The second force behind the development of EPS was the emergence and acceptance of the sustainability concept in governments and the scientific community. United Nations Environment Program director Mustafa Tolba's statement, ''The 1990s will witness enormous changes in most sectors of society, but in almost none will they be as evident as in industry and environment and the new relationship that has formed between them," captured the trend as it affected industry. In the quest for sustainability, countries began experimenting with creating a "green" gross national product that would include an accounting of the state of the environment. It seems likely that there would be a monetary evaluation of the state of the environment in the future. Such a valuation of the state of the environment meant that any activity that affected the environment could also be valued on the basis of its impact. The implications of these trends to the firm are uncertain. It is clear, however, that it would be useful to know and understand a firm's environmental impacts.


Volvo's response to these trends builds on its 1983 efforts to design a low-weight component car. Many new ideas were tested in the process of designing a low-energy-consuming car. However, it was not easy to evaluate the environmental implications of different designs. For example, a low-weight material might have been produced with a lot of energy but its contribution to a low-weight vehicle implied a potential for reducing fuel consumption during vehicle operation. When Volvo launched the Environmental Concept Car in 1992, Volvo designers wanted a tool that could aid in the selection among design alternatives.

Designers routinely handle several different criteria in their design process. The product definition gives the designer many things to consider. The success or failure of the design often hinges on related product attributes that may be of equal importance. Examples of such design elements include design for quality, for safety, against corrosion, for manufacturability, for assembly, and for service-ability.

To the designer, design for the environment (DFE) would be another design element. Volvo's aims were to fit DFE as a module into the design element list that guides company designers and to develop a tool for environmentally prioritizing product designs. An equally important aspect of the car design process is the degree to which computers are used. Modern car design teams use computer-aided design software that can incorporate standard component modules.

Volvo designers required a DFE tool that aggregated environmental impacts and was

  • computer based;

  • flexible;

  • transparent;

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