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Nowadays, interest in corporate environmental strategies shifts from cleaner processes to the holistic nature of green products. The relevant literature argues that firms have the opportunity to pioneer through green product innovation, allowing them to differentiate and thus gain competitive advantage. Environmental burden of products during their entire life cycle is undeniable. Due to the weakness of the existing literature that inadequately addresses a commonly accepted green product definition, as well as the thereby caused inconclusive academic empirical results on firms' competitiveness, there are many cases of businesses greenwashing behavior. The overall contribution of this exploratory paper, on determining and evaluating the degree of greenness of a product, is twofold; first, starting with a systematic literature review, authors further contribute by proposing an integrative definition that addresses the so far existing terminological gap. Next, after reviewing the existing environmental assessment tools, authors based on the developed definition and in accordance to its dynamic dimension contribute to the existing methodology, as the paper reveals issues that need to be considered in the evaluation of green products.
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doi: 10.1111/joes.12268
A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW FOR GREEN
PRODUCT TERM: FROM DEFINITION
TO EVALUATION
Evangelia Sdrolia* and Grigoris Zarotiadis
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
Abstract. Nowadays, interest in corporate environmental strategies shifts from cleaner processes to
the holistic nature of green products. The relevant literature argues that firms have the opportunity to
pioneer through green product innovation, allowing them to differentiate and thus gain competitive
advantage. Environmental burden of products during their entire life cycle is undeniable. Due to
the weakness of the existing literature that inadequately addresses a commonly accepted green
product definition, as well as the thereby caused inconclusive academic empirical results on firms’
competitiveness, there are many cases of businesses greenwashing behavior. The overall contribution
of this exploratory paper, on determining and evaluating the degree of greenness of a product, is
twofold; first, starting with a systematic literature review, authors further contribute by proposing an
integrative definition that addresses the so far existing terminological gap. Next, after reviewing the
existing environmental assessment tools, authors based on the developed definition and in accordance
to its dynamic dimension contribute to the existing methodology, as the paper reveals issues that need
to be considered in the evaluation of green products.
Keywords. Environmental assessment tools; Environmental sustainability; Green product; System-
atic literature review
1. Introduction
Nowadays, multidimensional crisis calls for simultaneous economic stability, social equity, and
environmental protection pushing economic agents to actively engage and complete their corporate
social responsibility (Sdrolia and Zarotiadis, 2012).
The dynamic relationship between production and environment has undergone progressive change (de
Bakker et al., 2002). In the 1960s and 1970s, environmental problems were basically neglected from
firms, while in the 1980s, biophysical environment—seen as an externality and thus additional cost—led
some businesses to simple compliance with end-of-pipe technologies. Until then, the majority of US
products did not incorporate environmentally friendly characteristics with the exception of organic foods
in the food industry (Air Quality Sciences, Inc., 2010). After the publication of Brundtland Report (1987),
with the alongside emergence of sustainable development terminology, the 1990s were marked by the
innovative approach of Porter Hypothesis (Berry and Rondinelli, 1998; de Bakker et al., 2002). According
to Porter and van der Linde (1995), environmental innovation as response to ecological challenges may
offer multiple competitive opportunities that stem from differentiation and/or cost strategies, in a win-win
logic. Thus, companies were emboldened to take environmental strategies into consideration, which led
to green marketing emergence in late 1980s (Tseng and Hung, 2013).
Corresponding author contact email: esdrolia@econ.auth.gr; Tel: +30 6941592729.
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A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW FOR GREEN PRODUCT TERM 151
Since then, green became a hot topic in academia, due to the redefinition of a new production
entrepreneurial strategy, where businesses acknowledge environmental aspects as competitive advantages.
There has been a growing number of references and researches regarding a variety of terms such as green
corporate sustainability,green innovation,green labeling,green management,green products,green
strategies, and so on (Air Quality Sciences, Inc., 2010).
Despite the flourishing field in theoretical (e.g., Orsato, 2006; Albino et al., 2009; L´
opez-Gamero
et al., 2009; Air Quality Sciences, Inc., 2010) as well as empirical investigation (e.g., Frondel et al., 2007;
B¨
ohringer et al., 2012; Costantini and Mazzanti, 2012), the state-of-the-art review confirms the absence of
a universal, effective, and well-structured definition (Hartmann and Apaolaza-Ib´
a˜
nez, 2006; Durif et al.,
2010; Ritter et al., 2015). Every term including the notion green/environmental seems to totter and be
quite complex, proving that little research has addressed the definitional topic.
This deficiency and the ongoing debate of what really constitutes a green product have led to a
twofold problem. At first, there is a methodological deficiency in academic research because the term
is quite ambiguous, which is partly responsible for the ongoing mixed empirical results with respect to
the relationship between environmental variables and firms’ competitiveness: aside to those that depict
a positive relationship (e.g., Hart and Ahuja, 1996; Russo and Fouts, 1997; Judge and Douglas, 1998;
King and Lenox, 2001), there are contributions that show the opposite (e.g., Jaggi and Freedman, 1992;
Cordeiro and Sarkis, 1997; Hassel et al., 2005; McPeak et al., 2010) or no clear relationship at all (e.g.,
Cohen et al., 1997; Wagner, 2005). Thus, causing a series of debates (Eiadat et al., 2008; Iraldo et al.,
2011). The reasons for this debate have not been yet exhaustively examined (Horv´
athov´
a, 2010). There
exists a long list of environmental as well as economic variables that have been used (L ´
opez-Gamero
et al., 2009). According to Horv´
athov´
a’s (2010) meta-analysis investigation, the problem seems to merely
focus on the environmental variables. At the same time, there is a plethora of parameters (such as firm
size) and techniques that might influence the results (with multiple regression and panel data techniques
to be more objective) (Horv´
athov´
a, 2010; Iraldo et al., 2011).
Second, at the practical level, the industrial sector and third-party authorities have long started to
communicate their greenness in the market, through green claims that take advantage a variety of green
evaluation methods. For example, many companies make use of personal environmental declarations to
define green products. The absence of a universally accepted definition regarding green products may
lead them to bias research of their personal interest. Thus, there are several cases dealt with skepticism
by consumers and firms are faced with greenwashing accusations regarding their products (Albino et al.,
2009; Durif et al., 2010).
Since, “a scientific concept1really consists of three parts: a label, a theoretical definition, and an
operational definition” (Watt and van den Berg, 2002), we understand the importance of the theoretical
definition. The procedure of formulating the concept is the first and most foundational step before
defining the most essential components that will result in the selection of appropriate empirical indicators
(Hox, 1997). The label “green product” represents the basic form in which a theory can be broadly
communicated in a clear and understandable way (Watt and van den Berg, 2002). Therefore, the problem
of the lack of a common definition may lead to vague notions and thereafter confusion in its testing
and evaluation. There can be no thorough scientific investigation without a proper definition because the
existing misunderstanding causes different goals and scope within the firm and society with multiple
misunderstandings, greenwashing cases, and diversity in environmental management practices.
Therefore, the absence of a universally common term of what actually constitutes a “green product”—
thus causing no solid theoretical core—should not be underestimated. Theory plays a significant role by
giving objectivity in research and increased sense of trust regarding consumers (Udo-Akang, 2012).
As definitions are acknowledged as one basic component of the theory (Wacker, 1998), it is of no
wonder why new theoretical comprehension is thus necessary, to deal with the definitional gap that may
afterward cause ambiguous empirical researches, regarding the relationship “environmental protection
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152 SDROLIA AND ZAROTIADIS
vs competitiveness.” So, the appropriate term should be the starting point. That is the reason why this
research turns to the very basics: what is finally a green product?
The contribution of this paper is twofold: first, it facilitates further research on new knowledge creation
with a proposal of a new, thorough yet simple green product definition. Therefore, an exhaustive and
refined analysis of existing literature is a precondition for a profound and accurate terminology. Second,
the connection of the proposed term with a suitable recording methodology is of utmost importance, in
order to deal with multiple greenwashing cases. Thus, following an overview of the existing environmental
assessment tools, this paper contributes to the relevant literature since it reveals issues that need to be
considered in the evaluation of green products.
