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Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Product Innovation The Green Advantage

An Introduction to Design for Environment for Australian Business

Environment Australia, April 2001
ISBN 0 642 54723 8

The full document is available as a PDF file. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer to view it.

If you are unable to access this document, please to organise a suitable alternative format.


The Design for Environment context
What is Design for Environment?
The Benefits of Design for Environment
Economic Benefits
Operational Benefits
Marketing Benefits
Introducing Design for Environment to your Business
Implementing Design for Environment
Case Studies

  1. Caroma ­ reducing Australia's water consumption
  2. Reln Pty Ltd ­ creating market share with recycled products
  3. Fuji Xerox ­ operational efficiency through remanufacturing
  4. Wharington International ­ developing export opportunities
  5. SC Johnson ­ Embracing Design for Environment

Moving Forward
Resources, Tools and Contacts
Australian Organisations and Resources
International Organisations and Resources
Books and Publications

©Commonwealth of Australia 2001
Information presented in this document may be reproduced in whole or in part for study or training purposes or to provide wider dissemination for public response, subject to inclusion of acknowledgment of the source and provided no commercial usage or sale of the material occurs. Reproduction for purposes other than those given above requires written permission from Environment Australia. Requests for permission should be addressed to:

First Assistant Secretary Environment Quality Division Environment Australia GPO Box 787 Canberra ACT 2601.


While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the contents of this booklet are factually correct, the Commonwealth does not accept responsibility for the accuracy or completeness of the contents, and shall not be liable for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the contents of this booklet.

Reference to any company, product or service in this booklet should not be taken as Commonwealth endorsement of that company, product or service.


Environment Australia would like to thank the following organisations for their input and assistance with developing this booklet:

Edited by: PenUltimate
Designed and illustrated by: Racheal Brühn Design
Printed by: [to be advised]
Printed on recycled paper


Australians are increasingly becoming aware of the importance of sustainable development to a healthy environment and robust economy. Producers, or manufacturers, are starting to minimise the environmental impact of their products by using more recycled materials and making them more efficient during use. More consumers are incorporating environmental considerations into their purchasing decisions and thinking more about how they dispose of a product when they no longer need it.

Building construction and motor vehicles are two high profile industry sectors where producers are utilising Design for Environment (DfE) to incorporate eco-efficiency principles into their product development processes, thereby strategically reducing the environmental impact of a product or service over its entire life cycle, from manufacture to disposal.

Companies that are incorporating DfE are at the forefront of innovative business management in Australia. As the link between business success and environmental protection becomes clearer, visionary companies have the opportunity to improve business practices to be more competitive in a global economy and increase their longevity.

With the release of Product Innovation - The Green Advantage: An Introduction to Design for Environment for Australian Business, and its sister publication Shop Smart, Buy Green: A Consumer's Guide to Saving Money and Reducing Environmental Impacts, Environment Australia continues to contribute nationally to the incorporation of DfE into Australian' business practice.

Such initiatives not only help to ensure the ongoing sustainability of Australian businesses, they also increase the availability of innovative and environmentally sustainable products. This allows all Australians to contribute towards a prosperous society and to achieve sustainable development without compromising our economic well being or quality of life.

Minister for the Environment and Heritage


For a typical product, 70% of the cost of development, manufacture and use is determined in its design phase. By integrating environmental considerations into the upfront product design, a company can increase efficiency, reduce waste of materials and energy, and reduce costs.1

This booklet explores Design for Environment (DfE) and how it can improve your organisation's financial, operational and marketing activities. It has been designed to help managers, designers, engineers, accountants and marketeers in organisations of all sizes initiate a DfE program. Further, it links with a series of other booklets, including the Framework for Public Environment Reporting, which Environment Australia has produced to help Australian industry continue to improve its environmental performance.

DfE, sometimes called ecodesign, is an approach that encourages businesses to give greater thought to the design of products2 so as to minimise their environmental impacts, while increasing market advantage and fostering innovation.

The principles of DfE are simple and implementing a DfE program is achievable for businesses of all sizes.

What we hope this booklet can do for you is:

For ease of use this booklet is presented in five sections. The first provides an overview of the concept of DfE and how it fits in with global and Australian manufacturing trends. The second outlines the benefits of implementing a DfE program, in terms of Australian business drivers. The third explains the steps involved in implementing DfE. The fourth contains five case studies and the final section provides useful contacts, web sites and access to more detailed information.

