Revision for “Ecodesign (EDM)” created on April 27, 2014 @ 08:35:03
Primary Source: Buttol, P. (2006) <em>Ecodesign SWOT Analysis</em> in Report on the SWOT analysis of concepts, methods, and models potentially supporting LCA. Eds. Schepelmann, Ritthoff & Santman (Wuppertal Institute for Climate and Energy) & Jeswani and Azapagic (University of Manchester), pp 121-128
<strong>Level of analysis: </strong>Any, but primary focus is on the micro level (e.g. household, company, product level)
<strong>Assessed aspects of sustainability: </strong>environmental.
<strong>Main purpose of the assessment: </strong>
Main purpose of Ecodesign is to incorporate environmental considerations into the design process of products and reduce products’ environmental burdens throughout the whole life cycle. The main purpose of the SWOT analysis is to assess the requirements for the application of the New LCA, as analytical tool characterised by a broadened and deepened scope if compared to ISOLCA, in the Ecodesign procedural framework.
<strong>Description of the methodology: </strong>
Ecodesign, also referred to as Design for Environment (DfE), Green Design, Environmental conscious/friendly Design, Life Cycle Design, is a systematic way of incorporating environmental attributes into the design of a product. It can be defined as “design which addresses all environmental impacts of a product throughout the complete life cycle of the product, without unduly compromising other criteria like function, quality, cost and appearance” . An ecodesign procedure starts considering the potential environmental impacts of a product throughout its life-cycle and leads to improvement steps, paths of product eco-innovation and new creative management approaches.
Under this perspective, <strong>Strengths </strong>will be the intrinsic strong points of this integration (value for sustainability); <strong>Weaknesses </strong>will be points were further research is required in order to overcome limitations and shortcomings; <strong>Opportunities </strong>will be the external drivers for this integration; <strong>Threats </strong>will be barriers to the integration due to external conditions.
We can define a four stage model for the implementation of an ecodesign process. Each stage increases both potential environmental benefits and degree of innovation required in the design process  (Fig. 1). The four stages can be explained as follows:
Stage 1. <em>Product improvement —</em>Improvement of products that are already on the market with regards to pollution prevention and environmental care.
Stage 2. <em>Product redesign </em>or <em>eco-redesign — </em>The product concept stays the same, theenvironmental quality is optimised redesigning the product or parts of it.
Stage 3. <em>Function innovation </em>or <em>alternative function fulfilment (AFF) — </em>It involves changing the way the function is fulfilled and implies a type of change which is no longer confined to the existing product concept;
Stage 4. <em>Systems innovation — </em>It involves new products and services development, which requires changes in the related infrastructure and organisations.
As shown in Fig.1 this path towards higher levels of improvement requires increasing amount of time, but includes moving towards more and more complex sustainable design innovations.
<img class="alignnone wp-image-118990" src="http://policy-design.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/12-300×193.png" alt="12" width="468" height="301" />
An Ecodesign process requires the assessment of the potential environmental impacts of a product throughout its life cycle and the identification of new criteria of design for generating improvement options. In general the product’s design process can be broken down in three typical steps: product strategy (or planning), product formulation (or conceptual design) and product specification (or detailed design) [4, 5]. Different tools are required depending on the step of the process. The product strategy is not linked to a specific product and tools are required that help developing general improvement ideas and provide a preliminary assessment of the different options. For this scope MET (Materials Energy and Toxicity), ERPA (Environmentally responsible product assessment) matrixes, environmental benchmarking are, for example, suitable tools of analysis; brainstorming, environmental design strategies and principle, SWOT analysis can be used to generate improvement options. Also methods like the QFD (Quality Function Deployment) for Environment , which has been developed by adapting QFD to handle the environmental and traditional product quality requirements together, are suitable for the early stage of the design process. The product formulation can take advantage of the following tools: check list criteria combined with scoring systems (e.g. Pareto chart or ABC-Analysis); material databases; screening LCA. The checklist criteria can vary between business areas and product categories, so for an operational ecodesign it would be important to develop specific guidelines and checklist per product typology. For product specification it is important to obtain reliable environmental information as a basis of decision; therefore tools as detailed LCA and LCI databases are suitable to optimize parts and components and to deal with environmental trade-offs. Further details on types of tools for the different steps of the design process are given by the ISO/TR 14062.
