Topic 3 Globalized challenges

Developing environmentally-friendly solutions can affect multiple aspects of the product including basic product improvement, but also redesign of the product, creating new functions or even making innovations to the system.

In today’s globalized economy, environmental issues are mainly caused by resource overconsumption and, to a lesser extent, to the relocation of production to low wage countries with lower environmental and social standards (e.g., textile industry in Bangladesh).

In order to minimize such negative environmental impacts, the ‘life cycle assessment’ (LCA) as standardized in the ISO 14040 series (2006), is probably the best known and also perhaps the most detailed in regards of the environmental impacts associated with a product, a process or a service.

However, in a more design perspective, Manzini introduced the “multi-local society” concept, as a network of “local systems”. Meaning, a multi local society produce and consumes locally, “using to best advantage whatever is locally available”, but in parallel exchanges with other territories “whatever cannot be locally produced”.

In that perspective, a social LCA (sLCA) was developed, aiming to assess social impacts of products during their lifecycle.


With local value creation (LCV), we upgrade the life-cycle thinking. Meaning in design processes, it is necessary to consider the local workforce, the sustainable local resources or the customization of the new product or service for local customers.

By shortening supply chain, we also offer added value to the consumers. And choices of sustainable consumers are a very positive external driver for companies to eco design, be overall sustainable and transparent in their business.

For example, according to a Eurobarometer survey (2020), over three-quarters (78 %) of respondents believe that environmental issues have a direct effect on their daily life and health. More than eight in ten citizens are worried about the impact of chemicals present in everyday products.

Moreover, the Commission is inviting companies to take a voluntary pledge to support sustainable consumption, beyond what is required by law. A pilot was launched in January 2021, and several companies (including small businesses) have already taken the pledge, committing to implement the first point below and at least one of the following:

  • identify your carbon footprintand reduce it by setting measurable targets
  • identify your environmental footprint and reduce it (e.g., for through awarding your products with the EU Ecolabel, or increasing the visibility of EU Ecolabel products)
  • increase ‘circularity’ in your activities (e.g., use more recycled or sustainably-sourced material, generate less waste, lower energy consumption in production processes)
  • respectsocial sustainabilityacross your company’s supply chain