2013-02-07 10:10:18 -
Nestlé S.A. /
How we're further building sustainability into our product design process
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By Anne Roulin, Nestlé's Head of Sustainability for R&D
The way a product or service is designed determines its use of resources and can
help to minimise waste throughout its lifecycle.
As Head of Sustainability for Research and Development at Nestlé, I recognise
the important role good design can play in the preservation of our natural
We're the world's largest fast-moving consumer goods company and a sizeable part
of our contribution to environmental sustainability depends on our ability to
evaluate the impacts of our products from the moment we begin to design or
This means going far
beyond simply looking at a product's packaging and how it
is disposed of. It's about examining everything from agricultural production to
ingredient sourcing, processing, manufacture, and the product's use by
Faster and more economic
Life cycle assessments are the most widely-used methodology for achieving this
kind of in-depth evaluation, but they can be costly and take several months to
That's why we've been working hard to find quicker and more economic ways of
analysing environmental impacts much earlier in the design process.
We recently made a significant step forward with the development of a new web-
based tool called Ecodex, which we're just starting to roll out across our
We've been working consistently to reduce the environmental impact of our
products since 1990, but this new development will allow us to make even more
Ecodex was created by our own life cycle assessment experts in partnership with
an information technology company called Selerant.
The tool uses information specific to the food and beverage industry to provide
rapid and accurate data that allows our product development teams to assess
sustainability performance across multiple product lines.
Importantly, it presents complex results in a simple, user-friendly format, so
you don't have to be a life cycle assessment expert to use it.
We've helped Selerant to make Ecodex commercially available to other companies
because we think it can add considerable value to our industry as a whole.
Sustainable by design
In parallel with the development of Ecodex, we've reinforced the way we train
our product developers to encourage them to take a holistic approach across all
the different stages of the value chain.
Over the past two years we've set up and trained a global community of
sustainability champions within our worldwide research and development network.
Part of their role is to support the introduction and deployment of Ecodex.
Moving forward, we'll continue to educate our teams involved in different stages
of product development. This will include holding specific 'design for
sustainability' sessions, led by our designers, to help the teams think about
where the key opportunities are in our value chain to reduce environmental
These sessions will allow our designers to help solve problems in areas that
their work would traditionally not touch.
We've already made substantial improvements to the environmental performance of
many of our popular products and systems, such as Nescafé Dolce Gusto, and this
approach should enable us to go further, and faster.
By linking our product developers to the life cycle assessment process, and
providing them with superior tools and a more flexible way of working, I believe
we're putting them in a better position to create even more efficient, lower-
impact products for our consumers.
Nestlé's life cycle approach:
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