Ecodesign is a product, a service or a process development (or redevelopment) method which takes into account (as well as tends to reduce) its impact on the environment.
This preventive approach integrates environmental concerns early in an item/activity’s design phase. Each and every life cycle stage (from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal) and environmental criterion (raw material/water/energy consumption, emissions to air and water, waste generation, impacts related to the use, and potentially, the maintenance phase) is being diagnosed.
« Life Cycle Thinking » is central to ecodesign. It consists in encompassing the entire set of life cycle stages and environmental impacts (multi-criteria approach), and, in particular, preventing one stage from moving towards another or one ecosystem migrating to another (transfer of impacts). Life Cycle Assessment is tailor-made for that. Ecodesign strategies can find expression in:
- a willingness:
- to select renewable and/or moderately-processed materials
- reduce a product’s impact during the use phase
- reduce the amount of materials being used (dematerialization)
- increase a product’s lifetime (by improving its solidity for example)
- to favor easy disassembly
- support recycling networks
- discontinue the use of a toxic substance within a manufacturing process
- improve a production process
- initiatives like:
- initiating environmentally-friendly consumer practices by means of instruction labels
- fostering product recovery optimization (crushable mineral water bottles)
- concrete measures like:
- nurturing low-energy/non-renewable resources consumption
- encouraging waste reduction (packaging downsizing/weight decrease, product recovery)
- corrective measures, with the implementation of pollution prevention systems
Ecodesign mobilizes all of the company’s protagonists (technical and organizational units, sales, etc.). Many key players within the value chain are involved throughout the product’s life cycle, making both cooperation (internal and external dialogue) and partnership essential. Suppliers and subcontractors’ involvement is generally required. Corporation stakeholders’ commitment is just as important. Feedback from experience plays an important role for ecodesigners who feed on informative databases for the (continuous) enhancement of forthcoming developments, and keep up to date with the latest scientific and technological advancements.
Life Cycle Assessment, commonly referred to as LCA, is a means to ecodesign both qualitatively and quantitatively. The method consists in drawing up a product, a service, or an industrial process’s environmental portrait. Not only does it pave the way for a quantitative inventory in the service of a sustainable development global strategy, but it also ranks as one of the most scientifically recognized environmental assessment tools. Life Cycle Assessment is governed by a series of international standards: while ISO14040 enumerates the principles and the framework applicable to life cycle assessment, ISO14044 goes into detail about the requirements and the guidelines to observe. Both act as a reference document for LCA end-users and practitioners. These norms are defined in the ILCD (International Reference Life Cycle Data System) handbook published by the Joint Research Center. This manual, which encloses a series of technical documents, is part of the European Commission’s Sustainable Consumption & Production programme. It gives instructions on how to conduct a ‘current requirements/standards’-compliant life cycle assessment.