What roles do design engineers play in complying with the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive?

Neil D'Souza, CEO

February 28, 2024

4 Min Read
Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive
Adisak Lamphat/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Design engineers stand at the forefront of revolutionizing supply-chain management as the world transitions into a new era of sustainability and regulatory compliance. The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CS3D), introduced by the European Union (EU), is setting new precedents for accountability and transparency in corporate operations, particularly in supply chains. Design engineers play a key role in compliance given their involvement in selecting materials, designing products, meeting end-use requirements, and preparing projects for manufacturing and distribution. The design and engineering choices they make directly impact the sustainability of a product and therefore that of the corporation.

The Essence of the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CS3D)

The CS3D initiative is centered on due diligence, a concept deeply woven into the fabric of European regulatory frameworks. It elevates responsibility to the highest levels of corporate governance, requiring directors to ensure their companies' operations align with the precise due diligence protocols outlined. Unlike other directives focused primarily on reporting, CS3D demands active adherence to due diligence in business practices and supply chain management. This directive encompasses companies generating $300 million or more in revenue within Europe, including a vast array of multinational corporations from the United States.

The Role of Design Engineers

The transition toward compliance with CS3D heralds a significant shift in how companies approach their supply chains. It demands a granular understanding of every link in the chain, extending beyond direct suppliers to the entire network that fuels corporate operations. Herein lies the pivotal role of design engineers. These professionals are tasked with deconstructing and reconstructing the supply-chain framework, ensuring every component aligns with CS3D's requirements.

Design engineers are instrumental in developing a holistic and product-centric view of supply chains. This entails a comprehensive mapping process, starting from the raw materials and continuing through to the end product's lifecycle. Such an approach not only facilitates compliance with current regulations but also positions companies advantageously for future sustainability standards.

In navigating the complexities of CS3D, design engineers must employ innovative solutions to trace and verify the sustainability credentials of every supply-chain element. This involves leveraging cutting-edge technologies, such as blockchain for transparency, and adopting circular economy principles to minimize environmental impact. Their expertise in product design and lifecycle management becomes crucial in ensuring products are developed with sustainability at their core, meeting CS3D requirements.

Preparing for Compliance

With compliance deadlines looming around 2025, companies are urged to act swiftly in aligning their operations with CS3D mandates. Design engineers play a critical role in this preparatory phase, applying their technical knowledge and creative problem-solving skills to overhaul traditional supply-chain models. By integrating sustainability into the design and development process, they can ensure products are not only compliant but also contribute positively to the company's environmental, social, and governance (ESG) objectives.

Some 80% of the ecological impacts of a product are defined in the design phase. But true eco-design is only feasible when engineers have data about the sustainability of their product alongside its compliance, cost, and environmental, health, and safety criteria. With that information, engineers and designers are able to make quicker and more informed material or component choices. Clear and actionable insights considering multiple criteria and perspectives simultaneously support decision-making without the need for experts.

When it comes to designing a product, engineers and designers who are able to utilize a "digital twin" of what they’re creating have the ability to reset and realign specific parameters as a result of access to more granular, deep-tier data. They are able to interactively evaluate material or process alternatives at any product model level and compare multiple scenarios simultaneously, instantly seeing the environmental impact that would come about through changes in either material choices or supplier.

The Future of Sustainable Supply Chains

As the thresholds for compliance inevitably lower, bringing more businesses under the CS3D umbrella, the role of design engineers in shaping sustainable supply chains will only grow in importance. Their ability to anticipate and adapt to evolving regulatory landscapes will be key in driving the industry towards a more sustainable future.

The advent of CS3D places design engineers at the heart of a transformative movement in supply-chain management. Their expertise in crafting products and systems that meet sustainability criteria will be instrumental in enabling companies to navigate the challenges of compliance, setting the stage for a new standard in corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship.

Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive

About the Author(s)

Neil D'Souza

CEO, Makersite

Neil D'Souza serves as CEO of the Germany-based supply chain management SaaS startup Makersite.

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