An excerpt from Green to Gold (p.195-6):
"Redesigning products, processes, and even whole value chains is the second section of the Eco-Advantage Toolkit (see figure). To make real environmental gains and benefit from reduced waste and increased resource productivity, companies need to make fundamental changes to how they—and perhaps their customers and suppliers—do things. Design is critical because so much of a product’s environmental impact is firmly established in the design phase. As Timberland’s Terry Kellogg put it, “Once you spec out a product, 90 percent of the footprint—in energy, water, chemicals, hazardous waste, you name it—is set.” Design is where the rubber meets the road."
Design for Environment
"Design for environment," or DfE, is a catch-all term for the green design movement. It covers both casual efforts to think about environmental issues (such as product energy use) during design as well as highly structured DfE programs, with metrics and tools to drive behavior across the organization. A broad DfE program thinks about the entire value chain impact of the product, from supplier components to customer use and disposal. A good program will also deeply affect production and process as well. Intel, for example, co-locates environmental professionals with chip designers, which allows the company to address production challenges (like reducing PFC emissions), long before the next fabrication plant is built.
A few websites provide a great starting point for more information on DfE:
- The EPA DfE site has good examples of government-industry partnerships
- For a straightforward guide to DfE, see the National Resource Council Canada's site
- The Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance offers guide sheets on specific aspects of DfE
- See also the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center for more information and links
Eco-designing of interior spaces and entire buildings is a big part of the Green Wave. Companies are realizing that they can use green building to save money on energy, improve worker productivity, and build physical monuments to their environmental commitments. The most common method of gauging how green a building really is the LEED rating system, designed and run by the U.S. Green Building Council. Buildings can be LEED-certified, or given a higher Silver, Gold, or Platinum rating based on scores in five categories (from energy use to use of recycled materials). Some large corporate locations, like the new World Trade Center and the new Bank of America headquarters are pursuing LEED ratings. See also Greener Buildings for more information on this important trend.
No issue in the green business realms connects to the social side as much as the continuing scrutiny over supply chains. Starting with the famous troubles Nike had in the mid-90s over child labor, the issue grew in importance. Companies now regularly audit their supply chains not just for quality, but for social and environmental metrics. Supply chain is such a broad issue and varies so much by company and industry, it's hard to find hubs of information that would be universally applicable. But here are a few suggested best practices and starting points: