21 setembro 2011

ICSID Design for Sustainable Development

Design for sustainable development


The move towards sustainable development is one of the main challenges of the European Union. It is an essential principle of the Fifth Environmental Policy and Action Programme that environmental concerns are taken fully into account from the outset in the development of other policies and programmes. Because of its structure, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions can play a unique role in this area by working with the social partners and by carrying out research in areas where environmental issues and working conditions overlap.

Against this background, sustainable development was one of the six key areas of the Foundation's work programme for 1997-2000. The focus of the Foundation's activities on sustainable development was sustainable production and consumption. In order to deal with these issues, the Foundation launched a project on design for sustainable development with the aim of developing tools, information networks and training for the main actors concerned, such as industry, social partners and designers.

The principal objectives of this report are to analyse what constitutes successful sustainable design, to identify what are the barriers to sustainable design approaches – especially at small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) level – and to examine the processes and initiatives which can help overcome these barriers. The report also serves to recapitulate many of the themes encountered in earlier work both in this project and in the two related Foundation projects on economic and fiscal instruments and professional education and training for sustainable development, and hence represents a summary of the main findings of the Foundation's wideranging work over four years in this area.

In addition to being a synthesis exercise, the report also contributes valuable new material based on consultation with key players, which includes case studies and recommendations for further action to assist companies towards sustainable production at both national and EU level.

Raymond Pierre-Bodin

Eric Verborgh
Deputy Director


This final report, prepared for the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, represents the final study under the Design for Sustainable Development framework project. The report aims to identify the success factors and processes which lead to sustainable 'design' in its broadest sense, meaning the whole industrial production process. It brings together some of the key aspects of the work that has been conducted over the last three years by the Foundation, notably on the use of economic instruments for sustainable development and professional education and training in this area. The report also analyses the wider literature and consultation and case study work carried out in this field.

The work primarily addresses the internal (workplace) and external (wider) environment and hence, to a degree, deals with health and safety issues as well as issues relating to pollution and resource consumption. It also touches on the wider social and economic aspects of sustainable development. In particular it deals with the issues surrounding small and medium-sized industrial enterprises.

Objectives and scope

While a considerable amount of research has been carried out in relation to some of the issues noted above, there has been relatively little work on the processes and mechanisms that facilitate more sustainable practices in industry and commerce. Clearly these may vary in the different circumstances that exist in different Member States, different sectors, different types and size of company, etc. Neither has much been done to try to understand the interrelationships that exist between these factors and hence the potential for and benefits of a more integrated approach, both at the company and wider policy formulation level. The study therefore aims to identify what constitutes successful sustainable 'design', and in particular the role of a more 'integrated approach'; and in doing so meet the following two key objectives:
  • to identify the barriers to 'sustainable design' approaches;
  • to identify the step-by-step processes and key factors that can help to overcome these barriers.
To make the study manageable it has been limited to work that addresses the more practical aspects of:

  • internal company structures, perceptions, motivations and 'culture';
  • external support systems, including education and training;
  • other external factors including:
    – economic/market conditions;
    – regulatory/policy frameworks;

where they apply to industrial (and to a lesser extent commercial):
  • eco-efficiency (process optimisation);
  • eco-design (product optimisation);
  • sustainable (healthy, safe and pleasant) working environments;
  • sustainable production in a wider sense (e.g. use of renewable resources).
While the study is wide-ranging, it does not cover regular end-of-pipe pollution control issues or remediation, for example of contaminated land or water. Neither does it address land-use planning and other aspects of the built environment (e.g. building design). These topics have all been outside the scope of the Foundation's recent work.

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