5. Environmental and sustainability labels, Product Life Cycle Assessment, Ecodesign


Project: Development of economic and social criteria for product assessments


Project: Basque sustainability label


Project: Ecodesign


EU-Projekt: Life Cycle Design


Projekt: EMAS and Ecodesign













Development of economic and social criteria for product assessments

The quantification of environmental effects of products is well developed by methods like life cycle assessments according to ISO 14040. But the quantification of social and economic aspects remains vague. Labels like Fair Trade exist for only very few products and don’t quantify the results of the product assessment. Focus of this product is to develop criteria for quantification of social and economic effects of products and thus increase transparency of product assessments. The criteria will be tested in case studies with Austrian companies. Sustainable Product Reports will be published. The project results aim to assist consumers in their product choice and companies in the inclusion of sustainability aspects in product development.

Project management:
Technische Universität Wien, Inst. F. Konstruktionswissenschaften und Technische Logistik, Prof. Dipl.Ing. Dr. Wolfgang Wimmer

Project partner:
Institut für ökologische Wirtschaftsforschung, IÖW, Univ.Doz.Mag.Dr. Christine Jasch

Project duration: August 2008 – July 2010

Project finance: Jubiläumsfonds der österreichischen Nationalbank

Publication: download pdf




Basque sustainability label

Project title:
Developing the Basque national label into a comprehensive sustainability label for products and services

February 2004 to July 2004
The project was commissioned by IHOBE.

Project Coordinator:
Dr. Christine Jasch, IÖW-Institute for Environmental Management and EconomicsProject Partners:
Dr. Gabriele Hrauda, Johannes Puhrer, IÖW
Prospektiker www.prospektiker.es
Daniela Velte, Ibon Zugasti

Content of the project:
Ecolabels have been present in Europe for many years and are in some cases widely spread. Examples are the Nordic Swan (Scandinavia), the blue angel (Germany), and the Hundertwasserzeichen (Austria).

The EU ecolabel, "the flower”, has been around for 13 Years. In 2000, the entire European ecolabel scheme was revised following the newest studies conducted on relevant environmental criteria and the related framework.

Currently (2003), there are EU ecolabel guidelines for 22 product groups. Five of these are being revised and assessment criteria for two other product groups are being developed.

Since some products are not allowed to be assigned ecolabels due to the legal framework, such as food, other labels of approval have been introduced as for organic farming.
Additionally, some countries have national quality labels for agricultural products, such as Austria and the Basque Country. Residents and tourists are often satisfied with a quality label that states that the product comes from regional, small farm production. It does not even have to be organic. This project attempts to widen the criteria to include sustainability dimensions of into a label that already carries Basque identity and local acceptance.

The following project steps were performed:





stands for the integration of environmental aspects in product development and the improvement of existing products with regard to their environmental performance.

Ecodesign competition

Together with the Austrian National Award for Design, in 1993 for the first time an award for ECODESIGN was granted. The IÖW prepared this award by development of a questionnaire for the companies and products on the related environmental impact and was co-organiser. The aim of the award is to stimulate ideas and solutions for environmental sound products and to increase awareness amongst designers and other people involved.

Ecodesign Manual

On behalf of the Ministry of Environment the IÖW wrote a manual on ECODESIGN. The target group are all people involved in product development and product life cycle assessment.


Life Cycle Design

From April 1994 to March 1996 the IÖW together with research partners in Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal, worked on the development of methodologies for environmental product development, within the framework of the EU Programm Environment and Climate 1993.

In each country, casestudies supplemented this process. The project resulted in a manual for environmental sound construction and design of complex products.

Life Cycle Design is the environmentally sound design of products through the whole lifecycle starting from exploitation and processing of raw materials preproduction, production, distribution, to use and returning materials back into the industrial cycles.

In detail, the objectives were as follows: Stock-taking and analysis of weak spots of environmental problems of complex products;

On the basis of the weak spot analysis, the interview with experts and the evaluation of other concepts, a catalog of criteria for design and evaluation of environmentally sound products was put together. The overall context of environmental and disposal problems during the whole life cycle of a product from design to the use of recycled substances and waste disposal is treated. An environmentally desirable product design, based on a careful treatment of resources and the prevention of waste and harmful substances and allowing closed cycles for as many substances as possible has the highest priority. Requirements for establishing closed cycles or the minimising of certain harmful substances are formulated for product design. In order to make environmental product design operational, the catalog is development as a criteria checklist. An ABC-scheme is integrated in the checklist, enabling designers to quickly reveal weak spots.

Based on the results of the case studies a catalog of principles and criteria was set, e.g.:

The methods developed (guidelines, checklist, short ecobalance) were applied to the following products and tested (co-operation partners in brackets):




From November 1994 to June 1995 the IÖW together with the video tape recorder company iR3 Video International GmbH did a rather large project on implementing both systems, EMAS and Ecodesign, within the management system of the company. The aim was to combine the two methodologies. First project step was a comprehensive initial review of the site and itęs main product, followed by an environmental programme. Then the project split in two parts. The environmental management system was planned in coordination with the existing ISO 9000 quality system.

The ECODESIGN part was the case study for the Life Cycle Design project. A screening LCA and other methods for product optimisation were applied. There is no publication of the company project.

Project: The influence of environmental labels and awards on environmental product development

The two market based instruments Ecolabelling and Ecodesign award reach different target groups. While ecolabelling primarily focusses on information for consumers in their purchase decision, ecodesign targets to influence companies and designers in their strategic product development decision. Ecodesign already starts with the product idea and may even lead to no product at all. Ecolabels on the contrary stimulate a specific product optimisation for market share reasons.

The aim of the study was to assess the effectiveness of those two instruments and provide the ground for their further application. The project was performed on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment from September 1996 to March 1997.

Futher publications on this topic: