In the general context of sustainable development and, in particular, of moving towards sustainable production and consumption, environmental issues should be managed along all stages of the product life-cycle. This contributes to minimise the overall negative environmental effects of products and their manufacturing. Environmental concerns, however, cannot be regarded in isolation and must be integrated alongside other aspects of products such as performance, quality and safety.
A life-cycle oriented environmental policy aims at avoiding the shift of environmental problems from one stage of the product life-cycle to another. It also helps moving on from the integrated approach to pollution prevention and control to avoiding the shift of environmental problems from one medium to another.
All stages of the life-cycle of products need to be addressed, e. g. design, raw materials utilised, production processes, transport/distribution, use/consumption, and waste/disposal phases. For example, enterprises should take into consideration the use and waste phases when designing a product so as to minimise the overall environmental impact (including pollution).
Together with life-cycle thinking approaches, enterprises must also implement eco-efficiency strategies, as these have immediate positive effects notably in terms of reducing energy and resources consumption, minimising waste generation, etc. Supporting action in this area may include measures that stimulate the exchange of best practices; benchmarking; research and development, etc.