14006 - the new standard in design

15th September 2011


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  • Manufacturing ,
  • Ecodesign ,
  • Products ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Supply chain



Martin Charter and Vic Clements outline the new international standard for ecodesign

The past few years have seen a growing legislative requirement to address the environmental impacts of products, and this, together with changing external market conditions, is increasingly driving ecodesign – that is, designing products to reduce their environmental impacts or improve their environmental performance – to the forefront of business planning.

Many companies are beginning to see environmentally focused design of their products and services as a way to achieve or maintain market advantage and, as business goals are tied inexorably to the marketability of the company’s products, ecodesign will become a strategic issue, affecting the longer-term sustainability of the business.

Manufacturers carrying out ecodesign can realise benefits in cost reduction, improved stakeholder and supply chain relationships, improved image, employee motivation and innovation. The potential benefits, however, arise from changes in critical operational and planning activities and can only be realised if they are anticipated, recognised and recorded as part of the overall corporate goals, objectives and targets.

Dutch electronics company Philips (see panel below) recognised early on that, to be successful, the implementation of ecodesign processes must be firmly embedded in the strategic planning and management processes of the business and not just in the product design and development activities. Many organisations already address the environmental impacts of their business activities through an environmental management system (EMS), such as ISO 14001 or the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme, but struggle to satisfactorily address the impacts of their products and services through this route.

To address this, a new standard in the environmental management arena, “ISO 14006: Guidelines for incorporating ecodesign into environmental management systems” has been introduced.

New member of the family

As the number and name suggest, this standard is closely associated with 14001 and is intended to assist organisations in establishing a systematic and structured approach to the incorporation and implementation of eco-design activities within a certified EMS.

The guidance is intended to be applicable to all organisations, regardless of type, size and product provided. Although aimed primarily at organisations that have an EMS, perhaps also combined with a quality management system in line with ISO 9001, 14006 is also of value to organisations that have only quality management systems. It may also be useful where no formalised environmental or quality management systems exist, but where there is interest in reducing the adverse environmental impacts of products.

A growing need

It is estimated that, in general, up to 80% of a product’s environmental impact is fixed by its design, so it is during design and development that efforts should be made to reduce these impacts and improve a product’s environmental performance.

Ecodesign is the systematic identification and integration of environmental aspects into product design in order to reduce adverse environmental impacts and improve environmental performance of the product throughout its whole life cycle. In this context, an environmental aspect of a product is any element or function that can interact with the environment.

Environmental impact means any adverse change to the environment, wholly or partially resulting from the product in any phase of its life cycle. In order to carry out ecodesign in a systematic and managed way, organisations need to identify appropriate activities and then have the necessary levels of competence to effectively carry out and manage these activities.

Primary ecodesign activities take place within an organisation’s design and development area and it is here that the technical knowledge required in carrying out and managing ecodesign must reside. However, when ecodesign is to be carried out under the umbrella of an environmental management system, then the manager of the EMS must have an understanding of what these activities are and how they are to be managed and controlled. In this way the integrity of the EMS is not jeopardised and the environmental goals and objectives for the products can be achieved.

14006 is needed because no existing standard covers and relates the differing areas of knowledge and competencies required for ecodesign in an EMS. These areas of knowledge and competency are threefold:

  1. Assessment of the life-cycle impacts of the products on the environment and identification of appropriate design measures to reduce the adverse effects of these impacts.
  2. Management of the product design and development activity to implement these design measures.
  3. Fitting the eco-design activities and the management of them within an EMS.

The first two of these are likely to be situated within the design and development function, but the third is clearly of major significance to the manager of the EMS and it is here that 14006 is primarily directed.

A number of standards which individually covered relevant areas of knowledge and competency were used to inform the development of 14006. They included:

  • 14001:2004 – Environmental management systems: requirements with guidance for use.
  • 9001:2008 – Quality management systems: requirements.
  • ISO/TR 14062:2002 – Environmental management: integrating environmental aspects into product design and development.
  • IEC 62430:2009 – Environmentally conscious design for electrical and electronic products (now BS EN 62430:2009).

The first of these links management of an organisation’s processes with environmental impacts, but does not include design management processes. The second covers the design and development management process, but is not related to environmental impacts. The third assists in incorporating the evaluation of environmental aspects and impacts into the design and development activities of products. The fourth, although intended for electrical products, contains basic generic eco-design principles. Individually, they do not fully explain the total range of activities that are involved within an environmental and business management framework, such as provided by 14001.

Structured approach

14006 incorporates the necessary information from the other standards, such as 14001 and 9001, so that the appropriate processes and procedures can be put in place to implement structured and managed ecodesign under the umbrella of an EMS.

By using this standard, organisations can build on their existing management processes and competencies without necessarily having to implement or use all of the linked standards.

14006 is not intended to be an eco-design manual, but it does contain guidance on what eco-design activities are carried out in a design and development context. 14006 is referred to as a “guidance” standard, so is non-certifiable, but compliance with it will increase confidence that ecodesign is being effectively carried out and managed.

When applying 14006, an organisation should always use its existing activities, processes and procedures as a starting point and use the guidance in the standard in a flexible and practical manner. 14006 contains the following three principal clauses that provide guidance to managers of EMSs, while Annex A and B give more detailed information:

  • Clause 4 – addresses the role of top managers. It explains the potential benefits of ecodesign and discusses the strategic issues of relevance to business and management.
  • Clause 5 – shows how eco-design activities can be incorporated into and managed under an EMS. This clause provides guidelines for addressing ecodesign as part of a certified EMS. The requirements of 14001 are given in boxes and for each sub-clause specific guidance is provided on how the sub-clause relates to the appropriate eco-design activity. For example, sub-clause 5.4.6, “Operational control”, focuses on an organisation’s product design and development activities and incorporates the method described in sub-clause 7.3, “Design and development”, of 9001. Specific guidance related to ecodesign is also provided.
  • Clause 6 – explains the specific eco-design activities that need to be addressed in the design and development process and is based on BS EN 62430.
  • Annex A – provides more detailed information on the strategic issues and the role of top management in ecodesign as presented in clause 4.
  • Annex B – shows how 14006 relates to other management system standards.

The standard was published on 8 July 2011 and is now active. Irrespective of the reason an organisation may have for carrying out ecodesign, this guidance standard will be an invaluable tool for EMS managers, containing all the relevant information needed for a successful implementation in one document.

The authors will lead a workshop on the business implications of ISO 14006 at the IEMA conference on 15 November 2011. A more detailed briefing document webinar and training programme on 14006 will also be launched in November 2011. Readers of the environmentalist can also join a 14006 LinkedIn group to discuss issues related to the management of ecodesign.

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