For further information, contact:
Community Information Unit,
Environment Australia
1800 803 772

The Design for Environment Context

In manufacturing, transportation, forestry, construction, energy, and other industrial sectors, mounting empirical evidence suggests that radical improvements in resource productivity are both practical and cost-effective, even in the most modern industries. Companies and designers are developing ways to make natural resources­energy, metals, water, and forests­work five, ten, even one hundred times harder than they do today.3

Clear themes emerging from legislation in Europe, the United States and, increasingly, Australia suggest that:

In addition, shareholders, consumers and employees are increasingly seeking improved environmental and social performance from business.

This is consistent with global moves by business, governments and communities towards achieving sustainability. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development coined the term 'eco-efficiency' to describe the efforts by businesses to take the environment into consideration in their operations.

Eco-efficiency is a combination of economic and ecological efficiency. It is basically about 'doing more with less' ­ producing more goods and services with less energy and fewer natural resources, resulting in less waste and pollution. Eco-efficiency directly links environmental performance to financial performance­ as a process is made more efficient, financial as well as environmental benefits will be realised.

As every organisation's operations are different, so too are the strategies and tools that may be used to achieve greater eco-efficiency. A suite of suitable tools is available to increase a company's eco-efficiency and include: DfE, environmental management systems, product stewardship programs, public environmental reporting, environmental auditing, environmental accounting and supply chain management.

DfE is a critical tool for manufacturers wishing to become more eco-efficient.

Eco-efficiency Principles

The eco-efficiency paradigm recognises that the earth is finite, its capacity for recovery from damage because of resource use is limited, and that public and other pressures to modify business behaviour will inevitably increase.4

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development identified seven key principles every business should take into account when developing products, introducing process changes or taking other actions with environmental implications. They are:

Energy Rating Labels

It is now compulsory for manufacturers to place energy rating labels on a range of electrical and gas products. This requirement covers the following electrical appliances: dishwashers, airconditioners, refrigerators, freezers, washing machines and clothes dryers; and these gas appliances: room heaters, ducted heating systems and water heaters.

These energy label have a number (showing the approximate annual consumption of electricity or gas) and a star rating. The more stars (up to six), the more energy-efficient the appliance.

There is a similar, though voluntary, scheme for rating a product's water efficiency.

Through these schemes, products that have lower environmental impacts through improved energy and water efficiency are clearly differentiated. As a result, consumers are becoming aware of the savings they can make in running costs, greenhouse gas emissions and water use. This information is now in a form that can easily influence product choice.

What is Design for Environment?

DfE is the systematic application of environmental and human health considerations at the product design stage. DfE aims to avoid or minimise significant environmental impacts and increase resource efficiency at all stages of a product's life cycle­raw material extraction and processing, manufacturing, packaging and distribution, product use, and end-of-life.

Figure 1 shows the relationship between the stages of the product life cycle, and the inputs (ie energy, water and raw materials) and waste (ie emissions to air and water, and toxic/non-toxic waste) that impact on the environment. A dashed arrow between two stages indicates that this link, whilst growing, remains relatively weak for most materials.

Life Cycle

Figure 1: Life cycle stages of a typical product and associated environmental impacts

Design for Environment Strategies

The National Centre for Design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has identified a series of DfE strategies to reduce environmental impacts at each stage of the life cycle (see Table 1). These strategies can be refined and developed to suit different products and organisations and form the basis of a company's DfE program.

It is important to remember that a DfE approach is straightforward and companies can start with relatively simple DfE strategies, and if required gradually build up to innovative developments in product design and function.

Table 1: DfE Strategies6

Raw material extraction and processing
  • Design for resource conservation
  • Design for low-impact materials
  • Design for biodiversity conservation
Manufacturing/packaging and distribution
  • Design for cleaner production
  • Design for low-impact packaging
  • Design for efficient distribution
Product Use
  • Design for energy efficiency
  • Design for water conservation
  • Design for minimal consumption
  • Design for low-impact use
  • Design for service and repair
  • Design for durability
End of life
  • Design for reuse
  • Design for re-manufacture
  • Design for disassembly
  • Design for recycling
  • Design for safe disposal

Example­DfE Strategies7

Reducing impacts of raw materials

Strategies for reducing the environmental impacts of extracting and processing raw materials can be divided into those concerned with conserving resources using low-impact materials, and biodiversity conservation.

Design for resource conservation includes:

Design for low impact materials includes:

Design for biodiversity conservation include:

Reducing impacts of manufacturing and distribution

There are several ways in which companies can help maximise efficiency and minimise environmental impacts of the product life cycle during manufacturing. These include:

The environmental impact of distribution can be reduced by:

The Benefits of Design for Environment

By reducing the environmental impacts of a product across its entire life cycle an organisation can strategically reduce environmental impacts and operational costs for both themselves and their customers, thereby creating significant marketing potential and customer loyalty.