The remainder of the paper is structured as follows: the second part of the present study presents the
literature review with respect to environmental management, in which the transition from green processes
to green products is presented. Thenceforth, Section 3 provides the necessary theoretical background,
in order to clearly define the concept of green product. Specifically, contributions to the field of green
product definition are identified in order to review the progress that has been made in the state-of-the-art
review, by conducting a systematic literature review. In Section 4, based upon a brief inventory of existing
environmental assessment tools, the contribution lies on further development of the assessment tools
and the methodologies for the evaluation of green products, considering the dynamic dimension of the
proposed definition. Last but not least, Section 5 summarizes this study and provides conclusions and
proposals for further research.
2. Environmental Management
The emergence of environmental management that cares for matching the goals of economic organizations
with the environment, arose in order to minimize the ongoing and conspicuous environmental degradation,
caused by the prolonged industrial production and is traced in the business slang since the beginning of
the 1990s (Chen, 2007; Lee, 2009). It became quite fashionable since the new millennium and concepts
such as corporate environmentalism,corporate environmental management,environmental strategies,
green corporate sustainability,green management, etc., have come to the forefront and have been widely
researched (de Bakker et al., 2002; Chen, 2007; Lee, 2009).
There is no universally accepted common classification among the forces that motivated the
sensitiveness of businesses and led to the acquaintance of environmental management. However, two
of them seem to be mainly addressed in the literature: the stringency of environmental legitimacy, which
took place in an international and a national scale and the rise of consumerism (Kam-Sing Wong, 2012).
Initial strategies of corporate environmental management have started to go beyond simple reactive
measures of regulatory compliance—an approach that flourished since 1960s—as the continuous
emergence and adjustment of environmental laws led to increased costs (Ross and Evans, 2002).
Subsequently, the shift that took place was from end-of-pipe pollution control technologies (e.g.,
filters) to strategies of environmental proactivity, with the pertinent literature incorporating a variety of
classifications regarding the determinant factors of this transition (Berry and Rondinelli, 1998; Gonz´
alez-
Benito and Gonz´
alez-Benito, 2006; Jabbour et al., 2012).
The progressive change that followed, next to cleaning production technologies and pollution
prevention, caused the environmental management to entail forms of product stewardship (de Bakker
et al., 2002; Albino et al., 2009). Over the last decades, the interest of corporations toward proactive
environmental protection strategies shifted from processes to products, due to stringent environmental
regulations that aim at minimizing the ecological footprint of products (Triebswetter and Wackerbauer,
2008; Albino et al., 2009). It is accepted that products can create an environmental burden during their
whole life cycle, from production to consumption and finally to disposal (Triebswetter and Wackerbauer,
2008; Albino et al., 2009). It is notable that according to Kam-Sing Wong (2012), green product innovation
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A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW FOR GREEN PRODUCT TERM 153
seemed to be more influential than green process innovation concerning green competitive advantage.
There are also major markets for eco-products that require the full compliance of businesses (Kam-Sing
Wong, 2012).
Early studies also emphasized that the above transition is somewhat correlated with firm size (Bianchi
and Noci, 1998). In particular, at first, the environmental management and later on the shift from reactive
to proactive strategies initially occurred to large enterprises, since scale advantage seemed to be one of
the determinant factors (Bianchi and Noci, 1998; Gonz´
alez-Benito and Gonz´
alez-Benito, 2006; Chen,
2007; Lee, 2009). Small- and medium-sized enterprises (hereafter, SMEs) often lacked knowledge and
financial resources to keep up with the needed green alterations and cared less for long-term investments
(Bianchi and Noci, 1998; Lee, 2009). Thus, a significant body of research in business and management
literature explored the response of large enterprises to environmental issues (Lee, 2009; Brammer et al.,
2011). Later on, it became apparent that SMEs are also crucial in the transition to a more proactive
environmental management. Since they depict 80% of enterprises in a global scale, 99% of EU-firms and
account for around 2/3 of total employment in European Union, empirical investigation in SMEs became
more intense (Ec.europa.eu, 2015b).
Nowadays, it has been perfectly clear that economic growth should be accompanied by minimization
of ecological degradation, as well as attention to social problems. An increasing number of companies are
working on the development of environmentally friendly products that will function as a differentiation
tool, aiming at competitiveness (Chen and Chang, 2012). Consequently, concepts such as design for
the environment (US term)/eco-design (European term)/environmental conscious design/environmental
design (van Weenen, 1995; Tukker et al., 2001; Baumann et al., 2002; Tien et al., 2005), green product
development (Jasti et al., 2015), green product design (Chan, 2011), green product innovation (Kam-Sing
Wong, 2012; Wahid and Lee, 2011), green supply-chain management (Shrivastava, 2007), integrated
environmental management (Margerum, 1999), integrated product policy (Commission of the European
Communities, 2001), product-oriented environmental management (de Bakker et al., 2002), product
stewardship (de Bakker et al., 2002), etc., have come to the forefront and are researched in academia. At
the same time, there has been the development of new methodologies for the evaluation of environmental
characteristics and impacts such as Environmental Management Systems,Life-Cycle Analysis,Strategic
Environmental Assessment, and many more (Baumann et al., 2002; de Bakker et al., 2002; Albino et al.,
2009; Finnveden et al., 2009).
3. Towards a New Definition for Green Products
3.1 The Definitional Issue
Green is a term coined within the marketing field in late 1980s–early 1990s and it became quite fashionable,
because it coincided with the environmental awakening of consumers (Tseng and Hung, 2013).
Although green caught the attention of nowadays policies (that seeks the new paradigm of green
growth) and has become mainstream in hitherto literature, there exists a definitional issue. As the present
review reveals, research in the field has been flourishing in the last decades, yet it is still considered
immature, especially with respect to the basic terminology used; the question of what really constitutes a
green product still remains unclear (Hartmann and Apaolaza-Ib ´
a˜
nez, 2006; Durif et al., 2010; Ritter et al.,
2015). That was as well empirically confirmed by Durif et al. (2010), who studied the concept of green
product in a 30-year period from three different viewpoints: academia, businesses, and consumers and
concluded that terms neither match nor even converge. The concept of green is characterized as “evocative
and powerful” (Air Quality Sciences, Inc., 2010). Consumers and companies seem to be attracted to this
differentiator; this is confirmed by the broad increase in sales in USA and EU of labeled green products
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(Maniatis, 2016). No wonder why the problem regarding the terminology absence is mostly addressed in
the marketing and management field (Russo and Fouts, 1997; Chen et al., 2006).
Relevant literature contains systematic reviews (Adams et al., 2012; de Medeiros et al., 2014; Pereira-
Santos and Vence, 2015). Most recently, Dangelico (2015) synthesized 63 empirical studies to identify
antecedents, outcomes, and success factors for green product innovation development. However, their
focus remains mainly on green (product) innovation. Alternatively, Baumann et al. (2002) concentrated
on green product development reviewing 650 articles from three different disciplines; engineering,
management, and policy studies. Nevertheless, they considered only researches from 1971 till 1999.
Moreover, the keywords that have been used were not identical in all three disciplines, leaving outside
other notions, for example, eco.
However, very few have dealt specifically with products. Most recently, Durif et al. (2010) focus
precisely on the examination of green product definition, incorporating more current studies till 2009.
