It is estimated that 80% of the environmental impact of a product is determined in the design phase of the product. Therefore it is important that companies make environmental consideration at an early stage in the product development. This can be a challenge for especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) which may have less formalised product development processes and are short of resources. This paper presents a recently developed web based ecodesign tool which specifically aims at arousing the interest of SMEs to ecodesign, introduce the concept of ecodesign and guide the SMEs in where to start their efforts.
The tool is part of the project “Clean Enterprises of the 21stCentury”, which has as an overall objective to ensure that Danish enterprises and especially SMEs expand their voluntary environmental efforts in accordance with the European Sustainability Strategy and the integrated product policy approach. The project focuses on the development of a digital toolbox with ten different tools that supports SMEs in the voluntary environmental efforts. These tools are freely available on the Internet.
The tool is inspired by the Ecodesign Strategy Wheel developed in 1997 (Brezet and van Hemel, 1997). The Ecodesign strategy wheel visualises the steps and strategies that can be followed in ecodesign and allows the user to compare the environmental performance of different products.
Several adjustments have been made in order for the tool a) to fit the target group, b) to update the knowledge level to 2012 and c) to fit the web based toolbox which had limited budget. These adjustments include:
1) Danish SMEs request inspiration and easy to use tools that do not demand complicated calculations. Hence, focus is placed on the ecodesign strategies and rules of thumbs from the Ecodesign Strategy Wheel
2) Update of the ecodesign strategies to the newest knowledge within ecodesign
3) The spider web function is not part of the digital tool due to budgetary constraints
During the development of the ecodesign tool several companies have been involved in the idea phase, and in the prototype testing of the tool. Based on the feedback the ecodesign tool takes point of departure in the life cycle of a product. The user can either choose to work with one life cycle phase or to work with all life cycle phases. For each life cycle phase the tool poses four to six questions which can be answered with ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Based on the answers of these questions the tool will provide a series of ‘rules of thumb’ which should inspire and motivate the user to environmentally improve the product. When relevant the user will also be asked to write down their experiences with ecodesign and in this way gather already existing ecodesign experiences. The output of the tool is a report with the ‘rules of thumbs’ and the written experiences. Furthermore, the tool will provide extensive links to helpful tools and materials that can help the user to conduct ecodesign.