The Drawdown Labs Job Function Action Guides will help employees understand how their roles are critical in addressing the climate crisis, as well as implement high-impact solutions and navigate key considerations for taking action inside the workplace.
To make your product design job a climate job:
- Create sustainability-focused KPIs, such as energy consumption, water usage, and waste creation, during the design brief stage to ensure climate is a key component of product success – and keep climate impacts and attributes in mind during design reviews and prototyping.
- Incorporate well-placed and well-timed climate information into the product to encourage users to behave more sustainably. For example: include real time information on energy usage of the product; gamify features to incentivize lower energy consumption; encourage reuse; and incorporate carbon labeling.
- Integrate behavioral science into product design. Understanding key points along the user journey allows you to use decision-making psychology to guide your users toward more sustainable actions. (Check out this article on “climate behavioral interventions.”)
- Include product features that make climate information and education more accessible – how can your product assist users in becoming more aware of and resilient to extreme weather events or in finding climate information relevant to their community? (See this example from Google.)
- Emphasize when the sustainable option aligns with other factors that users care about, such as cost and health.
- Collaborate with writers, editors, and marketers to ensure that the copy in your product prompts the user to take action.
- Design UX/UI elements for minimized energy consumption. Microsoft's Green Design Principles include ideas like:
- Reduce content loads and avoid auto-loading content (make energy-intensive features optional).
- Minimize and simplify visuals and media.
- Remove unnecessary data.
- Collaborate with engineers to prioritize energy efficiency by doing things like writing efficient code, minimizing stored data, and planning for data deletion.
- Use cloud providers who have set – or are on track to meet – their own ambitious climate goals. (See this four-part series on greenhouse gas emissions from cloud providers.)
- Collaborate with internal and external partners, as well as experts in circular economy and sustainable materials, to evaluate all material and design options.
- Assess the potential benefits and consequences of different materials for your product – beyond just greenhouse gas emissions – to consider other potentially harmful effects on people and the planet, such as water use, biodiversity impacts, and chemical pollution.
- Consult experts on topics such as packaging and manufacturing to ensure that potential downstream effects are taken into account early in the design process.
- Design with less – also known as dematerialization – by reducing content and using fewer and lighter materials and packaging.
- Choose circular design and material options that enable product repair (like Patagonia), upgrades and adaptations, modularity (like Fairphone), reuse, and resale. Avoid planned obsolescence and prioritize durability.
- Collaborate with the procurement and sourcing teams to identify sufficient alternative materials. Take a targeted approach, first replacing the most harmful materials or ingredients that you use in large quantities. Use verification tests to show comparable performance.
- Bring in experts and use other resources to educate your team on sourcing "rules of thumb." For example, across various raw materials, there are global deforestation hotspots that your company should generally avoid to reduce its contribution to ecosystem destruction. (Consult resources like Climate TRACE’s emissions data comparison tool and Project Drawdown’s Drawdown Roadmap.)
Many of the above actions will likely be dependent on your company's overall business model – try to find more information on your company's operational capabilities that are required to support circular design choices.
- Integrate and elevate sustainability and equity as key criteria in the product discussion alongside value, usability, and feasibility. Is this product sustainable? Is it contributing to climate change or helping accelerate solutions? Who might this product harm? Set aside the time and space to adequately consider these questions.
- The climate crisis does not affect everyone equally. Work to go beyond your product's immediate response and short-term benefits and focus on the potential long-term benefits and impacts, particularly for those communities most vulnerable to climate change. (To evaluate the potential harms that your product might create, check out Spotify’s Ethics Assessment template.)
- Create upskilling opportunities around climate-friendly and circular design in collaboration with your company's human resources team, sustainability team, and/or sustainability employee resource group.
- Encourage your team to develop internal tools for designers to use when incorporating sustainability into their work.
- Leverage industry groups focused on sustainability and climate action, such as Climate Designers.
- Reduce carbon-intensive business travel for you and your team by opting for virtual meetings. If you can, avoid flying and instead take a train or use another mode of transportation that emits fewer emissions.
- When conducting in-person research, opt for local users. If that’s not possible, conduct multiple user studies in a single geographic location at one time.
- Build capacity and knowledge by connecting with other designers – and other colleagues in your organization. Come together to brainstorm climate action steps (check out Project Drawdown's Discover page for ideas!), share best practices, and raise your collective concern at team and all-staff meetings.