Above all, it should be noted that the main advantage of eco-design is primarily environmental (reduction of environmental impacts, recovery of ressources). This approach aims to reduce impacts of a product on the environment including improving recycling or recovery of resources. However a company wishing to engage in eco-design can search for other potential benefits including:
Regulations, including European laws reach an ever higher level of environmental and human health protection. Environmental regulations seek to manage the entire lifecycle of products and set binding targets:
- Manufacturing: controlling the use (and dissemination) of most hazardous substances (RoHS, REACH)
- Use: optimize energy consumption/emissions during the use phase of products (ErP)
- The end of life: improve waste management through the principle of extended producer responsibility: WEEE
In the present and future context, regulative requirements are bound to develop and encourage the marketing of products more resource and energy efficient, to produce products which have a better recyclability while being less toxic to humans and the environment.
By incorporating these principles into the design of products, eco-design can anticipate changes in the level of requirements of these regulations and to minimize the risk of non-conformity of a product towards these regulations.
The regulatory aspect is also reflected by a set of taxes and fees posing on producers, costs supported by the community for environmental damage that can result from their products (external costs). Eco-design can integrate these environmental impacts, reduce them and thus limit the financial consequences.
Eco-design: a driver of innovation
The set up of an eco-design process is generally performed in two steps.
The first step is an assessment phase during which, using tools of life cycle analysis identify areas for improvement of a product are being identified.
In a second step we search for solutions to improve the product. It is during this stage that the eco-design can be as a driver of innovation for the company.
By looking at the product development from the environmental point of view, eco-design will bring new development opportunities. Whether the choice of new materials or how to use the product, finding solutions and alternatives, all create a stimulating environment for innovation . The setting up of an eco-design process sometimes requires challenging some design habits.
Eco-design approach allows the development of a product by reasoning on its entire life cycle, this approach is transverse and involves different skills within the company. Finding solutions and alternatives in some cases may even go beyond the company knowledge and in this case requires external expertise (choice of new materials, new technology).
Standing out from the competition
Although the turnover of the French household appliance market is still either evolving, many products have now reached a high degree of technological maturity.
For other types of products, the margin of technological progress is important and yet each new generation of products brings new features. The equipment rate of households for some products also shows a wide use of these products among French households. In this context where competition becomes more important, eco-design is a perfect way to differentiate between products.
Communication tools such as eco-labels allow highlighting the efforts made to reduce the environmental impact of a product and generate consumer interest in these products. It is nevertheless important to be vigilant when communicating on the environmental aspect of a product. The gains provided by the use of a product must be real, measurable and justified. It is necessary to explain the process that was used to ensure the credibility of statements.
Respond to market and consumer needs
Environmental awareness among consumers is growing increasingly over the years. Although studies further note a discrepancy at present between consumers’ willingness to move towards more environmentally friendly products and the rendering of this desire at the time of purchase of new equipment, consumers increasingly tend to seek this type of product.
Individual consumers are more sensitive than professional buyers to environmental criteria when making a purchase. Finally, the energy cost of equipment in the invoice of individuals consumer plays an important incentive to turn to more efficient products.
Eco-design is in this context quite in line with the expectations of present and future consumers.