capable of carrying out multiple analyses;
able to adjust to changes in best practice and best available technique;
compatible with environmental inventory tools;
product, processes, and industry oriented;
capable of integrating new scientific findings; and
transparent or neutral in assigning values to environmental attributes.
Volvo designers, the Swedish Federation of Industries, and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute began discussing ways to develop a tool that could help guide decisions about environmental preferability. The tool was to be a compass, guiding appropriate environmental choices, not necessarily providing a definitive answer. During 1990, the first version of a tool (EPS-system, version 1.0) was developed (Ryding and Steen, 1991).
A top-down approach was used to develop the system. The first question posed was, "What decisions do we need to make"? The last was, "What knowledge base do we need"? Relatively little attention was paid to well-known factors. Most of the work was done on factors such as certain environmental issues and the subjective values placed on environmental goods that could be barriers to the use of the system.
To examine the use of the system and to develop it further, a second phase, the Product Ecology Project, was initiated. The project was led by the Swedish Federation of Industries and included the participation of 15 Swedish companies, Chalmers University of Technology, and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
The second phase included the development of a newer version of the EPS system (Steen and Ryding, 1992), which is being tested by several companies. The development of the system was funded mainly by the Swedish Waste Research Council. The council carried out an international evaluation of the system concept in September 1993. The experiences from those activities will be included in the EPS system design.
The system structure has been published in several articles and reports, but the databases and the software are still being developed and are not fully available for public use. The data for particular materials have to be proprietary to avoid a lot of unnecessary inconvenience for their manufacturers. For development purposes, however, less precise data have been used.
The EPS system assesses environmental impacts in terms of ecological and health consequences. It provides an opportunity to enumerate and assess environmental