Nevertheless, there is still room for a more recent, updated research to fill the existing literature gap, by
reviewing this expanding body of diversifying definitions. Therefore, the upper time limit of the current
study is determined in early February 2017, incorporating almost eight more years of possible green
product definitions, in relation to Durif et al. (2010). In their methodological framework, they follow
three different viewpoints—academia, businesses, and consumers—using a descriptive meta-analysis, a
bibliographic approach and a survey, respectively, that incorporates 35 codified definitions; yet, the main
focus of the present research will be on academia because greenwashing cases and consumers’ confusion
(as mentioned by Durif et al., 2010) seem to result from the aftereffect of existing literature gap. Finally,
their keyword combinations seem to be too restrictive—only green/environmental/ecological product
excluding from the research the notions eco and sustainable. Since the lack of suitable search terms—
among others—relates to complexity of research identification and thereafter selection bias (Evans, 2002;
Thom´
eet al., 2013; Haddaway et al., 2015), the proposal of specific keyword combinations is considered
to be a significant component of any research in systematic literature review (Evans, 2002). A more
comprehensive literature search minimizes the possibility to leave out any useful definition that may
lead to selection bias (Jones, 2004). Therefore, in the present study, we indicate green products in more
different ways by incorporating additional search terms—with similar meaning—and by considering
conceptual as well as empirical studies to cover a wider range, thus limiting down the possible bias and
minimizing the likelihood of any compatible studies being excluded.
Since current terminology on the field appears to be insufficient, the purpose and thereafter contribution
of this paper is to develop and establish a thorough, simple, and sophisticated definition in order to fill
the existing gap and enlighten the basic characteristics of a green product. Thus, we are specifically
concentrated on green product definitions, which are addressed relatively seldom at the literature, to fill
the existing literature gap by summarizing this expanding body of diversifying definitions and minimizing
selection bias.
3.2 Methodological Notes
This section begins with the display of the methodological framework. The present study is based on
the systematic review methodology, since it is considered the necessary research endeavor to identify the
progress that has been made in the state-of-the-art review. Systematic reviews are characterized by a more
structured and organized approach that manages to identify as many (relevant on the specific topic) studies
as possible in a transparent and responsible way, in contrast to traditional narrative literature review that
leads to selection bias (Tranfield et al., 2003; Cronin et al., 2008; de Medeiros et al., 2014). Following
Tavares Thom´
eet al. (2013), the six-step process was carried out for paper selection: computerized
database selection, identification of proper keywords, inclusion and exclusion criteria, first review of
abstracts followed by full-text review, and finally, review of selected references from full-text articles.
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Tabl e 1 . Number of Results for Each Database, Based on Initial Scope on Titles.
Databases
keyword combinations Google scholar Scopus Science direct
“Ecological product” 40 26 2
“Eco-friendly product” 20 26 3
“Eco-product” 60 35 6
“Environmentally-friendly product” 23 35 6
“Environmental product” 401 128 35
“Green product” 582 301 55
“Sustainable product” 659 348 86
Total 1785 899 193
Initially, the focus was on titles in order to identify relevant studies in the literature. Thus, building
on pertinent literature, the search terms employed (Table 1) indicated green products in different ways.
In order to avoid being too restrictive, research was not limited by the use of keywords definition and/or
scope. At the same time, keyword combinations made use of quotation marks. The aim was to search for
the concepts as a whole, thus narrow down irrelevant results.
Following the searching strategy of other researchers and based on accessibility, three academic
electronic multidisciplinar databases were used: Scopus (the largest abstract and citation database,
covering nearly 22,000 titles), Science Direct (including over 2500 journals and more than 33,000 books),
and Google Scholar (open access web search engine). All three databases are computerized screening
of journal, conference proceedings, theses, etc., only in the English language with no restriction of time
span. The upper time limit was determined by search completion, in early February 2017.
Research of alternative keywords on titles identified a considerable amount of relevant studies
(Table 1). As depicted below, most of the references regard the notion sustainable,followedbyterms
green and then environmental, while ecological, eco,and eco-friendly are not that frequently encountered.
After discarding all duplicate articles, titles were reviewed for a brief first analysis of their relevance to
the topic. From the very first moment, it became obvious that it would be a difficult procedure, because the
adjective green is used many times in relation to more specified analyses, like green product innovation,
green product development, etc. However, those titles were included in the current study in order to not
minimize terminological bias. Moreover, the present research needed to focus on conceptual as well as
empirical studies in order to cover a wider range. On the contrary, studies with much too specialized
terminology, for example, ceramic green product,green product buyers, etc., were excluded.
Since the most important studies were found, afterward, the literature review was conducted by checking
their reference lists on second stage for most important citations. Afterward, the same procedure was
followed on third level, till there was repeated bibliography signalizing that the review was nearing
completion. Next, a reverse procedure was taken into consideration: After the most important studies
were acknowledged, we searched whether they have been used as citations to other surveys, in order to
ascertain the minimization of selection bias.
3.3 Discussion of Existing Definitions
Altogether 51 articles were included in the review, published from 1975 to 2017. Table 2 provides an
overview of the different definitions used in the selected papers.
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Tabl e 2 . Relevant Given Definitions Concerning Green Products.
Date Author(s) Used definition
2017 de Medeiros and
Ribeiro
Green products, also named environmentally-correct or
environmentally-sustainable products, are those capable of adding
long-term benefits, reduce client stress and relieve them from their
environmental responsibility, without, however, diminishing products’
satisfying qualities.”
2016 Biswas and Roy “The environmentally sustainable or environmental compatible or
green products entails a list of potential benefits to the environment as
they are made of environmental-friendly resources, have
resource-conservation potential, can be recycled and have least
environmental impact at all stages of its lifecycle.”
2016 Kang and Choi Sustainable products, in this study, are broadly defined as those that
embrace positive social, environmental, and ethical attributes (Luchs
et al., 2010).”
2016 Maniatis “The concept of green products is related to sustainable manufacturing
and supply chain management, which involves environment friendly,
planet friendly, and people friendly standards, technologies and
practices (Palevich, 2012). The concept of green is extended to almost
every process step of procuring raw materials, producing, storing,
packaging, shipping, and distribution of products (Palevich, 2012).”
2016 Moser “Generally, green products are defined as products that are less or not at
all harmful for the environment in comparison to a substitute of the
same product category.”
2016 Saluja “In general, green products also known as environmentally friendly
products or ecological products. Pavan (2010) stated, green products
are the products which protect or enhance the natural environment by
conserving energy or resources, recyclable and reusable, original
grown, reducing or eliminating use of toxic agents, pollution and
waste, contain natural ingredients or recycled content, do not pollute
the environment, contain approved chemicals and have not been tested
on animals. However, Peter (2011) defined that green products are
products that guarantee that they are processed, manufactured and
produced in an environmentally friendly way that minimizes a negative
or damaging impact on the environment.”
2015 Borella and
Barcellos
Sustainable product is the product designed to contemplate its
relationship with the environment, causing no harm to nature.
Sustainable products are conceived since the choice of raw materials
until its use and discard, through a renewing cycle that will not bring
any damage to future generations. Just as nature has a life cycle, the
products must also have. Sustainable attributes of products are
presented within the approach of 6Rs: reduce, recycle, reuse, recover,
remanufacture and redesign’, over the stages of the product life cycle.”
(Continued)
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Tabl e 2 . Continued
Date Author(s) Used definition
2015 Esmaili and Fazeli Green products contain elements that are not harmful to the
environment (Mahenc, 2008) and (Polonsky and Rosenberger,
2001) made of materials that can be recycled to provide product
(Dangelico and Pontrandolfo, 2010), (Chen and Chai, 2010). Its
production process is environmentally friendly (Gur˘
au and
Ranchhod, 2005).”
2015 Esp´
ınola-Arredondo and
Mu˜
noz-Garc´
ıa
The brown and green goods differ both in their attributes and in
their environmental features. A green good generates less pollution
than a brown product, which can become zero when the good is
sufficiently clean (low pollution intensity).”
2015b Ec.europa.eu Environmental products are goods and services that are produced
for the purpose of preventing, reducing and eliminating pollution
and any other degradation of the environment (environmental
protection - EP) and preserving and maintaining the stock of
natural resources and hence safeguarding against depletion.”
2015 Jasti et al. “Most of the organizations believe that “greenness” refers
minimization of level of the waste operations and activities within
the organizations. Whereas, environmentalists believe “greenness”
is sustainability. It is defined that development of product that
meets the requirement of the present without sacrificing the ability
of the future generation to achieve their own requirements.”