The integration of the environmental aspects into the product development process in a systemic approach, as the Ecodesign process allows, can have important consequences from business points of view. In fact it stimulates partnerships with suppliers/distributors/recyclers and plays a key role in product innovation, opening then new market areas. Existing experiences at companies show that an ecodesign project can lead to improve the environmental performance of a product and also to produce businesses financial benefits, offering enterprises a win-win situation. There is however the necessity of giving more evidence to these activities, which are often in the form of prototype projects or in niche market, and of demonstrating that these experiences can be successfully applied in regular industrial activities . Several studies have been published, which have tried to identify barriers to a wider and effective diffusion of Ecodesign, [8-10] just to mention some of them. To the importance of traditional issues, such as formal organisation, tools development, management commitment, economic actors of the product chain, customer’s perceptions, another aspect of concern has been added, the so-called ‘soft side’ of Ecodesign , which include socio-psychological factors such as lack of communicative skills and degree of perception of the environmental problems.
Since in the Eco-design process the integration of the design requirements calls for a strong collaboration between different enterprise’s departments (marketing, purchasing, quality, environment, design, production), all the actors of the management process are involved early in the design process. This approach makes it easier the introduction of other aspects of sustainability, going towards a Design for Sustainability, and facilitates the implementation of the selected options due to increased awareness at the different levels of the organization. In a process of Design for Sustainability the possibility of elaborating new ideas and to critically rethinking some aspects of the overall business strategy is more then ever enhanced, being the basis for innovation paths that help companies conquer new markets or acquire competitive advantages. The potential for innovating become very large, especially in the case of shift from a product to a product-service system. Moreover since the application of this design process promotes collaboration and integration along the supply chain, the process of innovation and development of sustainable products could extend to other companies and have a greater impact on the production sector and the entire society.
The degree of complexity affects also the choice of tools. In classical ecodesign process special know-how and tools are required, which present different levels of complexity, depending on the design step where they are applied. Large companies can develop them in-house, whereas SMEs need to obtain them from outside. However most of the tools already developed are not easy to implement in SME because they require significant investments of resources (material, human, and technological). This should be taken into account also while thinking about tools for a New LCA, to avoid excluding most of the companies from the participation in the innovation path promoted by a process of Design for Sustainability.
The introduction of all different aspects of the sustainability will require the reconsideration of the general method of the ISO/TR 14062 to include additional requirements and, on the other side, a certain amount of work will be needed to develop and update sector specialised guidelines, checklists and databases suitable to be used under this new framework. In fact, a major shortcoming of the integration of the New LCA into ecodesign is data requirement. At developing stage, it may happen that not all the required data is available and estimation is needed, which can lead to big uncertainties in the New LCA results. This is also true presently for the integration of LCA into ecodesign, but the problem could increase as the New LCA, with a broadened and deepened scope, requires more data. Some data (especially economic and social data) can be estimated with sufficient accuracy only at an advanced stage of product development. From the methodological point of view the New LCA should guarantee robustness enough to avoid that uncertainty of input data dramatically affects reliability of the results. As regards the practicability of the New LCA in ecodesign, a contribution can be given by the development of a set of scenarios providing background system data, as energy, transport and waste treatment data, common for a large number of products. Another possibility is the sectoral approach, where a detailed New LCA study allows a good knowledge of the major and more relevant sustainability questions to be assessed. This knowledge is the basis for developing tools to support enterprises, such as guidelines on most relevant impacts to be assessed, generic data, scenarios, information on the most relevant geographical scale for the assessment, time frame, etc.
As for classical ecodesign, but with an increased complexity due to the enlarged scope of the assessment, the definition of a common format for data exchange between assessment and design tools would be a key step to enlarge the practicability of both ISO-LCA and New LCA in a design process.
A scarce interest towards the integration of the New LCA could also be observed if little attention were given to the development of marketing tools aimed at favouring companies adopting this approach or if the acceptance from the market were small.
3 ‘Sustainable product design’ can be defined as “a design management practice which aims to balance the ‘triple bottom line’: environmental, social and economic needs” 
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