Analyzing chemical substitution decisions among chemical and product manufacturers

  • Publication Date :
  • Publication Type : Journal Article
  • Author(s) : Vikram M. Rao, Royce A. Francis, Jennifer Y. Tanir
  • Journal Name : Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy

Chemical and product manufacturers, spurred by recent environmental and sustainability initiatives, are seeking to embrace alternatives assessment to identify suitable alternative chemicals that are safer and more sustainable for use in consumer and/or specialty products. In this process, it is important to understand potential tradeoffs concerning final product design and redesign decisions. The objective of the present study is to characterize such tradeoffs using a set of six factors affecting product design: business strategy, economic considerations, functionality and performance, health/environmental endpoints, public perception, and regulatory factors. These factors were further disaggregated into 33 attributes distributed across the six factors. We assessed (i) tradeoff weights for each factor and (ii) the degree of influence of factors and attributes on a recent product design or redesign using a survey targeted at chemical and product manufacturers. Results from 33 completed surveys show that two factors are statistically different from equal weighting across the six factors: health/environmental endpoints and regulatory factors. Important attributes (and their factors) include: product price (economic considerations), product performance (functionality and performance), meeting desired specifications (functionality and performance), and company reputation (public perception). Principal component analysis yields nine principal components explaining 79% of the variance in the attribute scores dataset. These components load heavily on attributes such as public awareness of human and environmental health concerns, company reputation, product performance, and product price. The broader implications of our study include a realization that the context of the decision may dictate how business and economic concerns may be addressed differently than health and environmental endpoint concerns with the goal of navigating decision tradeoffs among manufacturers.

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