2015 Johnstone and Tan Environmentally friendly (EF) products have been defined as
products that consumers perceive to be environmentally friendly,
whether it is due to the types of materials used, the production
process, packaging, promotion, and so on.”
2015 Mohd-Suki Green products, also known as ecologically and environmentally
friendly products, include products that incorporate recyclable
and recycled content, and contain less toxic chemical substances
which minimize the impact on the environment.”
2015 Ritter et al. “The definition of green products can highlight different aspects of
these products: the life cycle phases during which a product can
show its environmentally friendly features, the higher
environmental benefits compared to conventional products, or the
minimization of the natural resources used. In this study, a GP was
considered as a product striving to protect or to enhance the natural
environment by conserving energy and/or resources and reducing
or eliminating the use of toxic agents, pollution, and waste
(Dangelico and Pujari, 2010).”
2014 de Medeiros et al. Green products are those that hold the potential to aggregate
long-term benefits, reduce consumer stress and ameliorate
customer environmental responsibilities while maintaining its
positive qualities.”
(Continued)
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Tabl e 2 . Continued
Date Author(s) Used definition
2013 Haws et al. Environmentally friendly product: one with at least one positive
environmental attribute. An “environmental attribute” is an attribute that
reflects the impact of the product on the environment. As such,
environmental product attributes can be positive (i.e., the product has little
to no negative impact on the environment and is considered
environmentally friendly) or negative (i.e., the product harms the
environment).”
2013 Driessen et al. Green products are defined as new products whose greenness is
significantly better than conventional or competitive products. Greenness
is continuous rather than dichotomous. “Green” products represent a
significant improvement in greenness, which can be either small or large,
whereas “non-green” refers to no or an insignificant improvement in
greenness.”
2013 Mattioda et al. Sustainable products can be defined as those that offer environmental,
social and economic benefits while protecting public health, welfare and
the environment (Lu et al., 2011).”
2013 Tomasin et al. Green products are designed to prevent, limit, reduce, and/or correct
harmful environmental impacts on water, air, and soil. Accordingly, these
products constitute at least one means of resolving problems related to
waste, noise, and general detriments to ecology while serving as an
avenue for generating beneficial products and services (OECD, 2009).”
2013 Tseng and Hung Green products, namely, environmentally friendly products or
environmentally conscious products, are referred to as products designed
to lessen the consumption of natural resources required and minimize the
adversely environmental impacts during the whole life-cycles of these
products.”
2012 Chen and Chang Green products are those that have less of an impact on the environment,
are less detrimental to human health, are formed or part-formed from
recycled components, are manufactured in a more energy conservative
way, or are supplied to the market with less packaging.”
2012 Kam-Sing Wong A green and innovative product is a product characterized by its taking
into account of the recyclability and disposal issues throughout its life
cycle; usage of materials which are recycled and recyclable and which are
less polluting, nonpolluting or non-toxic; due consideration to energy use,
human toxicity, ecological impact and sustainability issues at every stage
of its life cycle; and incorporation of a continual impact assessment and
improvement mechanism in the product development cycle.”
2012 Blengini et al. “A sustainable product could be: a product designed, manufactured, used
and disposed of according to criteria of economic, environmental and
social efficiency, which maximize net benefits across generations.
However, it should be mentioned that there is still much confusion about
what can be considered a sustainable product and what should not.”
(Continued)
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Tabl e 2 . Continued
Date Author(s) Used definition
2011 Wee et al. Green products are designed to reduce energy consumption, use less
natural resources, raise the recycled materials, and reduce or eliminate
toxic substances, which are harmful to both the environment and human
health. The development of a green product is a process within the internal
processes of a company.”
2010 Air Quality Sciences,
Inc.
Environmentally friendly refers to products or services that are not
harmful to the outdoor environment or its inhabitants, the term is quite
vague and subject to multiple interpretations, “green” is “a difficult word.”
2010 Chen and Chai “In general, green product is known as an ecological product or
environmental friendly product.”
2010 Dangelico and
Pontrandolfo
Green products are characterized according to their environmental impact
(less negative, null, and positive) whose meaning is slightly different
according to each of the three environmental focus (materials, energy, and
pollution). A Green Option Matrix (GOM) has been developed to
integrate this new dimension with environmental focus (materials, energy,
and pollution) and life cycle phase (before usage, usage, and after usage).”
2010 Durif et al. “A green product is a product whose design and/or attributes (and/or
production and/or strategy) use recycling
(renewable/toxic-free/biodegradables) resources and which improves
environmental impact or reduces environmental toxic damage throughout
its entire life cycle". Note that each code contains several synonymic
terminologies. Green: “environmental” or “ecological”; Attributes:
“functions”, “ideas”, “practices”, or “qualities”; Uses: “incorporates”;
Recycling: “renewable”, “toxic-free”, or “biodegradable”; Resources:
“energy”, “materials”, or “ingredients”; Benefits: “maximizes”,
“encourages”, or “contributes”; Reduces: “minimizes”, “saves”, or
“eliminates”, and Toxic damage: “pollution”.”
2010 Gao et al. Green product is a kind of product that has no or little harmful
performance on ecological environment, and has a higher rate of resource
and energy utilization. The concept of green product is a whole product’s
life cycle rather than a certain process or stage, so the information model
of green product should meet the following requirements: (1) include the
information of fundamental function and structure; (2) include the
fundamental information of the product’s life cycle; and (3) provide data
for environmental performance assessment.”
2010 Panjaitan and Sutapa Green Product is eco-friendly products or products that in their planning
and process with technique have less impact to environment, even in
production process, distribution, and consumption.”
2010 U.S. Department of
Commerce,
Economics and
Statistics
Administration
“We defined green products or services as those whose predominant
function serves one or both of the following goals: conserve energy and
other natural resources or reduce pollution.”
(Continued)
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Tabl e 2 . Continued
Date Author(s) Used definition
2009 Albino et al. Green product: goods or services designed to minimize their
impact on the environment at each phase of their life cycle. In
particular, non-renewable resource use is minimized, toxic
materials are avoided and renewable resource use takes place in
accordance with their rate of replenishment.”
2009 Yanarella et al. Green is typically associated with individual products and
processes. Green practices are ideologically safe practices that
do not fundamentally disturb the driving forces of economic
growth and corporate profit-making.”
2008 Pickett-Baker and Ozaki “If a product has a low environmental impact, it is regarded as an
environmentally sustainable product.
2008 Seuring and M¨
uller “Sustainable product is the term used to comprehend all kinds of
products that have or aim at an improved environmental and
social quality, which can be related back to the already
mentioned implementation of environmental and social
standards.”
2007 D’Souza et al. Green products have to represent a significant achievement in
reducing environmental impact; they may also have to
incorporate strategies of recycling, recycled content, reduced
packaging or using less toxic materials.”
2007 Nimse et al. Green products may be defined as products that contain recycled
materials, reduce waste, conserve energy or water, use less
packaging, and reduce the amount of toxics disposed or
consumed. These products are less harmful on humans and their
environment compared with the traditional products in use, and
are more socially, economically, and environmentally viable in
the long run.”
2006 Hartmann and
Apaolaza-Ib´
a˜
nez
Green product attributes may be environmentally sound
production processes, responsible product uses, or product
elimination, which consumers compare with those possessed by
competing conventional products.”
2006 Ottman et al. Although no consumer product has a zero impact on the
environment, in business the terms ‘green’or‘environmental
product’ are used commonly to describe those that strive to
protect or enhance the natural environment by conserving
energy and/or resources and reducing or eliminating use of toxic
agents, pollution, and waste.”
2005 Gur˘
au and Ranchhod Ecological product is defined as a product that was
manufactured using toxic-free ingredients and
environmentally-friendly procedures, and who is certified as
such by a recognized organization, such as SKAL in The
Netherlands; BIOKONTROL in Hungary; INAC,
OKO-GARANTI or QCLI in Germany.”
