Project developers: Management / Marketing
Partners: Product development / Purchasing/ Quality

Defining an eco-design strategy which corresponds to the brand platform

The product categories concerned

Context and description

Brand strategy is essential: it defines the brand, its values, its history, its positioning and enables it to differentiate itself from its competitors and weave solid links with its customers. Consequently, the definition of the company's environmental strategy cannot be disassociated from reflections regarding brand positioning and its identity.

Depending on its level of ambition as regards environmental compliance, the company will be able to develop an eco-design approach which is adapted to the resources and means that it is dedicating to reducing its environmental footprint. If any brand can "eco-design" - in other words progressively give a bigger place to decisions in favour of reducing environmental impacts - the introduction of a more systematic eco-design approach for products can prove to be ambitious and cannot be put in place for the entire collection over a single season.

In effect, owing to its in-depth questioning of products, eco-design can have a significant impact on all internal processes, decision models and the brand's business model, including at the level of retail price. It is therefore particularly important - and strategic - to proceed according to a series of dedicated questions in order to dimension the eco-design initiative in such a way as to ensure that it corresponds to the brand.

IMPLEMENTATION

Difficult

Complexity of implementation

Average

Estimated economic gain

High

Human means

1 year
2 seasons

Implementation timeframes

STAGES OF IMPLEMENTATION
Try it! : Follow the sheet step by step and have a go!
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  • Question the environmental sticking points of the brand: if you have never developed a brand platform, this is where you need to start. Think about brand history, its current identity, its values, its perception by customers, its missions, its vision, etc., as well as the links it can have with environmental compliance.

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  • Question the benefits of an environmental initiative for the brand. Don't forget to ask customers about their needs and desires on the theme. Is the customer receptive to this initiative?

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  • Define your level of ambition as regards the environment and the associated timeframes, namely in relation to your competitive universe. Companies aiming for a position of leader or which solidly position the environment at the heart of their brand platform won't adopt the same eco-design strategy as companies which are only looking to follow the norm in their sector.

    Brands which have placed environmental compliance at the heart of their strategy have massively invested in the eco-design of their products. This is namely the case for outdoor and sportswear sectors or for numerous recent brands which have given ethics a central position at the level of strategy.

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  • After having determined the brand's level of ambition, two eco-design approach typologies can be envisaged:

    - If the brand has a moderate level of ambition, it can embark on a progressive environmental approach aiming to improve the impact of the company's major functions which contribute towards its environmental footprint;

    - if the brand is looking to get more massively involved in the environmental responsibility domain, it could envisage a more ambitious approach with the systematic eco-design of its products.

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  • For brands with a moderate level of ambition or which have not yet begun to work on reducing their environmental footprint, drafting a cross-functional environmental action plan permits a framework to be set for the initiative, making it a concrete reality for teams internally.

    The main functions concerned include: the supply chain and logistics (reduction of the impacts associated with upstream and downstream transport and packaging), purchasing and quality (environmental performance of suppliers, progressive evolution of materials and components, managing unsold items), marketing and networks (energy performances of shops, impacts associated with merchandising or more widely, with indirect purchasing).

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  • Putting in place an environment committee representing these main functions along with personnel involved in the initiative can help to rally teams whilst guaranteeing a rigorous compliance with the action plan and its associated objectives. This committee could agree on a meeting frequency in order to check the fall in impacts and serve as a relay in order to internally communicate on the main achievements within the company.

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  • Brands which want to go one step further with respect to their environmental approach could initiate a product eco-design initiative in parallel with the actions listed in stages 5 and 6 (or if these actions have already been carried out). It is particularly recommended to begin with a limited number of products thanks to a POC (Proof Of Concept) in order to properly get to grips with the eco-design approach. The Sheet: Try it! : Overseeing the product eco-design initiative - will help you to successfully dimension these first pilot projects.

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  • To go one step further, after the POC, industrialise the eco-design initiative. This will consist in adapting the pilot method and deploying it with environmental footprint reduction (multi-criteria) and coverage objectives (% of products concerned) with a focus on circularity-related objectives (See Sheet: Try it!: Steering my eco-design initiative).

    At this stage, teams must be trained and equipped to ensure that every new product is the focus of decisions in favour of the environment and that progress is measured thanks to reliable KPIs.

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  • When eco-design is part of the brand's universe, it's a high vector of innovation and evolution for the company's environmental business model: development of new materials, processes, partnership and / or services (functionality saving, take-back, recycling...), new production modes (relocation, production on demand, co-creation...). Consequently, for the most ambitious brands, it can be recommended to put in place an eco-innovation unit to structure and feed company reflection and where needs be, to accompany and launch an ecological innovation process.

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  • Communicating on the eco-design initiative with customers is essential in order to close the loop and reinforce brand preference. The entire eco-design initiative and the progress made by the brand can obviously be the focus of communication, but all of the decisions taken in order to optimise the environmental footprint of products will also occupy a legitimate place in product marketing.

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Key indicators

- Customer feedback / confidence index

- Proportion of eco-designed products

- % personnel trained

Watch point

Associating the desirability and the sustainability of the product. Be exemplary in customer communications and value the consumer.

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