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Estimating environmental impact in the early stages of the product innovation process

: Lang-Koetz, C.; Beucker, S.; Heubach, D.

Schaltegger, S.:
Environmental management accounting for cleaner production
Berlin: Springer, 2008 (Eco-Efficiency in Industry and Science 24)
ISBN: 978-1-4020-8912-1
Aufsatz in Buch
Fraunhofer IAO ()

During the early stages of a company's innovation process (e.g. orientation and generation of ideas), sustainability concerns are only taken into account in the form of strategic guidelines. In contrast, many different methods, tools for design and impact assessment support the decision makers at the end of the innovation process (e.g. in the phases of realization and product development).
An approach for environmental impact estimation of product ideas based on the guiding barrier concept by Fichter and Paech (2003) is presented. The approach uses the stage gate methodology by Cooper (2001) and action strategies for the reduction of environmental impacts of a product by Brezet/van Hemel (1997, 139). These action strategies are attributed to the different phases of the stage gate process and are supported by practical questions.
The approach thereby makes use of the widespread assumption that there is a high degree of influence on product properties and corresponding environmental impacts at the early phases of the innovation process.
The estimation of the environmental impact in the early phases of the innovation process is based on information on substances, materials and processes. This information can be obtained in part from the internet as an external information source. Search strategies are described how such information retrieval can be facilitated. It is based on using search engines and publicly available internet databases on environmental impacts of substances, materials and processes.