Economic Benefits

Maintaining global competitiveness

Increasingly stringent environmental regulations in markets such as Europe, are resulting in products that have low environmental impacts throughout their entire life cycle. Australian-made products face tough competition from those produced overseas under stricter guidelines. DfE offers companies wishing to compete in the global market the means to meet these new standards for environmental quality.

Reducing production costs

Producing goods and services inefficiently costs more and reduces profitability. Disposal and control of pollution can be costly. Excessive waste during manufacturing indicates possible inefficiencies in production and poor use of raw materials. Implementing DfE can reduce pollution, improve manufacturing processes and minimise the use of toxic materials.

Improved strategic decision-making

An understanding of the product life cycle yields more information about product related inputs and outputs, allowing for more accurate planning and a more complete financial assessment of investment options.

Improving company value

DfE can improve a company's environmental performance and reduce exposure to liabilities for problems such as pollution and contamination, thereby increasing its financial strength and ability to attract investment.

Identifying new business opportunities

DfE encourages consideration of the function of a product or service. It can lead to new ideas for providing the same function with lower environmental impacts, possibly through a new product or service. The development of mechanisms to reduce environmental impacts can also lead to new products, services or markets.

Gaining advantage as a supplier

Large organisations and governments overseas and in Australia are beginning to require that their suppliers meet certain levels of environmental performance.

Operational Benefits

Improving relationships with regulators

Taking the initiative on environmental management can improve a company's record with environmental regulators, financiers and insurers. Adopting DfE demonstrates a company's credibility and commitment to reducing environmental impacts.

Improving liability management

DfE can help identify potential environmental or health and safety problems. It can also minimise the risk of future liabilities relating to producing, using, servicing and eventually disposing of the product.

Building competencies

DfE increases coordination and communication between different sections of a company. It encourages communication within an organisation and with suppliers and enhances other competencies, such as integrative management.

Improved staff morale

Research shows that corporate responsibility and environmental commitment actually strengthen an organisation's bottom line, primarily by aiding in recruiting and retaining employees. Adopting DfE can help improve staff morale by improving occupational health and safety and giving staff the opportunity to contribute to environment protection initiatives.

Marketing Benefits

Addressing customer needs

International and Australian studies of consumer attitudes consistently show that consumers are concerned about the environment. They see it as an important issue for governments and businesses to act upon and are prepared to change their own behaviour to protect the environment. Companies adopting DfE can promote their environmental performance.

Improved products and product differentiation

DfE results in products that have less impact on the environment and are superior in quality and marketability. Consumers tend to prefer such products not only because they are 'green', but because they may be more durable, of higher quality and cheaper to run. A company can differentiate its products by using environmental quality as a distinguishing feature.

Improved public relations

Adoption of DfE demonstrates a proactive approach to environmental management. A company adopting DfE can actively demonstrate and promote its environ-mental credentials and good corporate citizenship. DfE gives companies a way of presenting clear, accurate and reliable environmental information to consumers.

Consumers Care for the Environment

Consumer attitudes translate into purchasing decisions. Businesses that ignore consumer attitudes to the environment risk losing their competitive edge and market share.

The Environmental Monitor 2000 report, Global Public Opinion on the Environment, is based on a survey of approximately 34,000 citizens in 34 countries. It found that:

The NSW Environment Protection Authority 1997 survey, Who Cares About the Environment, found that:

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DfE Stimulates Innovation

In addition to delivering economic, operational and marketing benefits for companies, DfE is acknowledged internationally as a source of and a catalyst for innovation, both in product design and in eventual changes in the way the function of a product is fulfilled.

Monsanto makes nylon fibre, much of which goes into carpeting. Each year, nearly two million tonnes of old carpeting go into landfills, where they constitute about 1 per cent of the entire US municipal solid waste load.

Nobody really wants to own carpet; they just want to walk on it. What would happen if Monsanto or the carpet manufacturer owned that carpet and promised to come in and remove it when it required replacing? What would the economics of that look like?

One of our customers is exploring that possibility today. It might be that if we got the carpet back, we could afford to put more cost into it in the first place in ways that would make it easier for us to recycle. Maybe then it wouldn't end up in a landfill.

We're starting to look at all our products and ask, what is it people really need to buy? Do they need the stuff or just its function? What would be the economic impact of our selling a carpet service instead of a carpet?8

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Introducing Design for Environment to your Business

Starting a DfE program in your business can be simple. Even small changes in design can lead to significant benefits and sometimes you can identify benefits with no cost implications.

