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Eco-design and marketing model for rural products and services (Rural LIFE Design)
Date du début: 1 août 2001, Date de fin: 31 juil. 2004 PROJET  TERMINÉ 

Background During the past decade agriculture has faced dramatic change in the EU Member States and especially in the Nordic countries. Production has intensified and there is increasing concern about environmental issues and ethical issues as well as about the the quality of agricultural produce and rural products. The opportunities for multifunctional agriculture are being highlighted in the EU as well as in the WTO (World Trade Organisation). Multifunctional agriculture - which includes concern for rural viability, a sustainable environment and food safety - in addition to the basic production of food and fibre, is leading to a more integrated agricultural and rural policy. In rural production the effort to reduce negative environmental impacts is only one of the many challenges. To make the rural economy sustainable and viable is as important as the pure environmental aspects. The consumer, the purchaser of rural products, plays an important role. Objectives The scope, aim and objectives of the project: The long-term goal of the project was to integrate the visions of rural producers and the public sector when striving for sustainability. The project will develop a model and set of tools for producing and marketing eco-designed products at rural enterprises, whose business is based on the use of local resources. The project will assess the potential for small enterprises to enter a level of more conscious eco-entrepreneurship by identifying environmental strengths, which can be utilised in production and marketing cycle. More specifically the project will 1) assess the local potential for eco-design, and 2) develop and demonstrate tools for eco-design. This will be achieved by supporting a compilation of Life Cycle Analyses (LCA) for potential products, by pointing out environmental requirements which can be incorporated in the products and by creating pilot eco-brands and examples of eco-marketing. The project will involve four pilot enterprises which are supported in development of eco-designed products. The pilot enterprises represent processing and delivery of meat products, tourism services related to fishing, the manufacture of log and wooden houses, and greenhouse manufacturing. Expected environmental benefits: The project aimed to improve the understanding of the potential of integrated product policy (IPP) and eco-design by demonstration in the framework of four pilot enterprises at local level. The expected environmental benefit was the improvement of the eco-efficiency of the pilot enterprises by minimising natural resource usage and achieving savings in production costs. The development and use of LCA and LCCA instruments for eco-efficient and cost efficient production tailored for small-scale enterprises assisted in developing sustainable processes in the enterprises. Specific tools for eco-design and marketing were to be developed to promote and enhance the environmental awareness of consumers and to differentiate rural production. The environmental benefit of the project is reflected in the improved understanding and new specific indicators for assessing sustainability of development in enterprises and their neighbourhood. Deliverables: A model of eco-design for small-scale rural enterprises with a set of tools defined for multi-step life-cycle analysis, life-cycle cost analysis, creation of eco-brands and marketing. A model to assess the impact of eco-design in terms of sustainability (a set of indicators), consumers (contingent valuation) and the economic feasibility of the enterprise (cost-benefit analysis, social auditing) Project partnership: The project proposers are a collaboration of five organisations: the beneficiary – MTT Agrifood Research Finland and partners Häme Regional Environment Centre, Häme Polytechnic and partners - pilot enterprises Tammelan Kala-Apaja, Makuliha Oy, FM-Haus Oy, Kiipulan puutarha. Agropolis Oy provided subcontracting services for project management and dissemination tasks. Results The project successfully demonstrated the relevance of the eco-efficiency of small rural enterprises to the overall sustainability and environmental objectives on the regional level by implementing eco-design in pilot rural enterprises. The project implemented simplified LCA and LCCA as an Excel-based tool for evaluating the eco-efficiency of rural SMEs. The application of simplified LCA and LCCA assist in the identification of environmental pressures that contribute not only to the performance of the enterprise but to the whole life cycle of rural products. In the process, the project conducted relevant surveys of consumer behaviour, developed regional development sustainability targets and registered environmental concerns of marketing rural-based products. The innovative character of the project was demonstrated by the application of IPP in rural SMEs by introducing, developing and promoting eco-products. The project demonstrated how the IPP approach can successfully be implemented at the grassroots of rural entrepreneurship. As a result of the project, the promotion of innovative small-scale technology and respective green investments is suggested as a solution for improving the environmental performance of rural SMEs. The promotion of eco-branding has demonstrated an efficient way of increasing the environmental awareness of both rural producers and consumers as a long-term impact on the sustainability of rural entrepreneurship, rural society and environmental behaviour of the consumers. The increased environmental awareness among rural entrepreneurs has a direct impact on transforming the rural enterprises into eco-enterprises and allows them to implement the requirements of EMAS and ISO 14001. Taking into consideration both the supply and the demand in differentiating rural products is an innovative approach for creating added value for any rural product. The project identified that for the transfer of the project results, relevant studies of consumer behaviour on national scale (urban vs. rural) and local and regional sustainability targets have to be carried out. This task can be time-consuming and constraints posed by the insufficiency or inapplicability of relevant data from different databases have to be taken into consideration. The project addressed in qualitative terms the targets set in the 6th Environmental Programme 2010 by demonstration of implementation of environmental regulations at rural enterprise level, integrating the environmental concerns into economic and production activities of rural enterprises, encouragement of the market to work for the environment (both from the supply and demand aspects) and helping consumers make informed choices pro environmental rural products. The project introduced new means for the implementation of multifunctional agriculture in combination with the IPP in rural enterprises. The sustainability of the project's results is dependent on the availability and promotion of the use of the LCA tool and the Handbook on Eco-Design for Small Rural Enterprises. Both of these are not yet available for public use. For long-term monitoring, the main indicators of the project results are related to the use of the LCA tool and the Eco-Design handbook by different companies in rural areas in different EU countries. Based on longer-term monitoring of the environmental and economic indicators of the pilot enterprises, conclusions can be drawn about the efficiency of the results achieved by the project.


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