ECO-INNOVATIONat the heart of European policies
An eco-innovation support programme, put in place in the central French region of Auvergne by the regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry (
Through the programme, the CCIA provides eco-innovation expertise to companies that want to better control the environmental impacts of their products, and to help them implement practical improvements if they choose. Mylène Bonnet, head of the project for the CCIA, says that the aim is to provide companies with the support they need. “It's an à la carte service,” she says.
The support services can include employee training, baseline assessments, or brainstorming sessions around the development of greener products. The programme is financed by the CCIA, France's Environment and Energy Management Agency and the Auvergne regional authorities, though the programme's budget is not disclosed.
Bonnet is responsible for canvassing companies that could be interested in the programme. For each company selected, “there is a first meeting to familiarise the company,” she says, followed by “the carrying out of a status report to evaluate the opportunity for integration of eco-design into the core activities of the business and the making of recommendations about how to improve or develop the company's approach.” In some cases, solutions can be quickly implemented, such as the optimisation of packaging that can have an impact on the consumption of raw materials and the entire distribution and storage chain. In other cases, it is necessary to go further with measures to reduce environmental impacts and put in place a sustainable eco-design approach, Bonnet says.
If a company wishes, it can through the programme go further in evaluating the environmental impacts of its products, identifying innovative solutions and, in a third stage, bringing in an external eco-design/eco-innovation consultant. This third stage should involve the development of more concrete projects and the bringing of an eco-designed product to the market. Co-financing of up to 70% of project costs is possible for companies with fewer than 50 employees, up to 60% for companies from 50 to 250 employees and up to 50% for larger firms, Bonnet says.
CCIA's aim is to familiarise 400 companies from all industrial sectors with eco-innovation over three years. “We cover sectors from furniture to electrical and electronic products to agri-business, and assist all sizes of companies, some with fewer than five employees. There is no target type,” Bonnet says. The programme expects to meet the 400 company goal in 2015, and to reach a level of 45 companies for which eco-innovation status reports are done. “We are at 30 now,” Bonnet says. Beyond that, the aim is to support with consultancy a dozen eco-design projects. Seven are so far underway, which Bonnet considers an indication that the programme works well and has been well-received.
But she notes that there is still work to do to educate companies about eco-design. “On the ground, we see that companies do not know much about these topics and there is a need to further explain the issues,” she says. She adds that some companies express interest, but do not become involved because of economic constraints. She says that though the programme has been satisfactory, it is not known if it will continue after 2015. “There is still not enough visibility; the idea will surely be renewed but not in this form,” Bonnet says.