Ecodesign Strategies and Customer Value: A Conjoint Approach

Ecodesign Strategies and Customer Value: A Conjoint Approach

Anna Paola Codini (Università degli Studi di Brescia, Italy), Giuseppe Bertoli (Università degli Studi di Brescia, Italy) and Riccardo Frassine (Poste Italiane, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1419-1.ch010

Abstract

Despite increasing attention to environmental issues, studies of ecodesign reveal that the market and the customer are two of the main external barriers to the effective implementation of ecodesign in industrial companies. Moreover, studies adopting this perspective mostly evidence the difficulties in interpreting customer perception as a source of customer value. Contributions exploring specific techniques that may be useful to support ecodesign strategies in a customer-based perspective are scarce. To fill this gap in the literature, this chapter revises the literature on ecodesign, adopting a customer-based perspective focusing on the controversial results regarding eco-products and customer value. To identify techniques suitable to support ecodesign strategies in a customer-based perspective, and considering the challenges affecting customer perception of eco-products, the chapter shows—through an empirical analysis conducted on ecological washing machines—how conjoint analysis can be successful in this aim.
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Introduction

Ecodesign is an approach considering environmental aspects and integrating them in the product development process (ISO, 2011) through the application of strategies aimed at reducing the negative environmental impact along the phases of the product lifecycle.

Now that sustainability has been acknowledged as a key driver of innovation (Nidumolu et al., 2009; Hopkins, 2010), research on green product innovation in general (Baumann et al., 2002; Adams et al., 2012; Pereira and Vence, 2012; De Medeiros et al., 2014) and on ecodesign in particular has flourished in recent years (Rossi et al., 2016; Chun et al., 2018). Within this body of literature, many contributions seek to revise the various studies conducted over the years on green product development, focusing on antecedents, on outcomes of the strategies under consideration, and on success factors (Dangelico, 2016). However, the implementation of ecodesign practices in industry is not advancing as rapidly as expected or as would be required to create a more sustainable society (Dekoninck et al., 2016).

Furthermore, looking at the external barriers that prevent the implementation of ecodesign approaches in industrial companies, some authors (e.g., Rossi et al., 2016) have identified “market and customer” as relevant external barriers. The obstacles they present might stem from difficulties in identifying the advantages and disadvantages connected with the application of ecodesign strategies, lack of awareness of benefits, or difficulties in interpreting customer perception (Bey et al., 2013; Boks, 2006; Johansson, 2002; Handfield et al., 2001).

Despite this consciousness, so far studies of ecodesign that adopt a customer-based perspective are scarce (Chun et al., 2018). The literature on green product innovation focuses largely on market outcomes, mostly as evidenced by the impact on sales and market share (Driessen et al., 2013), reputation (Chen, 2008; Driessen et al., 2013; Lin et al., 2013), acquisition of new customers (Liu et al., 2011; Triebswetter and Wackerbauer, 2008a, 2008b), customer loyalty (Aoe, 2007; Plouffe et al., 2011), customer satisfaction (Leonidou et al., 2013), and willingness to pay (Langerak et al., 1998), sometimes using controversial evidence. Few studies have investigated the impact of ecodesign strategies on customer value, using specific techniques aimed at developing eco-design strategies according to the customer value.

Furthermore, the adoption of a customer-based perspective is particularly needed in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in which companies cannot disregard consumers who nowadays reveal to pay particular attention to the environment and to the ethical aspects (Galbreth and Ghosh, 2013; Ülkü and Hsuan, 2017). As the Fourth Industrial Revolution has radically changed the traditional concept of innovation—requiring and increasing customer orientation—eco-design strategies cannot ignore this claim to the imperative of customer satisfaction, and need for specific tools supporting this transition.

In order to fill this gap in the literature, and consistently with the aim of the book, the current chapter revises the literature on ecodesign, adopting a customer-based perspective focusing on the relationship between ecodesign strategies and customer value. With the aim of identifying useful techniques for supporting ecodesign strategies from a customer-based perspective, the chapter shows—using an empirical analysis of ecological washing machines—how conjoint analysis can be successful in this aim.

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