Starting with simple, easy-to-use DfE tools can win company support, ensure early successes and pave the way for more comprehensive applications of DfE principles. For example, you might begin by looking at one part of your product or manufacturing process and finding how you can easily reduce environmental impacts.

Another way to begin implementing DfE is to draw upon the skills and knowledge already in the company, such as by brainstorming ways of reducing the environmental impacts and improving efficiency of a certain product or process. Valuable ideas and suggestions might just be waiting to come out.

As you begin to explore the potential for DfE, it will become apparent that it is not just about designing products. An effective DfE program involves considering product development in the context of your company's core competencies and competitive advantages. The human and managerial aspects of product development also require consideration.

Success Factors for Implementing DfE9

Shelton and Shopley identified six factors for successfully implementing DfE. They are:

Implementing Design for Environment

DfE programs around the world have identified common stages in the implementation of DfE programs. These stages cover typical organisational processes that occur during the introduction of a DfE program, they are not prescriptive, nor do they necessarily occur in the order presented.

Different professions within an organisation ­managers, designers, engineers, accountants, and marketeers­all have a role to play in the successful implement-ation of a DfE program. Some are more involved than others, though all contribute to at least one of the stages.

Table 2 provides a basic understanding of the professional roles and the processes necessary to implement a successful DfE program.

Table 2: Stages in implementing a DfE program and who is involved

Stages in implementing a DfE program Which profession should be involved
1. Analyse opportunities Managers, designers, engineers, accountants and marketeers
2. Promote DfE within the company Managers
3. Set goals and identify strategies Managers
4. Apply DfE tools Designers, engineers
5. Develop the product Managers, designers, engineers, accountants and marketeers
6. Market the product Marketeers
7. Evaluate Managers, designers, engineers

1. Analyse Opportunities

Review products and markets

Investigate the product development process within your company, the product market and incentives for adopting DfE by:

Analyse company capacity

Investigate your company's resources and capabilities by:

Identify DfE opportunities

You can choose to implement DfE in a simple manner to start with­perhaps with a single product, a part of a product, or a process­by:

Identify potential benefits

The potential benefits to your company provide a powerful incentive for adopting DfE. You could:

Identify a suitable product

Select a product for the DfE program and create a detailed picture of the product by:

2. Promote DfE within the Company

Actively promoting DfE and communicating its benefits is a vital step in creating a corporate culture of eco-efficiency. Promotion should continue throughout all stages of DfE implementation by:

3. Set Goals and Identify Strategies

Having identified potential DfE opportunities and raised awareness within your company, you can develop goals and strategies for implementing DfE. You can set organisational goals and strategies first, before working at the level of specific products. These can help to gain commitment within your company and raise awareness of the scope, implementation and likely outcomes of a DfE project. It is essential that the DfE strategies and goals are closely aligned with your organisation's overall strategic direction. You could:

4. Apply DfE Tools

Find suitable tools

There are many different tools that can be used in DfE, ranging from life cycle assessment programs through to simple checklists, guidelines and scoring matrices. At the end of this booklet there is a resource list you can use to find more information on specific DfE tools. You could:

Assess the life cycle of the product

There are simple, flexible DfE tools that capture the essence of the life cycle approach. A preliminary analysis of the life cycle (rather than a detailed life cycle assessment) is simple and affordable, and can reveal where the greatest environmental impacts occur and the opportunities for improvement. You could:

5. Develop the Product

Having moved through all or some of the previous stages (as appropriate for your company), you can begin designing, developing and prototyping the new product. You need to:

6. Market the Product

Much of the ability of the DfE process to add value to the product will eventually come down to marketing. You could:

7. Evaluate

With any new process there are risks: you may find unanticipated environmental impacts or other reasons that an aspect of your DfE project may not be completely successful. However, implementing DfE is a continuous learning process and knowledge gained from the experience can improve the next product or process. At this stage you need to:

DfE Time Horizons10

DfE typically involves an evolutionary approach to product development, including:

  1. Incremental changes in excisting products (time horizon 1­3 years). For example, the design of an office chair which minimises its use of materials, is recyclable and reduces the use of toxic materials.
  2. More far-reaching changes in excisting products (time horizon 3­15 years). Examples such as new distribution strategies that result in less and reusable transportation packaging would form part of this approach.
  3. Radical changes in the function of products (time horizon 50 years). Such initiatives could include sustainable building methods, or the substitution of animal protein through biotechnological techniques.
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Case Studies11

Case Study 1 Caroma ­ reducing Australia's water consumption

Culturally, Australians have a deep-rooted appreciation of the need to conserve water and have shown a willingness to accept the introduction into the marketplace of bathroom appliances that are environmentally and socially responsible.

