Eco-design of procucts and services

The eco-efficiency of products, i.e. goods and services, can be promoted best if environmental considerations are factored into all stages of a product’s life cycle from use to disposal.

The objective of this integrated product policy is for product developers, manufacturers, retailers, users and waste management service providers in different sectors to strive to reduce the harmful environmental impacts that products have during their life cycle.

Manufacturers, retailers and buyers play key roles in increasing the eco-efficiency of goods and services.

Product design and manufacture

The lifetime environmental impacts of goods and services can be controlled best by integrating these considerations into the product design, as the majority of products’ lifetime environmental impacts are decided at the design stage. In 2002, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published a guideline for integrating environmental aspects into product design and development (ISO 14062).

The European Commission’s proposal in August 2003 for a directive on establishing a framework for the setting of eco-design requirements for energy-using products was the first attempt of its kind to steer and control the product development of businesses from an environmental perspective. The proposal focuses on energy-using products and sets requirements on how environmental aspects are to be integrated into the design and development of the products.

Legislation can be used to steer product development, e.g. by restricting or banning the use of certain harmful substances and by regulating the reuse and recycling of products. Environmentally friendly product development can also be promoted by means of waste management legislation, for example, by obligating manufacturers and importers to provide for the waste management of disused products.

Procurement of goods and services

Businesses, administrative bodies and other organisations can reduce the environmental impacts of their operations by buying environmentally friendly goods and services. This also promotes the development of environmentally friendly products and increases demand for them.

The environmental criteria for procurement are the same in both the private and the public sector. Procurement units need to compare different options and choose sustainable products that have fewer environmental impacts than what is normally associated with similar products.

Contribution of the retail and distribution sector

In addition to product manufacturers, the retail and distribution sectors can also make a substantial contribution to reducing harmful environmental impacts and to promoting more environmentally friendly choices. Retailers can work in close cooperation with several suppliers to improve the lifetime environmental friendliness of products and packaging. Retailers can minimise deliveries and packaging and advocate online shopping and other forms of cooperation that promote eco-efficiency.

It is also important for retailers to know which products they can market as being environmentally friendly. Impartial, official ecolabels provide a good means for communicating that a product is environmentally friendly. The key objective in ecolabelling is to help consumers to compare the environmental properties of products on the one hand and to encourage manufacturers to bring out more environmentally products on the other.

More information:

Ari Nissinen, Leading research scientist (PhD), Finnish Environment Institute,

Published 2013-12-17 at 10:34, updated 2013-12-17 at 10:34