Industrial integration of environmental issues into the organisation: Past, present & future challenges

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    The past two decades have seen increasing efforts to consider the potential negative effects of a product’s manufacture, use and disposal on the local and global environment. Over this time two main schools of research practice have emerged: an analytical school of practice, targeted at the accounting and evaluation of environmental impacts of a given product or process; and a synthesis-oriented school of practice, targeted at the creation of environmentally improved products or processes, based upon life-cycle insight into the actual use and orientation of existing products on the market. These two schools of environmental research practice are mirrored in the way in which industry approaches environmental problems. Since the definition in 1987 of Sustainable Development efforts have been made to relate the goals and ideals of sustainability to the domain of product development, thus adding new dimensions, such as social and moral values, to the original agenda of environmental improvement. The increasing responsibility of the product developer, from environmentally conscious product developer to sustainably aware product developer has led to new insights into the way in which products are developed and used – and to where environmental effects occur in the lifetime of a product. The role of the product developer is thus more complex in relation to sustainability, as the focus for improvement of a product may not (and very often does not) lie in the physical artefactual ingredients of the product or the processes used to create it. Rather, the focus for improvement of a product’s environmental performance most often lies in the manner in which the product is used and consumed. A product’s use phase is often environmentally significant, as this is the largest source of environmental impact. A product’s consumption, or rather, a given user’s consumption behaviour is even more important, as this dictates exactly how many use-phases, how many products and how much product redundancy is created, due to the user’s lack of awareness, motivation or ability to consume a product in an environmentally respectful manner. The problem with both use and consumption is that the product developer traditionally has very little power over these two elements; they occur after the product has left the factory and entered into the hands of the user (the consumer). Until the real environmentally harmful phases of a product’s life can be harnessed by the producing company, it is often* impossible to make the radical (Factor X) environmental improvements to the product itself that are necessary to maintain an environmental equilibrium (*except for in the case of new technology introduction). Over recent years, a handful of companies have begun to take control over (and accept responsibility for) a larger portion of their products’ life-cycles. Where there are examples of companies taking control over larger product life areas for reasons other than environmental, there are a few examples where environmentally-based product-life ‘takeovers’ have been with environmentally-founded goals in mind. Thus the practice of Product-Service-System (PSS) development is born.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEngineering design and the global economy : 15th International conference on engineering design
    Place of PublicationBarton, ACT, Australia
    PublisherEngineers Australia
    Publication date2005
    ISBN (Print)08-58-25788-2
    Publication statusPublished - 2005
    Event15th International Conference on Engineering Design - Melbourne, Australia
    Duration: 15 Aug 200518 Aug 2005
    Conference number: 15


    Conference15th International Conference on Engineering Design
    Internet address


    • Sustainable design
    • Product development
    • Ecodesign
    • Product life
    • PD methods
    • Product/Service-Systems


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