Steve Cummings, Research and Development Manager, Caroma.

Caroma is a wholly-owned subsidiary of GWA International Limited, an Australian-owned company based in Brisbane, and is regarded as the leader of the Australasian sanitaryware industry. Caroma products, including the 6/3 litre dual flush system, are shipped to over 30 countries worldwide.

In the early 1980s, with the assistance of a Commonwealth industry grant, Caroma developed the 6/3 litre dual flush toilet system. With an average flush volume of only 3.8 litres, the water usage of a family of four can reduce by up to 67 per cent compared with the traditional 11-litre single flush cistern.

Caroma utilised a number of DfE strategies to address the entire life cycle of the product. The product was designed for ease of assembly and longevity, with fewer components made of more durable materials. The valve mechanism contains recycled ABS plastics sourced from Caroma's manufacturing waste. Testing conducted on the valve indicates a life span of some 30 years. The toilets are produced from low impact materials, consisting of either inert plastics or vitreous china. The life span of the complete system is comparable to that of the house in which it is installed.

Studies conducted in 1993 modelled water savings in Australia with the introduction of the 6/3 litre dual flush system. The study found that water consumption dropped from 55 litres per person per day in 1982 to 18 litres in 1993 after the introduction of the new cisterns. The study predicted that the amount of water being used in Australia in the year 2020 would be less than the amount being used in 1991. This result would be achieved even with a projected population of 26 707 000.

Case study 2 Reln Pty Ltd ­ creating market share with recycled products

Reln Plastics is an Australian company that designs and produces innovative quality plastic products such as waste, waste water and agricultural products for the Australian and international markets. The company has grown dramatically in the last eight years, from 11 employees in 1992 to 160 in 2000.

In 1990, Reln decided to embark on a program to design and market waste minimisation products made from 100 per cent recycled post-consumer plastic. The company developed a line of organic waste recycling products including compost bins and worm farms (the Worm Factory™ and the Can-O-Worms™).

The products allow households to compost their organic waste, reducing their contribution to the waste stream, while producing hygienic, odourless solid and liquid fertiliser. The products themselves can be recycled at the end of their useful lives.

Reln reduced packaging to a minimum. The Can-O-Worms™ packaging consists of a promotional cardboard disc, which is then used in the initial establishment of the worm farm and eaten by the worms, and a polypropylene strap, which Reln asks purchasers to return to the company.

Reln partnered with Australian local governments (which have direct responsibility for removing household waste and managing landfills) to distribute the Worm Factorys™ directly to their ratepayers at minimal cost. The Worm Factory™ and other recycling products are now sold by over 400 local governments in Australia. In 1997, Reln introduced the Can-O-Worms™ into the Australian retail market through national chain stores K-Mart and Mitre 10.

Environmental benefits

To date, manufacture of Reln worm farms has accounted for over 1 000 tonnes of post-consumer plastic. In addition, Reln estimates that their worm farms have turned an estimated 10 000 tonnes of organic waste destined for landfill into nutrient-rich, odourless worm castings and liquid. In total the company has used over 25 000 tonnes of recycled plastics in making various products.

Financial benefits

Development of both the Worm Factory™ and the Can-O-Worms™ cost more than $1 million from the product concept to the finished product. Each product has a payback period of three to five years.

Over 230 000 worm factories were sold through councils during 1993-2000, reaching an estimated 3 per cent of Australian households. Over 26 000 Can-O-Worms™ were sold during the first three months of its release in 1997.

Reln now sells waste minimisation products in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Canada and Japan. Reln was recently awarded the titles of Innovator of the Year and Manufacturer of the Year in the NSW Small Business Awards.

Case study 3 Fuji Xerox ­ operational efficiency through remanufacturing

What is good for the environment is good for business.

Graham Gavanagh-Jones, Director, Manufacturing and Supply, Fuji Xerox Australia.

Fuji Xerox Australia (FXA) is Xerox's global benchmark operation in the remanufacture of office machines and parts, and development of new remanufacturing technology and programs. Remanufacturing is the process of restoring used products to an 'as new' condition through refurbishment and/or partial rebuilding. A remanufactured product will serve the same function and be of the same quality as a new product. However, it takes far fewer resources to remanufacture a product than to produce a new one.

Remanufacturing has traditionally been based on cost efficiency rather than eco-efficiency, achieving reduced costs for materials, energy and waste disposal through the prolonged life of their products. These cost benefits also directly translate into environmental benefits through reduced demand for raw materials, reduced energy consumption and less waste being sent to landfill.

