Philips is one of the world's largest electronics companies and Europe's largest. It is a global leader in televisions, lighting, electric shavers, medical diagnostic imaging and patient monitoring.
Eco-design was integrated into Philips' product development process as part of its "EcoVision" environmental programme, which ran from 1998 to 2001.
According to head of environment and energy Henk de Bruin, all of the company's divisions must consider environmental matters as part of their product development procedures. But potential environmental improvements are not implemented in situations where other factors such as cost or performance are compromised.
EcoVision also required at least one product with a demonstrably superior environmental performance, or "green flagships", to be developed each year in each of its business divisions - lighting, consumer electronics, semiconductors, medical systems, and domestic appliances and personal care. This target has also been included in the latest EcoVision programme, running from 2002-2005.
Eco-design at Philips focuses on five areas - weight, hazardous substances, energy consumption, packaging and recycling. Products are eligible as green flagships if they have been investigated in three or more areas and found to offer better environmental performance in at least two, compared with their predecessors or closest competitors. The status of green flagships is reviewed annually.
Judging by the examples in Philips' sustainability reports for 2002 and 2003, high performance in terms of weight, energy efficiency and packaging appear to be the easiest to achieve.
Philips' latest 30-inch LCD television also weighs much less than similar products because it has internal loudspeakers, avoiding the need for plastics housings and duplication of components such as wiring boards and power supplies.
However, it also plans to phase out tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBA) from printed wiring boards by January 2006. TBBA is commonly used in such applications.
A major contribution to the improvement was made by the lighting division, which cut its packaging by 21% between 2002 and 2003. This was due to a reduction in exports, which require more packaging, and lower sales for certain products.
In contrast, an increase of 5% was recorded by the semiconductors division due to the sharp growth of colour screens in the mobile display systems business.
According to Maarten ten Houten, senior environmental consultant in Philips' consumer electronics division, the company has been following the development of biopolymers such as Cargill Dow's polylactic acid (ENDS Report 338, pp 33-34 ). However, it has yet to make any decisions about using such materials.
Mr de Bruin said Philips is still trying to maximise its use of cardboard at the expense of plastics such as expanded polystyrene, on the grounds that cardboard is easier to collect for recycling and is a renewable resource. But in certain applications, such as cushions for larger products, or in certain conditions, such as humid countries, plastic has a better technical performance.
Environmental requirements include certification to ISO14001 or a similar environmental management standard and compliance with the requirements of the relevant business division, such as hazardous substance bans. Commitment to the declaration is considered "an important factor" in Philips' decision to enter into or remain in a business relationship.