Skip to main content

Design for Sustainability

Archived Content

Case studies of innovative Canadian enterprises using sustainable design to improve environmental, economic and social performance while enhancing competitiveness. Funding by Natural Resources Canada, the Design Exchange, Pollution Probe, Five Winds International and York University.

A growing number of Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises are designing products and services with sustainability in mind – and gaining a competitive edge by doing so.

Design for Sustainability (DfS) is a research partnership established to tell design-led stories of business, sustainability and innovation. The focus is on Canadian small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that are leaders in designing their products, services and business strategies to preserve the environment, reconcile diverse stakeholder interests and achieve competitive advantage.

Twenty-five case studies have been completed through a collaboration between students and faculty at the Schulich School of Business at York University, the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and the Design Management Program at Ryerson University. Each case study is included below in PDF Format. The 10 DfS case studies researched and produced in 2003 were published by the Design Exchange and the 15 case studies completed in 2005 were published by Corporate Knights Magazine. Additional founding partners in the project include Five Winds International, Pollution Probe, Canadian Business for Social Responsibility and Natural Resources Canada.

This research celebrates the success of the early adopters of the principles of designing for sustainability. We hope that these stories will provide valuable information and inspiration to other SMEs and entrepreneurs as well as government policy makers and consumers.

For more information on the Design for Sustainability Case Study Project please contact project co-coordinator Arlene Gould (

2005 Case Studies Published by Corporate Knights Magazine

2003 Case Studies Published by the Design Exchange

  • Air Quality Solutions
    Biological air filtration system naturally improving indoor air quality.
  • Creative Corrugate
    Cardboard playhouses for kids that encourage creativity, maximize ecoefficiency and are 100% recyclable.
  • Dunlop Architects & Halsall Engineering
    A collaborative relationship that improves long-term building performance.
  • GrassRoots
    Toronto's green general store.
  • Happy Planet Foods
    Rapidly growing organic juice company supporting sustainable agriculture.
  • Knoll, Teknion, & Nienkamper
    High-design office furniture manufacturers responding to demands for increased environmental performance.
  • ReSource Rethinking Building
    Creating some of the most environmentally friendly and healthy buildings in British Columbia.
  • Scanwood
    This board furniture manufacturing company has developed some of the most ecoefficient practices in the industry.
  • Westport Innovations
    Designing diesel engines for the fuels of the future.
  • Wildflower Farm
    Sustainable landscape design.

Tools and Resources

For more information about how your firm can improve competitiveness by incorporating sustainable design and sustainable business practices, see the Design for Sustainability Toolkit.

A recent study on design capability in Ontario by the Design Industry Advisory Committee (see demonstrated that Ontario is a design hub, and that Toronto, with 25,000 designers, is the third largest centre for design employment in North America, after New York and Boston.

Download the entire 8-page Corporate Knights DfS insert.