Eco-design: what it is, how to develop it and its benefits

Eco-design: what it is, how to develop it and its benefits

 

Knowing the environmental impacts of your product is key when design it or redesign a new prototype. Which are the critical impacts of your product? What changes must you make to reduce its impacts? Does your product have fewer impacts than your competitors'?

Let's see what eco-design is, why it is important, and how applying it can bring greater environmental and economic benefits to your company.

What is Eco-design?

An eco-design consists of designing or redesigning a product considering environmental aspects in addition to its basic ones, in order to reduce its environmental impact. To carry out an eco-design you must identify the environmental aspects of your product throughout its life cycle, i.e. from raw materials supply to its end of life. The aim is to identify which aspects have or could have a significant impact on the environment, and then perform improvements.

It's key to compare the environmental performance of an eco-designed product with its previous version, to determine if the impacts were really reduced. This comparison can be done based on a previous version of the product, a similar product or a prototype.

Why is it important to perform an eco-design?

A product generates impacts during the different phases of its life cycle, such as the extraction of raw materials, production, use or disposal. However, more than 80% of a product's environmental impact is determined in the design phase. This means that companies can reduce the impact of their product by considering environmental features in the design phase.

Then, an eco-design allows you to examine the main environmental impacts related to the life cycle of your product and make efforts that allows reducing them, without losing functionality.

Should your company make and eco-design?

Performing an eco-design of a product can be beneficial for some companies, for example, if your customers are interested in buying products with a lower environmental impact, it's crucial that you start measuring your impacts and take action to reduce them.

An eco-design is also useful for companies that have to comply with Chile's new Extended Producer Responsibility Law (Ley REP), as it considers a reduction in rates for companies that have eco-designed products, given their environmental advantages compared to the competition.

What are the benefits of an eco-design?

If you decide to perform an eco-desing of one of your products, it grants various benefits, among which are:

  • Increased competitiveness: nowadays, consumers are more interested in sustainable products or the reduction of environmental impacts, so having a product eco-designed will make you stand out in the market.
  • Reduce costs: eco-designed products will help you decrease the usage of raw materials and energy.
  • Identify possible risks: analysing the environmental impacts of a product will allow identifying possible risks, such as the shortage of resources in the production process. This way, you can anticipate the risks and implement measures that allow reducing or eliminating them.
  • Improve the company's image: you'll be able to communicate the environmental improvements made to your product, which will demonstrate your environmental commitment and improve your company's image. With the results and improvements you will be able to do marketing focused on a new segment and reinforce the trust with your current customers and with your stakeholders.

How to carry out an eco-design?

To perform an eco-design, one should follow the methodology of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to establish improvement criteria that the product must meet. Down below are the steps to follow to carry out an eco-design in line with the ISO 14006 standard.

  • Define the objective and scope: it's important to determine the grounds for the study, this can be due to a new legislation, a change in consumer demand or because the competition is also making an eco-design.
  • Perform a LCA of the original product: the environmental impacts during the whole life cycle of the product must be identified.
  • Identify opportunities of improvements: the results of the first LCA should help identify the actions to reduce the environmental impacts of the product, to then establish the criteria that the eco-designed product should meet.
  • Perform a LCA of the eco-designed product: after determining the new aspects of the product, another LCA should be carried out to measure its impacts.
  • Analyze the environmental performance: after the LCA on the eco-designed product, it's necessary to compare its environmental performance with the original one. If it doesn't meet the established objectives or its impacts are greater, it's necessary to redefine the criteria and perform an LCA again. This process will be repeated until an eco-design that meets the objectives and criteria established at the beginning is achieved.

How to choose the best consultant to make an eco-design?

Making an eco-design of a product is not simple. The regulations have a specific technical complexity, so we recommend you to choose a supplier with experience in Life Cycle Analysis, who understands the methodology and also the industry being analyzed.

In addition to their experience, you should consider the characteristics of the service. The consultants could be limited to the study alone or support your marketing team in communicating the results correctly to the public (and ensure that you don't fall into greenwashing). It all depends on your objectives with the study.

Overview

In summary, an eco-design allows you to improve the environmental performance of your product and serves as a tool to boost it in the market, improving your company's reputation and reducing costs. To achieve these advantages, you must identify the critical points of your product and implement actions to reduce its impact, always with the support of a consultant specialized in the subject.

IN ECOED, WE HAVE VAST EXPERIENCE IN ECO-DESIGN

If you would like to know more about our services, click here, o agendar una reunión gratuita y conversemos sobre cómo el ecodiseño puede ser útil para tu empresa.



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