All our new products undergo an environmental sustainability assessment, but identifying opportunities for eco-design using complex environmental information is challenging and time-consuming. Therefore, we have been pioneering new ways to help our R&D staff to do so.
In 2013, we finalised the development and began the roll-out of EcodEX (Eco-design for Sustainable Product Development and Introduction), an LCA-based eco-design tool we co-created to enable product development teams to assess the environmental performance of a product faster and earlier in the design process. This was done in partnership with Selerant, an IT company based in Italy that specialises in product life cycle management and compliance solutions.
Using five environmental impact indicators, EcodEX allows different scenarios to be compared using publicly available data specific to the food and beverage industry. Taking a value chain viewpoint, it can be used to assess the overall environmental impacts of a packed food product, from the contribution of agriculture, processing, packaging and distribution right through to end of life.
Having introduced EcodEX to all 11 of our global Product Technology Centres and some R&D centres in 2013, we have now rolled out training on the packaging element across our entire research and development network, and piloted it in selected markets. We are using it to progressively replace our previous tool PIQET, which is focused only on the environmental performance of our packaging.
EcodEX is being gradually introduced to ensure it is adopted effectively and to address the challenges raised by new users, such as getting used to interpreting the results. We are now focusing on enlarging the scope of the input data on agricultural raw materials, as they constitute the main environmental impact of many products.
By the end of 2014, 5 742 projects representing more than 16 500 scenarios had been assessed using our PIQET and EcodEX ecodesign tools (2013: 5 200 projects and 15 500 scenarios). In 2014, the roll-out of the EcodEX ecodesign tool was carried out in 31 R&D locations, which is 100% of in-scope R&D locations (2013: 11 Product Technology Centres, 70% of in-scope R&D locations).
We also ensured that EcodEX is commercially available to other consumer goods companies because we believe it adds significant value to our whole industry.
Mandatory rating system
We have been using a mandatory environmental rating system for all new product and process developments since 2012. This uses a five-point scale to evaluate potential impacts, both negative and positive. It is designed to inform decisions at the earliest possible stage, well before a project goes into development.
Promoting access to data
To make informed decisions, our teams require accurate data, and we continue to work with external collaborators to develop databases that benefit not only Nestlé but the LCA community at large.
We are continuing to develop and improve EcodEX through a collaboration with CIRAIG, the Montreal-based Interuniversity Research Centre for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services. During 2014, these improvements included a new methodology to take statistical uncertainty into account in simplified ecodesign tools. The research was presented at the World LCA Food Conference in San Francisco in October 2014 and we plan to incorporate it into EcodEX in 2015.
We are also co-sponsoring the development of a World Food Life Cycle Assessment Database (WFLCA DB), coordinated by LCA consultancy Quantis and the Swiss Agricultural Research Institute Agroscope. In 2014, the second release of data (around 140 new datasets) was made available to project partners and during 2015, around 300 datasets will be added to EcodEX. This data will undergo a critical review before being incorporated into the publicly available LCA database Ecoinvent. Nestlé is also funding further data development, in collaboration with Quantis, to focus on ingredients not yet considered in major databases. This new data will also be submitted to Ecoinvent.
To stay at the forefront of LCA and ecodesign, we continue to promote Sustainability by Design and provide our product development teams with opportunities for continuous learning and knowledge sharing. In addition to staff at our 34 R&D centres disseminating science, technology and engineering expertise throughout our R&D network and across our operations, we created a global Sustainability by Design Network, made up of experts responsible for building sustainability into the earliest phase of product development in our R&D centres. In 2014, we built on the momentum of this network by strengthening cross-fertilisation across business categories and by training our sustainability champions in the effective use of EcodEX.