Ecodesign: prevention as a key tool in the circular economy


CATEGORY: Sustainability and environment BRAND: AENOR

A dedication to innovation is undoubtedly essential for survival in ever more globalized markets in which companies must compete by systematically developing new concepts, processes and products. In this context, ecodesign becomes a key factor in a company’s ability to compete.

José Magro


It is evident that more and more organisations and consumers demonstrate, via their purchasing decisions, that they want the environmental impacts that the products they purchase cause, throughout their life cycle, to be reduced.

Over the last two years, an additional factor has appeared: the EU circular economy directives that were issued at the end of 2015. In Spain, as a member state, this has been manifested, among other things, by the development of the Spanish Strategy and in the agreement set up by MAPAMA to which, at the moment, nearly 300 organisations from all sectors have subscribed, including, as goes without saying, representatives of the packing and packaging sector.

The Circular Economy Pact is intended to introduce, in practice, the policies that must be developed to implement the action plan for the circular economy. The three fundamental components of the European plan of action are: ecodesign and life-cycle analysis; reuse of water; and waste reduction and recovery.



Ecodesign means identifying, when a product or service is projected, all of the environmental impacts that it could cause in all phases of its life cycle, in order to reduce these as far as possible without reducing its quality and applications. Consequently, it must be applied to the industrial packing and packaging sector. 

The implementation and certification of the UNE-EN ISO 14006 Environmental Management standard in design and development confirms that an organisation has correctly deployed a management system that helps to identify, control and continuously improve the environmental aspects of its products. It also recognizes that the organisation provides information to its clients, consumers and other actors regarding its products and the specific environmental improvements that have been incorporated into the different stages of their life cycle.


Lessened environmental impact

The environmental impact of products, whether they be goods or services, is not limited to the moment they are produced, it extends throughout their life cycles.

We must remember that a product’s life cycle consists of a series of stages that go “from the womb to the tomb”, starting when its materials and components are obtained and used and continuing through its production processes, its distribution and sale, its use by the consumer and on to the end of its life.

Bearing in mind that the design determines a major part of a product’s impact, it is essential to consider the aspects and impacts of each stage of the life cycle during the earliest phases of the design process, with early integration of environmental factors, in order to reduce the environmental impact while maintaining or even improving the product’s usefulness.

Ecodesign is a method that considers the environmental effects of a product from the moment that it is conceived - over half of a product’s impact can be averted during the design process - so that the product is less harmful to the environment.

The aim is to design products that use eco-friendly materials manufactured using clean processes, incorporating environmental improvements in their distribution and reducing their impact during their use and at the end of their useful life.

It is important to understand that the use of ecodesign does not have to mean an increase in the cost of a product nor penalize the final user. In fact, in many cases, incorporating ecodesign factors may lead to savings in materials or lower energy costs for users.




The development of certification

Within the framework of the circular economy, the concept of evaluation of conformity plays an important role, since it is an instrument that can demonstrate, objectively and transparently, the level of success that organisations achieve in this field. Evaluation of conformity should be understood to mean demonstrating compliance with the requisites specified for a product, process or system. There are tools for the evaluation of conformity for the three fundamental components of the European commission’s plan of action with which AENOR already has experience.

In particular, the AENOR Ecodesign Certificate is aimed at organisations of all kinds that have control over design processes and that wish to obtain an advantage via their services and/or products. At the present time, AENOR has issued over 60 certificates to organisations in diverse sectors, such as domestic equipment, furniture, the car industry, lifts, construction, packs and packaging, research, electrical materials, illumination projects, machinery manufacture, mechanical equipment and material and architectural design.

In addition, the ecodesign certificate is highly valued by public bodies in green public procurement tenders, since it allows organisations to demonstrate compliance with particular requisites included in the specifications for the bids.



Jose Magro is Sustainability and CSR Manager for AENOR, a leading entity in certification of management systems for products and services with responsibility for the development and diffusion of UNE standards.


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