(Continued)
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Tabl e 2 . Continued
Date Author(s) Used definition
2005 Soo-Wee and Quazi Green product/ process design: Design production processes
and products in such a way that it minimizes adverse impact on
the environment. Life cycle analysis used to assess the
environmental impact of products throughout the entire life span
of the products. Products are redesigned to reduce the negative
environmental impact. Production processes are examined to
reduce the amount of waste, energy consumption and emissions.
Adopt a preventive approach and integrate environmental
concerns into the product during its design phase. Recycling
activities carried out to ensure full usage of resources.”
2003 Osada Eco-product, ecological product, green product is one that
contributes to environmental protection or preservation.”
2002 Janssen and Jager Green products are products with low environmental impacts.
They are defined as products with an alternative design such that
less physical resources are required during its life cycle.”
2001 Commission of the
European Communities
Green products, defined as products that ’use less resources,
have lower impacts and risks to the environment and prevent
waste generation already at the conception stage have been
recognized as the engine of a ’ new growth paradigm and a
higher quality of life through wealth creation and
competitiveness’.”
1998 OECD Environmental goods and services include all activities that
measure, prevent, limit, minimize or correct environmental
damage.”
1998 Ottman Green products are typically durable, non-toxic, made of
recycled materials, or minimally packaged. Of course, there are
no completely green products, for they all use up energy and
resources and create by-products and emissions during their
manufacture, transport to warehouses and stores, usage, and
eventual disposal. So green is relative, describing products with
less impact on the environment than their alternatives.”
1998 Reinhardt Environmental product differentiation takes place when: “a
business creates products that provide greater environmental
benefits, or that impose smaller environmental costs, than
similar products.”
1995 Nissen An eco-product should be designed in such a way that: the
chosen material is a plentiful natural resource; the
manufacturing process requires only a low consumption of
natural resources; the emission of hazardous waste in the
production process is minimal; when in use is relatively
environmentally sound; environmentally sound remanufacturing
or recycling processes can be easily applied after use; when
finally discarded, the environmental impact of the
disposal/incineration is minimal.”
(Continued)
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Tabl e 2 . Continued
Date Author(s) Used definition
1995 Peattie Green product: when its environmental and societal performance, in production,
use and disposal, is significantly improved and improving in comparison to
conventional or competitive products offerings.”
1993 Chen Green product development should focus on the entire production process (from
manufacturing to disposal) and not just on the product itself. Businesses and
environmentalists often have different opinions on "greenness". Most companies
think "greenness" as minimizing waste, while for environmentalists is
sustainability.”
1975 Herberger Ecological Products are products that have been identified as having an
ecological orientation. Ecology appeal, from a consumers’ perception, means
that among the product’s characteristics its viability with the environment is
recognizable, understandable and marketable.”
The literature review reveals that there is no unified definition that has prevailed. Interest on the
environment got a foothold within research in 1975, while the real intensification of definitions appears
mainly in the last decade.2At the same time, although green product concepts are frequently found in the
literature, they are not always followed by a definition within the specific paper. It is very likely that the
term green product is falsely considered as being already known. Thus, there are cases (e.g., Chen and
Chai, 2010) where green products are just defined by other terms (ecological product or environmental
friendly product).
Green products are interpreted in different ways. Synonyms abound and the most conspicuous concepts
identified in the literature are green,eco,environmental,andsustainable (analogs are also the findings
in Schiederig et al., 2012). Albino et al. (2009) argue that green and eco in terminology are used
interchangeably. Present research depicts similar cases where the same erroneous method is used between
green and sustainable (for instance, Osada, 2003; Pickett-Baker and Ozaki, 2008; Jasti et al., 2015;
Biswas and Roy, 2016; de Medeiros and Ribeiro, 2017). The term sustainability shows a broadening
in scope, taking into consideration the so-called three pillars of sustainable development: economic
vitality, environment, and social fairness (also often referred to as triple bottom line; Albino et al.,
2009). Therefore, the term sustainable product is avoided as it seems to be conceptually vague. A
product may be related to the sustainability of a system, yet in an indirect way, through the related
process that can be characterized as sustainable, in the sense of the environment or of the socioeconomic
system. According to Yanarella et al. (2009), green is a much easier and convenient term to follow,
since sustainability calls for radical changes in present growth model. That is also apparent by the
fact that green is the most commonly used notion (36 out of 51 cases) and seems to have prevailed
in recent years. Green’s supremacy is likely due to being a quick differentiator that easily indicates
nature.
Furthermore, the meaning of green depends on the field of research (Saha and Darnton, 2005; Durif
et al., 2010). For instance, there exists a terminological gap between business management (that considers
greenness as waste-minimization practices) and environmentalists—to whom greenness coincides with
sustainability (Chen, 1993; Jasti et al., 2015). There is also a terminology divergence among studies
that focus on different industries. For example, a green product in health sector might be a product that
minimizes impacts on human health, whereas in manufacturing businesses, it should combine economic
advancement and environmental protection (Saha and Darnton, 2005).
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A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW FOR GREEN PRODUCT TERM 163
Moreover the concept itself, which is under research, is never the same. Thus, a plethora of notions
arises. In prior literature, concepts such as green products (Chen, 1993; Albino et al., 2009; Durif et al.,
2010), green product innovation (Chen et al., 2006; Kam-Sing Wong, 2012), eco-products (Karlsson
and Luttropp, 2006), environmental innovation (Costantini and Mazzanti, 2012), and eco-innovation
(Rennings, 2000) were addressed. Each one of them aims at different aspects, such as environmental
impacts (Albino et al., 2009), parts of life-cycle analysis (Pickett-Baker and Ozaki, 2008), green core
competence (Chen, 2007), etc.
From a conceptual point of view, despite the terminology variation and vagueness, there is at least a
convergence of arguments that green product should take into consideration the environment and that
impacts are generated at each stage of product life cycle (Chen, 1993; Air Quality Sciences, Inc., 2010;
Kam-Sing Wong, 2012; Biswas and Roy, 2016; Maniatis, 2016). Thus, green product definition should be
holistic. Every product causes multiple ecological impacts on extraction of raw materials, energy use, air
and water consumption, production of intermediate, and end products (in general, green manufacturing,
which is further divided in end-of-pipe and integrated/clean technologies), distribution, consumption
(products generate private environmental benefits for the consumer such as cost and energy savings,
toxic free), recycling, and finally disposal (Frondel et al., 2007; Chan, 2011). This holistic approach was
apparent from the early 1990s.
Some of the most notable contributions in hitherto literature review are shortly depicted here; Chen
(1993) has presented the first reported effort that takes into account greenness discriminating between
products and processes. Therefore, in his definition, he focuses on the entire production process, rather
than the product itself. In that sense, his definition is considered to be the first sign of life-cycle approach.
Nevertheless, although it has been acknowledged since then life-cycle thinking is still not included in
some of the recent terminologies (e.g., Esp´
ınola-Arredondo and Mu˜
noz-Garc´
ıa, 2015; Jasti et al., 2015;
Moser, 2016; Saluja, 2016; de Medeiros and Ribeiro, 2017).
Ottman (1998, p. 89) provides an early, relatively proper definition and is the first to acknowledge that
“green is relative”, implying the dynamic relationship that is seldom mentioned (see also Driessen et al.,
2013).
OECD (1998) refers to goods and services, presenting the distinction between tangible and intangible
that is rare, yet both need to be included (Albino et al., 2009; Ec.europa.eu, 2015aa). Later on, Yanarella
et al. (2009) incorporate the economic dimension within the term through the connection of green with
“economic growth and profitability.” However, this indication is rather unnecessary due to the fact that
referring to commodities already signifies it.
One easily concludes that there is a lack of a unified definition. Durif et al. (2010) may be the first
who provided a comprehensive, combinatory definition for green products; nonetheless, they consider
synonyms that are often inaccurate (e.g., recycling and toxic-free, energy, and materials). At the same
time, the absence of important keyword combinations that could indicate green products in different
ways (using the notions eco and sustainable) and the inclusion of only qualitative studies seems to have
restricted the results (selection bias) and be the reason for the above-mentioned inaccurate synonyms.
