won’t compromise on performance or price, but I think the consumer is really connecting the dots now. It’s going to be a requisite in the future for brands to have embedded in the business model how they think about sustainability and how they redefine premium.”

Do you agree with her statement that in the nearby future, consumers will choose for brands that have embedded sustainability in their products or services?

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