Product design, standards and innovation

Product design is something that is no longer ‘just a good idea’. Creating a sustainable product is also an important trigger for your product design.  But then it gets boring – you start to take stock of the standards and think – we are trapped!

The backdrop is the lower slopes of Mount Kosciuszko (arguably the highest mountain in Australia), and it is winter. Looking into a log fire and being thankful we were warm and safe it was discussed that a better design and innovation are difficult to commercialise. The desire, the plans and even the Research and Development phase is proven. The issue at hand is the ‘bankable’, the intellectual protection and the confidence needed for the buyer of the new product. The buyer quickly becomes the focus. Then you divide it into whether the domestic market is different to the international market, and that leads to what standards might affect your design.

This means you either consider the process of manufacture as a pure design or as a managed procedure or both. Examples being:

The ISO 9000 series – It has a purpose of being a quality management system and China is issued the greater number of certificate holders in the world. Then comes the reasons for not adopting this standard and this would include the risks and uncertainty of not knowing if there are direct relationships to improved quality, and what kind and how many resources will be needed. Then there is how much certification will cost, the increased bureaucratic processes and risk of poor company image if the certification process fails.

The ISO 14000 and ISO 9000 series is similar in that both are concerned with the process of how a product is produced. However, it is worth noting neither is concerned with the product itself.

Importantly for this ‘fire side’ discussion ISO 14000 standards main aim is to assist companies in continually improving their environmental performance, whilst complying with any applicable legislation.

What is the better way to go? Why do it at all when you want to establish your reputation on product performance? Simple answer if you want to sell it on mass and to certain markets it is important that you focus on at least one standard. The decision required is whether to do it as a quality of process management or as a management focus on environmental performance and applicable evolving legal compliance and reporting duties.

If you have followed carbon management and the principles you will have understood the trends and the effects of the product needs to promote through Life cycle Assessment, the product footprinting, and governance requirements. In Europe in particular PAS 2050 cannot be ignored. If that is where you market is heading you might be even more interested to know ISO/TS 14067 is the story of today.

Product footprinting is standard ISO/TS14067 (ISO = International Organization for Standardization, TS = Technical Specification. The full name of the standard is: ISO/TS 14067 – Greenhouse gases – Carbon footprint of products – Requirements and guidelines for quantification and communication.

The genus: Built on ISO14040 and 14044. And originally they were known as LCA standards. LCA originated around 1997 and replaced around 2006. Academically and professionally, these are very well understood and in use.

The fit: It uses the existing terminology, concepts and ideas from 14044 and builds from this and what you learnt before will be understood today. It is comparable to the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol and PAS 2050 and is related to many industry and government agency specific guidelines.

What is different:

Expanding from the original LCA to ISO/TS 14067 brings in the requirements for providing, quoted is

 “principles, requirements and guidelines for the quantification and communication of the carbon footprint of products (CFPs).” Four types of communication are identified:

  • CFP external communication report
  • CFP performance tracking report
  • CFP label
  • CFP declaration


Of particular interest is that a performance tracking report …allows for the comparison of CFP results of one specific product of the same organization over time with respect to its original or previous CFP”.

The consensus: PAS 2050 was declared, ISO/TS14067 was built with international consensus representing about 50 countries through 12 working group meetings.

The importance of data:

A lot of data has already been collected for comparing product and categories are created that align with most products ‘norm’ for carbon footprinting. In short you can research if you don’t have enough data to start and the specification defines that the “best quality data available” should be used. Where site-specific data cannot be practicably collected, verified process data should be used. How good is that? A bit different to the ‘you shall’ or the sky falls in sort of thinking.


To conclude and quote Supply Chain: We should look at the standard as “

  • Something old = Built on the accepted ISO 14044 standard
  • Something new = Extends the scope of requirements for the communication of LCAs – which may be the next logical step for your current LCA work
  • Something borrowed = Utilises existing Product Category Rules concept that you may already be complying with
  • Something blue = Utilises process data that you may already have”.


In context to the original opening ‘discussion’ yes it makes sense that if you want to future proof you product or you want to move to markets where adopting EU stewardship rules, you have to consider it part of your plan to participate.  Just maybe that way you could break the ‘Business as Usual’ cycle and or hindrance to innovation.