Project Ecodesign in developing countries - Example of the redesign of a backpack in the Fiji Islands
T his project aims at promoting Design for Sustainability (D4S) of products in Small Island developing. It has been implemented in the Fiji Islands and is based on the D4S methodology promoted by UNEP (United Nations Environnment Programme). The project has also contributed to enrich the D4S method by proposing a relevant articulation of D4S with the life cycle assessment (LCA) method. A method to gather adapted life cycle inventory data and to propose hierarchical organization of the impact categories has also been developed. A first experiment has successfully been conducted with the redesign of a backpack with a Fiji based company.
Project Referent: Fabrice Mathieux Duration: 2007-2010 Partners: University of the South Pacific, Wai Tui Funding: Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, AUF, (Fonds Pacifique)
Meeting with Daniel Wood from the Pacific University, project partner
Because of their peculiar situation, the Fiji Islands face specific issues in addition to the ones encountered by the other developing countries. With a population mainly concentrated in the coastal areas, these island states will be heavily affected by climate change and sea level rise. Besides, they are confronted with problems due to their lack of economy of scale and remoteness. In addition to climate change, one of the main challenges for these countries is solid waste management. Indeed, over the last 15 years, and because of increasing urbanisation, waste production in Fiji grew dramatically while treatment possibilities remained insufficient for the most part. That is why, additionally to the classic life cycle approach in ecodesign, peculiar attention has been paid, during this project, to the management of production wastes and end-of-life scenarios for the ecodesigned product.
The project has led to three types of benefits from the redesign of the backpack have been identified:
Planet benefits They are the improvements of the environmental performance of the product along its life cycle.
People benefits Social improvements have been made at the national level, at the factory and at the retail store, and especially about the working condition and information of the public.
Profit benefits The cost of the ecodesigned backpack posed no technical problems or major expenses. Consequently, no major increase in the backpack price was observed.
It was viewed by the company as a major selling point, differentiating their product from those of their competitors, allowing them to pitch their product on levels other than price. As a result, within the first few months of being launched the sales doubled compared to the polyester variant. Consequently, manufacture of the former version of the bag was discontinued.
The D4S project is still ongoing, with a focus on products to be exported to demanding markets (Australia, New Zealand, Europe, USA) or on products that can attract environmentally conscious tourists. Benefiting from the results of the first stage, the adapted D4S project should then extend its activity to products highly consumed by Fiji customers, for example local food products.