Over the last decade, we have witnessed increasing recognition of the importance of products and product systems as a target for both corporate environmental strategy and government environmental policy. Concepts and tools that explicitly focus on products include; ecoefficiency, eco-labeling, product stewardship, green procurement, design for environment, life cycle management, life cycle engineering, extended producer responsibility and more recently integrated product policy.
This paper explores two key conceptual approaches to product-focused environmental management namely, extended producer responsibility (EPR) and integrated product policy (IPP). EPR refers to extending producer responsibility for products beyond the useful life into the postconsumer stage. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines EPR as “an environmental policy approach where the producers’ responsibility, physical and/or financial, for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle”2. This concept has also been taken up by some leading private sector companies in the manufacturing sector (e.g. Xerox, Sony, Electrolux and HP) that see business value in recovering their products at the end of their life.
Integrated Product Policy (IPP) is defined as public policy “which seeks to reduce the life cycle environmental impacts of products from the mining of raw materials to production, distribution, use, and waste management”3. The objective of IPP is to integrate environmental considerations into key decision points in the product’s life cycle stages and assist stakeholders (producers, consumers, policy makers) in making environmentally sound choices. This is achieved through a range of instruments including eco-design, market incentives, and information mechanisms such as eco-labels.