When & how to use

Create innovative, greener products. Reduce cycle time and costs. Win new business. An SM LCA can be conducted at many points throughout the design process – the earlier the better.

Try these two projects during your trial.

Designing greener products requires designing differently. You analyze first, then design.
Try one or both of these projects.

1. Assess a product you designed in the past

Start by selecting a product, component or part you designed in the past.

  1. Benchmark by creating the reference concept in Sustainable Minds. Use the information from the design that was selected to put into production.
  2. Model several of the other product concepts you explored in that design process.
  3. Compare the environmental impacts these product concepts – what is creating the greatest impacts, in which phase of the product's life cycle.
  4. Report and discuss. Would you have made the same decisions if you had had this information? Why or why not? What are the trade-offs between potential cost, functional performance, aesthetics and environmental performance? What are the compelling greener marketing stories that can be told? What is the potential for new or additional revenue or for acquiring new types of customers? Use Sustainable Minds results views in your presentation to support discussion and recommendations.

2. Redesign a product using ecodesign strategies for product innovation

Start by selecting a product, component or part to redesign.
For this purpose, simpler is better, i.e. fewer items in the system bill of materials.

  1. Benchmark by creating the reference concept in Sustainable Minds. Use information you have, or simply make estimations. Interpret the results. What is creating the greatest impacts, in which phase of the product.s life cycle?
  2. Brainstorm and sketch three new concepts by referring to the Ecodesign Strategy Wheel. Look at which life cycle phases are sustaining the greatest impacts. Try using multiple strategies in multiple phases to more dramatically decrease the impacts, and increase the possibility of product innovation.
  3. Model these product concepts. Consider the strategy(ies) being explored in naming the concepts.
  4. Compare the environmental impacts between these product concepts. What is creating the greatest impacts, in which phase of the product.s life cycle?
  5. Report and discuss. What are the trade-offs between potential cost, functional performance, aesthetics and environmental performance? What are the compelling greener marketing stories that can be told? What is the potential for new or additional revenue or for acquiring new types of customers? Use Sustainable Minds results views in your presentation to support discussion and recommendations.

Sustainable Minds results.

The impact scores indicate the overall environmental performance of the product or system that has been assessed. They can be used to communicate to people inside the product development team, on the marketing team, or among management. This is often a highly educational process where managers have an “AHA!” moment about their products and services.


SM LCA results can be used for:

  • Making informed trade-off decisions based on quantified and credible data
  • Creating marketing communications based on decisions that really make products greener
  • Reusing results, learning, knowledge, and decisions for subsequent projects

SM LCA results can NOT be used for:

  • Making external environmental performance claims based on weighted, single-indicator scores (millipoints)
  • Comparative assertions that reference a competing product and are intended to be used publicly

Guidelines for making environmental claims are provided by both ISO and the Federal Trade Commission. These guidelines are summarized in the ‘Communicating Results’ section of the Learning Center where there is more information regarding the types of public assertions that can be made from Sustainable Minds results.

Using Sustainable Minds in the design process.

Operationalizing greener product design; why estimating impacts early is important

Typically 75% of manufacturing costs are committed by the end of the concept phase. Critical decisions are made about key product attributes such as materials, energy requirements, recyclability and longevity. These same decisions often lock in the environmental performance of the product. By the time you begin detailed design, you know what you’re making, and it’s too expensive to change the design.

Operationalizing greener product design starts with bringing life cycle thinking and a whole product systems approach to the beginning of the design process. The result is innovative, greener products, cost savings by reducing re-engineering, and greater competitive advantage!

The following table provides guidance on conducting an SM LCA in the design process.

PHASE WHAT
Service or activity?
HOW
With what data?
WHY
To learn/assess what?
WHO
is involved?
Phase 0

Learning & definition

Develop maps for design development, identify new market opportunities

> Set directions & verify brief

Impact assessment for a reference product Reference product data from:
  • full LCA results
  • product teardown
  • competitive benchmarks

Identify opportunities for impact reduction

Identify opportunities for innovation in product category

  • Design strategy
  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering
  • Marketing
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers
Impact assessment for a hypothetical product Data chosen from reasonable estimates Understand impacts of early stage design directions
Phase 1

Concept

Develop concept based on opportunities 
and directions 
from Phase 1

> Select concept and verify feasibility.

Impact evaluation and reduction Reference product data from:
  • full LCA results
  • product teardown
  • competitive benchmarks

Identify opportunities for impact reduction

Identify opportunities for innovation in product category

  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering
  • Marketing
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers
Comparative life cycle assessment

Reference product SM LCA compared with various design directions

Compare impacts associated with different design directions

Explore ecodesign strategies

Copy reference product SM LCA and modify with various ecostrategy opportunities

Understand impacts and possible improvements associated with durability, disassembly, recyclability, remanufacture

Design for energy efficiency

Address end-of-life issues

Introduce extended producer responsibility

System optimization

Product life cycle strategy and planning; SM LCA paired with stakeholder research

SM LCA paired with stakeholder research

Identify opportunities that resonate with stakeholder goals, values, or motivators

Alternative materials investigation

Copy reference product SM LCA and modify with various material options

Understand implications of different material choices

Phase 2

Development & refinement

Refine, develop, and prototype prime concept

> Approve Design

Impact evaluation and reduction

Input data from primary design direction to create SM LCA

Identify ‘hot spots’ as areas for additional impact reduction


  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers
Product life cycle strategy and planning SM LCA paired with stakeholder research Identify opportunities that resonate with stakeholder goals or motivators
Alternative materials investigation Copy primary design SM LCA and modify with various material options Understand implications of different material choices
Comparative life cycle assessment Reference product compared SM LCA with various design directions Compare impacts associated with different design directions
Regulatory compliance SM LCA with data from primary design direction Understand whether product might meet regulatory or company-driven policy directives
Phase 3

Pre-production

Refine the developed concept for production

> Release production information

Impact evaluation and reduction

Actual part data and product life cycle data

Evaluate impacts from designed parts

  • Industrial Design
  • Engineering
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers
Alternative materials investigation Actual part data and product life cycle data Understand implications of different material choices
Comparative life cycle assessment Actual part data and product life cycle data Compare impacts of primary design direction to those associated with different design directions
Phase 4

Production & rollout

Confirm manufacturability and support product launch

Impact evaluation and reduction Actual part data and product life cycle data

Conduct full LCA* on manufactured product, compare SM results from design concept to actual. Update reference product.

  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing partners
  • Supply chain managers
  • Marketing
  • Product development directors
  • Sustainability managers