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3 A Social Learning Process

As an answer to this realisation a new direction towards sustainability has been proposed by many, where the focus is no longer on single products, but has shifted to the eco-efficiency of product–service systems. And this in the well-motivated belief that environmentally optimising whole sets of products, services and productive processes instead of single goods would give greater results in ecoefficiency:systemic eco-efficiency, to be precise.

3.6.4 From Product to System Eco-efficiency Therefore, the problem of eco-efficient businesses is increasing attention to wider product–service systems. There are several guidelines that can help to reach (and have helped to reach) this goal7: • Deem the respective system to be a product life cycle: a product is designed within the framework of its different – production, use and consumption, disposal – stages. • Deem the respective system to be a set of symbiotic processes: different productive processes are designed to use the waste of one process as an input in others. • Deem the respective system together with other products and services to form a solution to the problem: designed to obtain a certain goal, these products and services are considered as one system. Theoretically, all three approaches should be integrated in order to have any significant success in the right direction, i. e. foresee (new) product–service systems, designed within the life cycle framework, assessing every related productive stage, evaluating possibilities of integrating them symbiotically into other processes, and all from the perspective of industrial ecology.

3.6.5 Looking for New Solutions Previous paragraphs proposed that the expression “eco-efficient business as promoter of systemic eco-efficiency” could offer for companies an approach to operating as an agent for sustainability. Now we should introduce a second approach, the one which we have referred to as proposing new solutions, solutions, that could be at the same time concrete steps towards sustainability and solutions to some urgent problems of contemporary society, e. g. demographic changes and increased demand for services by the elderly, young families and multicultural communities; local issues and demand for new development models; increasing differences between the “South” and the “rich North” and the call for solutions that could overcome them. The common denominator in all these problems is that, 7

Cf. Pauli (1997, 1999); McDonough and Braungart (2002); Stahel (1997); Mont (2002).

Design for Environmental Sustainability  

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