Implementing EcodEX: A Product Design Tool at Nestlé
Prior to the choice to develop a specific tool for product ecodesign, a detailed requirement analysis was completed indicating that the ideal tool has to:
• Be user-friendly: because the users are not LCA experts and results must be quickly generated at a moment's notice, the tool has to be easy and quickly ready for use.
• Be linked to Nestlé's recipe management IT system in order to ensure high quality ingredient data, processing data and eventually other types of data, without spending a lot of time on data collection.
• Give reliable results: although the tool is a simplified tool, the results must be as robust as possible to support relevant decisions.
The direct benefits of implementing EcodEX include products with better environmental performances as well as conscious decision-making where a design alternative with a better environmental performance is selected (e.g., for reasons other than environmental reasons, such as legal compliance, consumer preference or quality).
A Growing Number of Users
EcodEX (Selerant Corporation 2015) has been regularly used by the Nestlé R&D community for approximately 1 year now. To date, approximately 700 users have analyzed over 900 LCA scenarios. In addition, approximately 1,5000 packaging scenarios which were generated using PIQET over the last 6 years are available. The results of these scenarios have influenced the development process of new products in several ways:
A. If the environmental performance of the new design is of less quality than before:
– Product designers may work on an alternative design that improves the environmental performance of the product. In the past, in the absence of EcodEX, designers were not always aware that their designs had negative impacts on the environment.
– The product development may be interrupted or stopped altogether because environmental performance is of key importance to the business unit and market. Without the information provided by EcodEX, decision-makers are not in the position to take timely decisions in the earlier stages of the development process. In cases where LCA studies were performed by an external consultant, the conclusions could not be implemented in the design process.
– A decision may be made where the project goes ahead despite the adverse environmental effects because of other criteria such as consumer preference, nutrition, quality, or legal requirements. In this case, EcodEX provided all information available for the decision making process and may lead to follow-up projects in order to improve.
B. If the environmental performance of the new design improves, the results can be shared internally to gain support for the new product development. This may result in a faster adoption of the product, or the use of the product in other markets. Many EcodEX users consider the tool to be very useful to address upcoming needs for consumers.
The main objective of the ecodesign process is to ensure that the environmental performance of Nestlé's products is taken into account in internal decision-making. An added benefit is that the process identifies external communication opportunities. If in line with the brand positioning, such external communications can be achieved through comprehensive life cycle assessments with external consultants, because EcodEX does not comply directly with the requirements of the ISO 14040/ 14044 standards (ISO 14040 2006) for external communication of comparative assertions, given third party critical reviews are not part of the system. This may be a future development.
2.2.1 The Tivall Example
Tivall is a Nestlé brand that offers healthy and nutritious meat substitute products. Tivall products have been specifically developed to be nutritionally balanced and to be a complete source of protein fortified with nutrients that may otherwise be lacking in a meat-free diet. The Tivall range is mainly based on soya and wheat proteins.
Nestlé has used environmental LCAs to compare the environmental performance of a Tivall vegetarian burger (Hälsans Kök) with a conventional meat burger. The results show that the vegetarian Tivall burgers have a considerably improved environmental performance for all indicators compared to conventional meat burgers. The greenhouse gas emissions, for instance, are approximately 80 % lower. The results show that the vast majority of environmental impacts of the beef burger are related to beef production. For the vegetarian burger, distribution also plays a relatively important role (in addition to the ingredients), because they are distributed while frozen.
The example illustrates that healthy and tasty vegetarian dishes can play an important role in improving the environmental performance of nutrition. Given the evidence for this and other similar studies, Nestlé has launched several R&D projects to further investigate new sources of protein with improved environmental performance.
2.2.2 Increasing Internal Knowhow
Another key benefit of EcodEX is that product designers' understanding of sustainability is greatly increased as they have been trained to do the environmental assessments themselves, rather than picking up the information from LCA reports or being informed about the results and recommendations. At Nestlé, it can very clearly be seen that a systematic and holistic value chain approach is used. This takes into consideration responsible sourcing, ingredients, processing, distribution, consumer use processes, and food waste across the entire cycle, rather than only packaging and transportation distances as was the main focus at the beginning of the sustainability journey of Nestlé.
Life cycle management at Nestlé played an important role in expanding the scope of the eco-design from packaging to the full product life cycle and in the implementation and deployment of EcodEX tool across whole Nestlé. The training has been systematically organized and has a strong influence.