Altogether, existing definitions are far too extended and many times palaver, trying to overcome the
definitional gaps through exhaustive descriptions, in an effort to become as descriptive as possible.
3.4 Proposed Definition
The present paper contributes to the conceptual understanding by harmonizing the different terms to a
standardized, general one that could be implemented in all related fields. The efficient definition should
interpret the boundaries of the concept clearly, so that it will constitute as the foundation for valid
inferences. Thus, the definition must be short but at the same time exhaustive and inclusive, following the
four laws of logic (Pantazidou and Valeontis, 2009). Next, the following laconic concept of the present
study is proposed:
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164 SDROLIA AND ZAROTIADIS
Green is a product (tangible or intangible) that minimizes its environmental impact (direct and indirect)
during its whole life-cycle, subject to the present technological and scientific status.
It is important to describe in short the necessary characteristics that contribute to the holistic nature
of the proposed definition, since “characteristics play an essential role in terminology” (International
Standard ISO 704:2009, 2000). First, a positive contribution is the inclusion of both tangible products
and intangible services as well. Second, the definition overcomes a well-known controversy: in order for
a product to be green, it needs not to harm (burden) or not to affect (impact) the environment? The notion
impact is preferred in order to avoid normative judgments that may be biased due to incomplete evaluation
of all possible indirect effects. Something that nowadays is considered as a positive result, in the future,
it may have cumulative negative consequences. Instead of judging, all the impacts subject to present
knowledge of ecological principles and ecosystem mechanisms should be taken into consideration. Third,
the above proposed definition highlights both direct (caused by the action itself appearing at the same
space and time) and indirect environmental impacts (also known as secondary impacts that result later in
time but are still calculable) (Washington State Department of Transportation, 2012). Forth, the proposed
definition considers life-cycle thinking. As already mentioned above (see Section 3.3), products can have
an environmental footprint throughout the full length of their life cycle and hence must be taken into
account. Finally, the definition contributes to the literature by mentioning that green product will be
always assessed “subject to the present technological and scientific status”: on the one hand, because
present scientific status determines which impacts we can be aware of; on the other hand, because present
technological status determines the feasible minimization of impacts.
The rise of a properly developed definition, as the one proposed in this paper, will help to overcome
existing inconsistencies and at the same time will lead to proper environmental strategies. For this reason,
the definition needs to be transformed into a thorough methodology for the evaluation of greenness,an
appropriate assessment of green attributes from cradle to grave.
4. Evaluation of Green Products
The absence of a universal definition and the ongoing debate of what really constitutes a green product
have led to a twofold problem. At first, there is a methodological deficiency in academic research because
the term is quite ambiguous, which is also considered to be the main reason for conflicting empirical
results (L´
opez-Gamero et al., 2009). In praxis, on the other hand, the industrial sector and third-party
authorities have long started to communicate their greenness in the market. Thus, there are several cases
dealt with skepticism and therefore firms are accused of greenwashing their products (Albino et al., 2009;
Durif et al., 2010). Though the established eco-labeling standards and official declarations/reporting
methodologies prevent some fake environmental claims, greenwashing cases are still being multiplied.
It is remarkable that 32% of the so-called green products are fake, according to the 2010 Terra Choice
Report, depicting a 6% rise in comparison to 2009 (Air Quality Sciences, Inc., 2010).
Consequently, starting from the above proposed definition, the present paper contributes further to the
effectiveness of existing theory regarding environmental assessment methodologies that are applicable for
certification reasons. Existing literature includes a large bundle of tools that have evolved over the years,
for assessing environmental impacts. Based upon previous taxonomies (Finnveden and Moberg, 1999;
Moberg, 1999; Ness et al., 2007; Ahlroth et al., 2011; Herva et al., 2011), the following combinatory
classification list (Table 3) was developed. The specific inventory may not be exhaustive, yet it offers the
most important and most frequently addressed methodologies and tools in the literature. The classification
is based on the following characteristics:
rDistinction between procedural (for tools concerning procedures/processes) and analytical methods
(which regard technical aspects) (Finnveden and Moberg, 2005).
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Tabl e 3 . Characteristics of Tools for Assessing Environmental Impacts.
Tools
Procedural/
analytical Type of impact Study object
Descriptive/
change-orientated
outcomes Strengths Weaknesses
Cost Benefit
Analysis
(CBA)
Analytical Economic,
Environmental,
Social
Policy, Project,
Products (then
similar to LCC)
Change-orientated rWell-established
project-related tool (for
short-term projects).
rProjects’ comparability
rSimplicity due to
monetary values.
rConsiders time horizon,
through the discount of
future costs and
benefits (unlike LCA).
rComplication in
quantifying and
valuating non-marketed
goods, e.g., health.
rExpensive and
time-consuming.
rUncertainty (lots of
assumptions).
Ecological
Footprint (EF)
Analytical Environmental Policy, Plan,
Project,
Products,
production
systems
organizations,
nations, regions
Descriptive rSimplicity (single index
indicator).
rEasily communicated.
rQuantification of direct
and indirect effects.
rCross-country
comparability of
footprints (not for
smaller regions).
rIgnores technological
change.
rNot a dynamic
approach.
rLess relevant to certain
industries (e.g.,
services).
rLimited data
availability.
Material and Energy Flow (MEFA)
Energy
Analysis (EA)
(e.g.,
Input–Output
Energy
Analysis,
Exergy,
Emergy)
Analytical Environmental Policy, Plan,
Project,
Products,
production
systems
organizations,
nations, regions
Descriptive rInformation on the
efficiency of energy
use.
rLife-cycle perspective.
rConsiders direct and
indirect energy
required.
rUsage in simplified
LCA.
rDifficulty in indicators’
comparisons because
they are based on
different theoretical
features.
rLimited only to energy
aspects.
(Continued)
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Tabl e 3 . Continued
Tools
Procedural/
analytical Type of impact Study object
Descriptive/
change-orientated
Outcomes Strengths Weaknesses
Material Flow
Analysis
(MFA) (TMR,
MIPS, SFA,
EW- MFAa)
Analytical Environmental Policy, Plan,
Project,
Products,
production
systems
organizations,
nations, regions
Both rComplete
perspective of
economy’s physical
resource flows.
rLife-cycle
perspective.
rSuitable
decision-making.
rWeight-based
indicators do not
actually inform
about
environmental
impacts.
Environmental
Impact
Assessment
(EIA)
Procedural Environmental Project (mainly) Change-orientated rStandardized tool.
rOffers
well-informed
decision-making.
rAllows
comparisons among
impacts of projects
(project-related
tool).
rAllows public
engagement in the
decision-making
process.
rLong-length reports
with technical
complexity
(difficulty
communicated).
rFocused only at the
project level
(small-scale ones).
rLimited data
availability.
rExpensive.
Environmental
Management
System (EMS)
Procedural Environmental Management of
organizations
Descriptive rInternationally
standardized tool.
rContinuous
improvement in
environmental
activity.
rIncreases public
accountability.
rNot specific
standards for
environmental
performance.
rMainly for larger
companies.
(Continued)
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Tabl e 3 . Continued
Tools
Procedural/
analytical Type of impact Study object
Descriptive/
change-orientated
outcomes Strengths Weaknesses
Environmental
Input–Output
Analysis
Analytical Environmental,
Economic
Nations, regions,
sectors, product
groups
Descriptive rCalculations require rather low
resources.
rAttempts to incorporate all
business activities and effects
on outputs, profits, and
pollution.
rHighlights the relationships
across units in a company and
between companies.
rCalculations easily computed
and communicated.
rAllows cross-country
comparability using the UN’s
System of National Accounts.
rHelps quantify externalities.
rIt captures intrasector flows
(direct–indirect) without
double counting (compared to
LCA).
rHigh aggregation-level causes
aggregation errors.
rUncertainty due to many
assumptions.
rQuite data-demanding
rRestricted to one or a few
environmental pressures, e.g.,
energy consumption and CO2
emissions.
rInput–output tables must be
constantly updated to reflect
the latest information.