Benefits to FXA include:

Benefits to FXA's customers include:

Broader benefits include:

Case study 4 Wharington International ­ developing export opportunities

The 'Re-Define' furniture project involved developing a high-quality, low environmental impact three-seater sofa and a lounge chair for the commercial market. The furniture was designed and prototyped by a team comprising Wharington International, the National Centre for Design at RMIT University and MID Commercial Furniture, following a grant from EcoRecycle Victoria. The project aimed to reduce environmental impacts across the furniture life cycle, from materials selection and production through to distribution, use, reuse, recycling and ultimate disposal.

The National Centre for Design wrote the design brief for the project, specifying criteria for materials, manufacture, use, waste avoidance and resource recovery.

MID Commercial Furniture designed the sofa and lounge chair in accordance with the brief for use in foyers and lobbies.

Wharington International developed the mould for the sofa using recycled ABS, an engineering-grade resin often used for casings of appliances such as vacuum cleaners, phones, computers, televisions, videos, washing machines and refrigerators. Most of these products currently end up in landfill, however, reusing the ABS resin converts this 'waste' into a quality product, and provides a viable, cleaner replacement for forest plywoods, hardwoods, plantation timbers and virgin plastic for internal framing in upholstered furniture.

Each 'Re-Define' sofa and lounge chair has the following environmental credentials:

Case study 5 SC Johnson ­ Embracing Design

We believe in contributing to the wellbeing of the countries and communities where we conduct business. We commit ourselves to advancing the economic and social development of every country and community where we do business, and to actively promoting a sustainable natural environment.

SC Johnson Corporate Plan 1999.

SC Johnson operates in 60 countries manufacturing domestic products such as furniture polishes, air fresheners, glass and surface cleaners, insecticides, insect repellents and shaving gels. The company has an Australian manufacturing site making products such as Windex, Toilet Duck and Glade Air Fresheners.

The concept of DfE is actively pursued and rewarded within all aspects of SC Johnson operation.

Design for resource conservation and low impact materials

Where possible, SC Johnson uses recycled materials for packaging. Over five years the company reduced the use of virgin packaging components by 26.8 per cent from 1990 levels. Aerosol packages contain at least 25 per cent recycled steel and are themselves recyclable; shipping containers have a 95 per cent recycled content. The company also researches environmental data on raw materials, to select ingredients with lower environmental impacts.

Design for cleaner production, recycling and safe waste disposal

SC Johnson now makes only two types of bottles and spray triggers. This simplified production line reduces energy consumption, a significant cost benefit. Manufacturing processes are regularly assessed to reduce air emissions, waste emissions, waste water, energy and fuel usage; the company's goal is to reduce waste output by 50 per cent each year. Air, water and solid waste disposals in operations have been roughly halved over five years, and before conventional waste management practices are employed all recycling opportunities are explored.

Design for low impact packaging and efficient distribution

Packaging design focuses on maximum use of container capacity, recyclable and reusable packaging, reduced weight packaging and elimination of intermediate packaging through bulk shipment. Globally, the company is committed to efficient use of road transport when shipping and distributing its products by reducing the size and weight of products, maximising the use of transportation volume, sharing transport with other businesses and using third party haulers.

Design for low impact use

SC Johnson evaluates product ingredients against current scientific research, identifying any ingredients for removal from products. All company products and processes exceed legislative requirements for environmental performance. For example, the company will not use numerous chemicals permitted by Australian legislation.

SC Johnson uses independent audits, ongoing internal evaluations and management and employee training programs to achieve continuous environmental improvement. Employees attend regular environmental training sessions, and an induction program trains new staff on SC Johnson's environmental programs.

The company's global environmental management program and high level of environmental performance are improved by regular reviews of related scientific information and excisting and nascent environmental legislation. Global environmental performance is tracked annually according to internal environmental targets.

Moving Forward

In the next century, as human population doubles and the resources available per person drop by one-half to three-fourths, a remarkable transformation of industry and commerce can occur. Through this transformation, society will be able to create a vital economy that uses radically less material and energy. This economy can free up resources, reduce taxes on personal income, increase per-capita spending on social ills (while simultaneously reducing those ills), and begin to restore the damaged environment of the earth. These necessary changes done properly can promote economic efficiency, ecological conservation and social equity.12

Many companies, both international and Australian, recognise that industry has a critical role to play if society is to achieve sustainability. Incorporating DfE into the product development process plays a vital role in minimising the environmental impacts of a product over its entire life cycle. This process provides an organisation with the means to differentiate itself from its competitors, to meet the growing environmental demands from consumers, to increase its overall profitability and competitiveness, and to play its role in achieving a sustainable society.

