impact of material production and processes is, of course, those in the industries making the materials and using the processes.
For many years, Swedish industry conducted environmental impact analyses to obtain environmental permits from government authorities. As of 1991, as prescribed by law, companies large enough to need an environmental permit are required to provide yearly environmental reports that include environmental impact information. Information about the environmental impacts is publicly available, and industry is less reluctant than before to reveal the details of the emissions to those other than the authorities. The information in the environmental reports is insufficient to create environmental indices for the EPS system. More detailed information of the emissions, especially from various parts of operations, is needed. The Product Ecology Project and the cooperation between the 15 Swedish industrial firms enabled more detailed information to be used, which facilitated development of the inventory used in the EPS.
The EPS system has been tested in important projects such as the Volvo Environmental Concept Car and the development of the new range of heavy-duty trucks. These tests have been extremely important in determining best ways to improve the system.
Volvo is now deciding on the next step in implementing the EPS system. The challenge the company faces is to find the best level for introducing EPS within its design organization. One solution is to use the EPS system in groups devoted to the design of aggregated assembled products.
The main advantage of using a system such as EPS is that it forces the designer to incorporate concerns at an early stage of forming new products. This step is far more important than the specific data that the system produces. EPS system data are not absolute values that can be used separately. The system should be used to compare different design alternatives and to ensure that good decisions are made. The detailed analysis can be used to assess where in the life cycle the worst environmental impact occurs and to determine what variables are crucial to making alternative design decisions.
Very different environmental impacts are compared in the system through a valuation process. This step is more subjective than inventorying data and can be a cause of grave concern. However, total life cycle analysis sooner or later requires that value judgments be made.
Clearly, the valuation of different environmental impacts is never going to be accepted universally. Values may vary between countries, between times, and among individuals. Therefore, it is important to have a system that can adjust for such changes quite easily. The EPS system is flexible enough to do that and is a practical tool that can be used in design process. It is an important tool but not the only element in design-for-environment strategies.
The EPS system also can never substitute for other company procedures that are effective in continuous improvement of environmental performance. Often,