Life-Cycle
Assessment
(LCA)
Analytical Environmental Products’ life
cycle,
production
systems,
policies
Both rExhaustive analysis.
rRelatively well-developed,
internationally standardized
tool.
rLife-cycle perspective.
rCovers a diversity of
environmental impacts.
rComparison across impact
categories.
rQuite data-demanding.
rTime-consuming.
rMainly at larger enterprises.
rDifficult interpretation.
rWeighting step debated and
vague.
rAll impacts need quantitative
evaluation to a functional unit.
rSensitive to uncertainties.
rMainly a steady-state tool.
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Tabl e 3 . Continued
Tools
Procedural/
analytical Type of impact Study object
Descriptive/
change-orientated
outcomes Strengths Weaknesses
Life-Cycle Cost
Analysis
(LCC)
Analytical Economic
(mainly), En-
vironmental
Products’ life
cycle,
production
systems
Both rLife-cycle perspective.
rSimplicity due to monetary values.
rCan guide to proper technological
development.
rOversimplification of
environmental problems into a
monetary dimension.
rCostly and time consuming.
rPoor data availability.
rNot internationally
standardized.
Environmental
Risk
Assessment
(EnRA)
Analytical Environmental Projects,
production
systems
Change-orientated rLife-cycle perspective of a
chemical product/substance.
rStandardized tool.
rQuite data-demanding.
rLimited only on chemical
products/ substances.
rToo complex to perform in
product life-cycle studies.
Strategic
Environmental
Assessment
(SEA)
Procedural Environmental
(mainly).
Policies, plans,
programs
Change-orientated rMore flexible and proactive than
EIA.
rApplied upstream (policies, plans
and programs) under conditions of
higher uncertainty, hence
empowers EIA.
rPublic engagement in
decision-making process.
rComparability among
decision-making processes.
rNeither institutionalized nor
harmonized.
rNot clear weighting methods.
rLack of expertise practitioners.
rWithout specific guidelines.
Systems for
Environmental
and Economic
Accounts
(SEEA)
Analytical Environmental,
Economic
nations, regions Both rSingle coherent measurement
framework across the various
policy frameworks and targets.
rComparability among different
parts of society, e.g., transport,
households, etc.
rInternationally statistical
standardized tool (since 2012).
rDoes not cover the
nonmarketed services of the
natural environment.
rWithout simple valuation
system.
rWithout inclusive natural
resource accounting.
Sources: Table 3 also contains information and characteristics that have been discussed in κουν ´ελα (2008), Abaza et al. (2004), Ackerman (2008), Brunner
and Rechberger (2004), Chang et al. (2014), Flemstr¨
om et al. (2004), Hinterberger et al. (2003), H¨
ojer et al. (2008), International Institute for Environment
and Development (IIED) (2009), Jeswani et al. (2010), Kaval (2011), Moffatt (2000), Munksgaard et al. (2008), Reap et al. (2008), and Suopaj¨
arvi (2011).
aThe abbreviations stand for TMR: total material requirement, MPIS: material intensity per unit service, SFA: substance flow analysis, EW-MFA: economy-wide
material flow accounts.
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rThe type of impact (that is generally divided in economic, environmental, and/or social).
rThe study object, thus specifying the focus area among products, projects, plans, etc. (Moberg,
1999).
rDistinction between descriptive/ex-post or change-oriented/ex-ante outcomes: whether the tool
evaluates/describes what was actually happening to a system in a specific time (e.g., environmental
reports, accounting studies that monitor the progress) or seeks to predict a future situation and thus
the consequences of an action (Moberg, 1999; Finnveden and Moberg, 2005).
rClassification based on the impact pathway of effects/ changes. Some activities create midpoint
changes, and thus have primarily effects on the environment (e.g., chemical concentration on the
atmosphere), while others have endpoint or secondary changes, which need more time to become
obvious (e.g., changes in ecosystems/human health) (Ahlroth et al., 2011).
rA brief reference is included regarding the main advantages and disadvantages of each environmental
assessment tool.
The most prominent and exhaustive analytical tool, for measuring the environmental impacts of
products, is life-cycle assessment (LCA). First proposed in late 1960s for beverage containers’ industries, it
has evolved through time and became a relatively well-developed international standardized environmental
assessment method (based on the framework of ISO 14040 and 14044) that focuses on life-cycle thinking
(Ness et al., 2007; Kloepffer, 2008; Finnveden et al., 2009). Despite its evolution that led to the maturity
and sophistication of the tool, debates still exist since multiple problems arise in each phase of LCA (Reap
et al., 2008; Chang et al. 2014). Many argue that it is a quite complex, time-, labor-, and data-intensive
process that needs a constant improvement of underlying datasets (Finnveden et al., 2009; Chang et al.,
2014). This is why it is mainly observed in large multinational companies and the industrialized world3
(Hochschorner and Finnveden, 2003; Udo de Haes and van Rooijen, 2005). Also, there are still issues
with the identification of impact categories, the inability to fully quantify all stages of products’ life cycle,
and the vagueness of the weighting step (Reap et al., 2008; Bala et al., 2010; Chang et al., 2014). Thus,
complexity among comparisons does exist.
Instead, analysts orientate themselves to more simplified semiquantified LCA matrix methods,
according to the distinction proposed by Wenzel (1998) (Hochschorner and Finnveden, 2003). One
of the first examples is the 5 ×5 semiquantitative Environmentally Responsible Product Assessment
Matrix by Greadel and Allenby (1995) in which environmental impacts are evaluated according to a
checklist, ranking from 0 to 4 (Hochschorner and Finnveden, 2003). Dewberry and Coggin (1996) present
the Ecodesign Matrix that considers the life-cycle stage (among production, use and disposal) and the
type of environmental focus (in energy, materials/ resources and pollution/ toxic waste). A more recent
contribution has been the Green Option Matrix from Dangelico and Pontrandolfo (2010), which is also
a simplified LCA method. Dangelico and Pontrandolfo (2010) propose a system for the evaluation of
environmental burden (less negative, null, or positive).
Starting from the main aspects of the proposed definition (as mentioned in Section 3.4), there are the
following notes with respect to the methodological discussion: first, in order to succeed in determining
all possible impacts in the frame of the broadly accepted life-cycle thinking, this has to be segregated into
more phases, that is, Design, Procurement, Production, Use, Disposal, and Recycling. It is likely that the
existing distinction of phases, “Before Use - Use - After Use” (proposed by Dangelico and Pontrandolfo,
2010), is quite narrow and simplistic. For example, Design may be a starting phase, yet it is of high
significance for the characteristics of products and/or processes; therefore, it cannot be overlooked (Tien
et al., 2005). These recommendations of ours respond to the claim made in the above proposed definition
to consider all the phases of the life cycle of a product.
Second, for the same reasons of intensifying the determination of environmental effects, a second
dimension of classifying possible impacts within each one of the life-cycle phases is proposed. Bear in
mind that any specific activity has to be organized and designed, next it is actually realized and finally
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it has specific end results. In that sense, in order to exhaust the analysis of thinkable effects, one has to
consider the impacts that may occur during first, the planning and preparation processes of each life-cycle
phase that constitutes the organizational procedure, second the operational procedure that follows and
includes all processing and managing operations, and third with respect to the final outcome itself of each
specific phase. Thereby, we respond to another requirement that arises in our new suggested definition,
namely, to consider both the direct and the indirect environmental impacts.