By introducing the concepts behind DfE, outlining some of the economic, operational and marketing benefits, and covering the essential elements required to implement DfE, this booklet provides the basic information necessary to incorporate DfE into an organisation's operations.

The five case studies in the proceeding section demonstrate that implementing a DfE program can be straightforward, and that a wide variety of Australian organisations have positioned themselves to play an active role in achieving sustainability.

The Resources, Tools and Contacts section at the end of the booklet have been included to assist you to implement a DfE program by helping you to find more detailed information on all aspects of DfE, including useful tools, additional case studies, and organisations that can provide assistance.

Resources, Tools and Contacts

The resources listed in this section will help you find more detailed information on all aspects of DfE, including technical tools, successful case studies and organisations that can help you.

Australian Organisations and Resources

Environment Australia (Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage)

Environment Australia's Eco-efficiency and Cleaner Production homepage has information and case studies on the tools of eco-efficiency, including DfE, public environmental reporting, environmental management systems and life cycle assessment. It also has case studies of businesses and products.

Relevant publications

A Framework for Public Environmental Reporting­An Australian Approach, Environment Australia, 2000.

Profiting from Environmental Improvement in Business­an Eco-Efficiency Information Kit for Australian Industry, Environment Australia, 1999.

Shop Smart Buy Green­A Consumer's Guide to Saving Money and Reducing Environmental Impacts, Environment Australia, 2001.

Towards Sustainability­Achieving Cleaner Production in Australia, ANZECC, 1999.

Contact details

Community Information Unit
GPO Box 787, Canberra ACT 2601
Phone: 1800 803 772
Eco-Efficiency and Cleaner Production home page:
Environment Australia's home page:

The National Centre for Design at RMIT University

A national research centre actively working on DfE, Life Cycle Assessment and Product Stewardship. Resources include case studies, handbooks, manuals, videos, web sites, LCA software and short courses.

Relevant publications

Appliance Reuse and Recycling: A Product Stewardship Guide, 1999.

EcoSpecifier­A Guide to Sourcing Environmentally Preferable Materials, 1999.
(Also at

Good Design, Better Business, Cleaner World. A Guide to EcoReDesign™­Improving the Environmental Performance of Manufactured Products, 1997.

Introduction to EcoReDesign™­Improving the Environmental Performance of Manufactured Products, 1997. Includes product-based supplements.

Return to Sender: An Introduction to Extended Producer Responsibility, 1998.

Short Circuiting Waste from Electrical and Electronic Products, 1996.

Contact details

National Centre for Design at RMIT University
GPO Box 2476V, Melbourne 3001 Vic
Phone: 03 9925 3485 Fax: 03 9639 3412
Email: Web:

The EcoDesign Foundation

An independent incorporated non-profit educational organisation teaching and researching sustainability by design.

Relevant publications

Sustainments Information Ecology Service newsletter, available by email or hard copy.

Green Desire­Ecology, Design and Products, 1992.

Timber in Context, 1998.

Contact details

EcoDesign Foundation
PO Box 369, Rozelle NSW 2039
Phone: 02 9555 9412 Fax: 02 9555 9564
Email: Web:

Society for Responsible Design

A non-profit organisation working towards a sustainable future through environmentally and socially responsible design practices. Provides a newsletter, talks, a register of designers and a product database. Membership is available.

Relevant publications

Information pack available. Loose Leaves bi-montly newsletter.

Contact details

Society for Responsible Design
PO Box 288, Leichhardt NSW 2040
Phone: 0500 589 500
Email: Web:

Environment Protection Authorities

The environmental agencies in all States and Territories (such as the NSW Environment Protection Authority) have information and publications on many aspects of Eco-efficiency and Cleaner Production.

Contact details

Select your State or Territory on the government directory web site at and search for 'environment'.

EcoRecycle Victoria

Information on sustainability, recycling and waste management.

Contact details

Phone: 03 9639 3322 Fax: 03 9639 3077
Email: Web:

International Organisations and Resources

Centre for Sustainable Design, Surrey

The Centre for Sustainable Design facilitates education and research about eco-design and environmental, economic, ethical and social considerations in product and service development and design.

Relevant publications

Clark, T. and Charter, M. 1999, Eco-Design Checklists­for Electronics Manufacturers, 'Systems Integrators' and Suppliers of Components and Sub Assemblies.

