Globally, firms are increasingly adopting ecodesign practices in order to design products with lower environmental impact. This paper reports on a study which investigated the adoption of ecodesign practices among a sample of 30 South African electronic design firms, explored through a mixed methods approach. Key findings indicate relatively low awareness of ecodesign practice and very few firms implementing these practices with specific, strategic intent. Outliers demonstrate and have accrued significant benefits. Among the sample, there were also firms that reaped benefits coincidentally through the application of sound engineering principles, suggesting scope for win-win scenarios. Regulations were considered to be the most important motivating factor whereas cost concerns and conflicts with other product requirements were identified as being important hindering factors. Firms reported benefiting in terms of gaining strategic advantage but few are achieving demonstrable cost advantages. This study suggests that there is considerable scope for improvement.
Keywords: ecodesign, design for environment, DfE, electronics, developing countries, South Africa, sustainability