Third, in this final section of the paper (Table 3), the review of existing methodologies and tools
showing that in many cases, there is an obvious trend in gradually quantifying the analysis and the
specified effects. The need of quantification, even though the introduction of discrete numeric variables,
truly contributes to the objectivity and the comparability of the applied evaluation. Nevertheless, in
the existing methodologies, analysts choose to do that by introducing discrete variables that refer to the
environmental burden of the specified effect; for instance, Dangelico and Pontrandolfo (2010) discriminate
impacts among less negative/ positive/null. This may be misleading due to the possible use of normative
evaluation that is highly related to the given limits of current relevant scientific knowledge. Therefore,
any quantification effort should rather be oriented in evaluating the intensity of the impact; instead of
focusing on the degree of the caused burden we should check the depth of the impact, for instance being
null, small or large. That is the reason why, in the presented definition, the term impact is preferred in
comparison to (positive/negative) effect.
Fourth, recall that relativity is a very important issue in the proposed definition. As already pointed
out above, the minimization of the environmental impacts is always subject to present scientific and
technological accomplishments; the first because it limits the ability to realize the existence of possible
impacts and the second because technological achievements may alter the level to which those impacts
can be realistically minimized. In order to respond to this crucial, dynamic form of our aforementioned
concept for green product, there should be a foresight that any evaluation methodology has to be ongoing
and periodically repeated. Moreover, as the dimensions of the impacts are quite complex, evaluation, even
if it gets a (quasi) quantified content, has to take the form of a benchmarking comparison. This explains
the already established use of benchmarks in all existing standards for eco-labeling. In that sense, not only
each separate evaluation, but also the definition of benchmarking needs to be an ongoing, periodically
renewed procedure.
5. Conclusion and Further Research
Multidimensional current global crisis consists of socioeconomic disparities and environmental
degradation, entailing therefore an urgent reevaluation of a new production strategy that promotes
competitive advantages in accordance with sustainability. As a result, environmental management, which
shifted over the years toward the notion of green products, is considered imperative.
Despite the progress that has been made in relevant theoretical as well as empirical investigation,
hitherto literature seems to be inconclusive with respect to the sign of the “economy vs. environment”
relationship (Eiadat et al., 2008; Iraldo et al., 2011). It is noteworthy that—despite the undeniable
achievements—the field still remains immature in relation to the basic terminology in use. There exists
a definitional gap regarding the notion green product and its characteristics. Reviewing a plurality of
definitions in the field, the current study aims to address the definitional gap by proposing a green product
definition, thus contributing to knowledge creation.
An exhaustive and refined analysis of existing literature is a precondition for a profound and accurate
terminology. Therefore, the methodological framework was based on systematic literature review. Among
other systematic researches (i.e., Adams et al., 2012; de Medeiros et al., 2014; Dangelico, 2015; Pereira-
Santos and Vence, 2015), Durif et al. (2010) were basically the only who focused precisely on the
definition of green product. Their investigation distinguished three different viewpoints—academia,
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A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW FOR GREEN PRODUCT TERM 171
business, and consumers—and confirmed that there are significant terminological differences. They tried
to develop combinatory, comprehensive definition; nonetheless, they considered synonyms that were
often inaccurate.
The applied systematic review in this paper revealed altogether 51 articles, published from 1975 till
2017. It turned out that the terms regarding green product are frequently found in the 42 years lasting
academic discussion (36 out of 51 definitions), yet they are not always followed by a clear definition. Even
more, there is no unified definition that prevailed. Instead, green products were partly interpreted with
different and often false synonyms (e.g., green vs. sustainable). The meaning of greenness depended on
the field of research—it was never the same, leading to multiple notions (e.g., environmental innovation,
eco-innovation, etc.). Concluding the existing terminology is far too extended and many times uselessly
long. Therefore, this paper contributes to the state-of-the-art review by providing a holistic definition of
green products.
The proposed definition in current research argues that “green is a product (tangible or intangible)
that minimizes its environmental impact (direct and indirect) during its whole life cycle, subject to the
present technological and scientific status.” Taking into consideration the life-cycle thinking, research
managed to depict the holistic nature of the term. Moreover, it is worth mentioning the inclusion of both
tangible products and intangible services. At the same time, the consideration of environmental impacts,
rather than the thinkable negative effects, succeeds in the avoidance of any normative judgments. Last
but not least, an important contribution of the proposed term is the dynamic dimension that arises as
it takes into account the relativeness of greenness according to the present technological and scientific
status.
Next, the present study highlighted the associating of the proposed definition with the methodology
for the evaluation of greenness. Among existing methods (shortly presented in Section 4), LCA
is the most prominent and exhaustive analytical tool for evaluating the environmental impacts of
products. Despite its evolution and robustness, debates still exist. Multiple problems arise in each
phase of LCA, showing that it remains quite complex, time-, labor-, and data-intensive. Therefore,
analysts orientate themselves to more simplified, semi-quantified LCA matrix methods to overcome such
difficulties.
Starting from the main aspects of the proposed definition, the following notes were mentioned with
respect to the existing methodology for the evaluation of greenness: life-cycle thinking has to be segregated
into more phases instead of the narrow distinction in Before Use – Use – After Use (proposed by Dangelico
and Pontrandolfo, 2010). Moreover, an additional dimension of classifying impacts within each one of
the life-cycle phases is needed: analysts have to consider the impacts resulting from the organization
procedures,theoperational procedures, and finally with respect to the final outcome itself. In order to
avoid normative judgments, any quantification has to be related to the intensity of the impact (e.g., null,
small or large, etc.) rather than focusing on the degree of the caused burden. Finally, bearing in mind
that greenness relates to the technological and scientific advancements, any evaluation methodology and
benchmarking have to be ongoing and periodically repeated.
Further research should focus on the enrichment of the existing checklists for the evaluation of
the environmental impacts, as well as on the quantification of the environmental footprint of green
products. Pilot applications of new evaluation methodologies and respective case study analysis in
SMEs (of goods and services) will bring improvements. At the same time, it would be important to
examine how the existing weighting methods take into consideration the changes in the technological
status. Moving to another area that needs to be studied as well, most of the research conducting
empirical analysis that focuses mainly on large enterprises. However, greater attention needs to be
paid to the integration of environmental management into SMEs. Last but not least, it would also be
important to establish benchmarking at branch level and to study these benchmarks dynamically in
time.
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172 SDROLIA AND ZAROTIADIS
Notes
1. The concept research has already its roots on Plato (428–348 BC) and Aristotle (384–322 BC)
(Hjørland, 2009).
2. There exists a variety of journals and the most influential papers belong to the most frequently appeared
Journal of Cleaner Production (Dangelico and Pontrandolfo, 2010) and Innovative Marketing (Durif
et al., 2010).
3. With the exception of actions, which are applied at branch level (Udo de Haes and van Rooijen, 2005).
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... CE might be a relatively new practice; however, environmentally aware processes within businesses were not unheard of. Companies have been producing products sensitive to environmental matters for a considerable time by practising environmental management (Sdrolia & Zarotiadis, 2018). Those products have various names: Sustainable products, ecological products (eco-friendly, eco-), environmental products (environmentally friendly) and green products (IAAM Sustainability Committee, 2009) (Sdrolia & Zarotiadis, 2018). ...
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Abstrakt The Kingdom of Denmark is one of the most prosperous countries in the European Union. Denmark is leading the rankings on both the standard of living of the citizens, as well as the rankings of the best economies and most business-friendly countries. It is therefore a country that more attention should be devoted and we should draw experiences that can be implemented in Poland. The purpose of this article is to discuss the sector of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in Denmark, with a particular focus on the strengths of the SME sector as well as barriers to its development.
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It has been the concern at global platform for the purpose of the preservation of the polluting and degradation of environment. Many studies have been conducted on the green marketing exploring the importance of the topic and relationship to the attitude and purchasing behavior of the consumers of ecofriendly products. In present, consumers are becoming sensitive to the need for switching to green products and services. Though the shift to "green" may appear to be expensive in the short term, it will definitely prove to be indispensable and advantageous, cost wise too, in the long run. A number of literature discuss about green marketing and pays attention to the relationship between customer's attitude and environmental strategies in relation to the company's product and services. The present research is an attempt to find out consumer's attitude towards green products. A primary research of 100 respondents in Delhi was carried out to find the various issues related to green products. Price and product features have a strong impact on the buying decision making process.