Contact details

The Centre for Sustainable Design, Faculty of Design
The Surrey Institute of Art and Design, Falkner Road, Farnham, Surrey GU9 7DS, UK
Phone: +44 1252 892772 Fax: +44 1252 892747

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT's Technology, Business and Environment program was set up to help business achieve environmental excellence. Its web site includes an excellent primer on implementing Design for Environment.

Contact details

Email: jnash@mit.eud

United Nations Environment Programme

UNEP Cleaner Production Network includes information on worldwide moves towards cleaner production. Includes publications, case studies, Cleaner Production newsletter, databases.

Contact details

Email: Web:

UNEP Working Group on Sustainable Product Development

Includes information on sustainable products and services. Includes a database of examples, contacts and Way Beyond, a downloadable magazine.

Contact details

Email: Web:

US Environmental Protection Agency

The US EPA's DfE web site has a wide variety of relevant information, including DfE assessment tools and industrial projects.

Contact details


World Business Council for Sustainable Development

The WBCSD is a coalition of some 130 international companies committed to sustainable development. Members are drawn from 30 countries and more than 20 major industrial sectors. The WBCSD web site includes Eco-Efficiency case studies, reports, definitions and speeches.

Relevant publications

Cleaner Production and Eco-efficiency, 1993.

Contact details

World Business Council for Sustainable Development
160, route de Florissant, CH­1231, Conches-Geneva, Switzerland
Phone: 41 22 839 3100 Fax: 41 22 839 3131
Email: Web:

Books and Publications

Burall, P. 1991, Green Design, The Design Council, London.

DeSimone, L.D. and Popoff F. 1998, Eco-efficiency­the Business Link to Sustainable Development, MIT Press, London.

Fiksel, J. (ed) 1996, Design for Environment: Creating Eco-efficient Products and Processes, McGraw-Hill, New York.

Hawking, P., Lovins A. and Lovins L.H. 1999, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, Boston, USA. (Available online from

Klostermann, J.E.M. and Tukker, A. (eds) 1998, Product Innovation and Eco-Efficiency­Twenty Three Industry Efforts to Reach the Factor 4, Eco-Efficiency and Industry, vol. 1, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.

Mackenzie, D. 1991, Green Design­Design for the Environment, Laurence King Publishing, London.

Martin, P. and Verbeck, M. 1998, National Materials Accounting Strategy: A Path to Competitive Advantage for Australian Industry, Profit Foundation Pty Ltd, Sutherland. (Available online from

National Centre for Design 1997, A Guide to EcoReDesign­Improving the Environmental Performance of Manufactured Products, RMIT Melbourne, Australia.

Shelton, R.D., Shopley, J. 1996, Improved Products Through Design-for-Environment Tools, Prism, First Quarter, Arthur D. Little, Cambridge MA.

Wenzel, H., Hauschild, M. and Alting, L. 1997, Methodology, Tools and Case Studies in Product Development, Chapman & Hall, London.

Yarwood J.M. and Eagan P.D. 1998, Design for the Environment Toolkit: A Competitive Edge for the Future, Minnesota, USA. (Available online from

Back to Contents


  1. Yarwood J.M. and Eagan P.D. 1998, Design for the Environment Toolkit: A Competitive Edge for the Future, Minnesota, USA.
  2. To date the focus of DfE has mainly been on products, particularly manufactured goods, therefore this booklet is targeted at manufacturers of goods, but the information presented can be applied equally well to many service companies. Therefore, where you see the work 'product' used you can usually also read 'services'.
  3. Hawking, P., Lovins A. and Lovins L.H. 1999, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, Boston, USA.
  4. DeSimone, L.D. and Popoff F. 1998, Eco-efficiency - Business Link to Sustainable Development, MIT Press, London.
  5. World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Cleaner Production and Eco-efficiency.
  6. Adapted from The National Centre for Design 1997, A Guide to EcoReDesign­Improving the Environmental Performance of Manufactured Products, RMIT Melbourne, Australia.
  7. Adapted from The National Centre for Design 1997, A Guide to EcoReDesign­Improving the Environmental Performance of Manufactured Products, RMIT Melbourne, Australia.
  8. Bob Shapiro, CEO, Monsanto.
  9. Klostermann, J.E.M. and Tukker, A. (eds) 1998, 'Product Innovation and Eco-Efficiency­Twenty-three industry efforts to reach the Factor 4', Eco-Efficiency and Industry, vol. 1, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.
  10. Shelton, R.D., Shopley, J. 1996 'Improved Products Through Design-for-Environment Tools', Prism, First Quarter, Arthur D. Little, Cambridge MA.
  11. You can find more information on this and all other case studies in this booklet at
  12. Hawking, P., Lovins, A. and Lovins L.H. 1999, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, Boston, USA