Design for environment and environmental quality: regulatory policy or voluntary programs?
Design for Environment (DfE) is one of the more promising tools for reducing the environmental impact throughout the product life-cycle. Since most of the waste management and recycling problems are "locked" into the product at the design stage, DfE provides a relevant opportunity to make critical interventions early in the product development process in order to eliminate, avoid or reduce downstream environmental impacts. DfE activities are stimulated in different ways in different countries. In this paper we analyze the relationship between DfE incentives, public policies and voluntary programs, by considering the theoretical and empirical literature. We distinguish between an "European approach", where DfE is spurred by public regulations, and a "US approach", where producers pursue more voluntary efforts in reducing the environmental impacts of their products. By providing an overview of the theoretical and empirical literature, we conclude that public policies tend to be more effective in spurring DfE.
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