Espacios. Vol. 34 (6) 2013. Pág. 8

Bibliometrics techniques and content analysis review applied to ecodesign: initial proposal for future studies

Técnicas de bibliometria e revisão da análise de conteúdo aplicada ao ecodesign: proposta inicial para futuros estudos

Nara Medianeira STEFANO 1 y Lizandra Garcia Lupi VERGARA 2

Recibido: 18-04-2013 - Aprobado: 12-06-2013


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In their sustainable practices strategies, companies try to improve their production processes, products and management of the products end of life and their residues. And one of the strategies adopted by organizations is ecodesign. The adoption of ecodesign considers the impacts on the environment in all organization’s decisions, considering the same degree of importance given to, for example, profit, quality, aesthetics or ergonomics of the product. The aimed this paper is to conduct a literature study in a structured manner on the subject ecodesign. For this, a three-stage methodology (Planning, Implementation and Reporting) was used. It was considered in planning: research purpose definition and data source identification; time interval used; Criteria for database selection; base tests and; publication type definition. The implementation consists of all the steps from searching databases and use of the criteria to arrive to a final sample of 132 articles that deal with this topic. The reporting is about bibliometric analysis performed on articles. With all these proposed procedures, it is intended, in the end, to demonstrate ways for the researcher to address the issue that he wishes, in this case the ecodesign and also to help identify gaps not yet explored this topic.
Keywords: Sustainability; Structured literature review; Bibliometrics.

Em suas estratégias de práticas sustentáveis??, as empresas tentam melhorar seus processos de produção, produtos e gestão dos produtos finais da vida e seus resíduos. E uma das estratégias adotadas pelas organizações é ecodesign. A adoção do ecodesign considera os impactos sobre o meio ambiente em todas as decisões da organização, considerando-se o mesmo grau de importância dada, por exemplo, o lucro, qualidade, estética e ergonomia do produto. O objetivo deste trabalho é realizar um estudo de literatura de uma forma estruturada no ecodesign assunto. Para isso, foi utilizada uma metodologia em três etapas (Planejamento, Implementação e Relatórios). Foi considerado no planejamento: definição fins de pesquisa e identificação da fonte de dados, intervalo de tempo utilizado; Critérios para seleção de banco de dados, testes de base e definição; tipo de publicação. A implementação consiste em todas as etapas de busca de dados e uso dos critérios para se chegar a uma amostra final de 132 artigos que tratam deste tema. O relato é sobre análise bibliométrica realizada em artigos. Com todos estes procedimentos propostos, pretende-se, no final, para demonstrar caminhos para o pesquisador a resolver o problema que ele deseja, neste caso, o ecodesign e também para ajudar a identificar lacunas ainda não exploradas este tópico.
Palavras-chave: Sustentabilidade; revisão bibliográfica estruturada; Bibliometria.

1. Introduction

The environmental issue has become challenging to business organizations in the past years. Consequently, its operations are subject to increasing pressures and analysis of various stakeholders within and outside the organization, such as government agencies, workers, and non-profit groups. These challenges and pressures cause them to seriously consider environmental impacts when making their businesses.

This concern with the environment causes the emergence of a growing customer demand for products and companies that are more environmentally friendly. The environmental acceptability of a product is the hallmark of the new century, and issues such as ecodesign (Ryan, Hosken and Greene, 1992; Lofthouse, 2004) are part of organizations strategies and become part of the product design from the design to the selection of materials, even at the pre-project stage.

Multiple senses of the term ecodesign (or DfE – Design for Environment) can be found in the literature. Karlsson and Luttropp (2006), for example, argue that ecodesign focuses on the integration of environmental considerations in product development, and eco-design tools should be made available to designers during the product development process. In the words of Bereketli, Genevois and Ulukan (2009) the key issue for the success of an ecodesign product is not just to meet environmental goals, such as energy conservation and resources and reduced environmental impact but also to take into account cost effectiveness, market demand, and multi-functionality requirements.

Ecodesign ensures that a product is derived from the conscious use of energy, water and raw material. This practice is essential for those organizations that recognize environmental responsibility as vital to long-term success. For it provides advantages such as lower costs and less waste besides generating product innovation and attracting new customers. It can be said that ecodesign activities include (Sarkis, 1998; Beamon, 1999; Lin, Jones and Hsieh, 2001; Zsidisin and Siferd, 2001; Apo, 2004; Eltayeb, Zailani and Ramayah, 2011):

  • Design for the reduction or elimination of environmentally hazardous material - such as lead, mercury, cadmium and chromium;
  • Design for reuse – it facilitates the reuse of a product or part of it, with or without minimal treatment of the product used;
  • Design for recycling – it facilitates disassembly of the product and waste, separation of the parts in accordance to the material, and material reprocessing;
  • Design for remanufacture – it facilitates repair, rework and remodeling activities designed to return a new product and improve it to a new condition;
  • Design for resource efficiency – it includes energy and material consumption reduction of a product during use, besides promoting the use of renewable resources and energy.

Considering that ecodesign is a recent subject for the organizations, the aim of this paper is to present the results of a structured literature review (Seuring and Muller, 2012), through a selection of article sampling, to perform bibliometric analysis on the topic as well as provide a conceptual framework for future research.

2. Research methodology

A literature review is a systematic, explicit, and reproducible design for identifying, evaluating, and interpreting the existing body of recorded documents (Fink, 1998). Literature reviews usually aim at two objectives: first, summarize existing research, identifying patterns, themes and issues and; second, this helps identify the conceptual content of the field (Meredith, 1993) can contribute to the theory development (Harland et al., 2006; Seuring and Muller, 2008). From a methodological point of view, literature review can be understood as content analysis, where the quantitative and qualitative aspects are combined to assess structural (descriptive) well as content criteria. A process model proposed by Mayring (2003) contains four steps:

  • Material collection: the material to be collected is defined and delimitated. Furthermore, the unit of analysis is defined.
  • Descriptive analysis: formal aspects of the material are assessed, for example, the number of publications per year, thus, providing the background for subsequent theoretical analysis.
  • Category selection: Structural dimensions and related analytic categories are selected, that are to be applied to the collected material. Structural dimensions form the main topics of analysis, which are constituted by single analytic categories.
  • Material evaluation: the material is analyzed according to the structural dimensions. This should allow identification of relevant issues and interpretation of results.

In this context, this paper has the character of a literature review and can be understood as content analysis, where quantitative and qualitative aspects are used. Thus, an analytical review is required for the contribution systematic evaluation on a particular literature topic. Generally, the review process consists in three parts: data collection, data analysis and synthesis (or reporting). Scientific rigor in conducting each of these steps is critical to an analysis of their quality. Data collection can be done in different ways. As an example, using the existing knowledge in literature to select articles and search various databases using keywords.

Once the items are selected for review, data analysis can proceed in different ways, depending on the review objectives (Tranfield, Denyer and Smart, 2003; Crossan and Apaydin, 2010). A review to consolidate the results of several empirical studies may depend on either qualitative or quantitative results analysis. Data summary is the main product of the research since it produces new knowledge based on complete data collection. Figure 1 shows the methodology using in this paper.

Figure 1 Steps followed in the research paper

Source: Authors’ elaboration.

For this paper, a three-stage procedure was followed: Planning, Implementation and Reporting. During the Planning stage, the following procedures were performed:

  • Defining research purpose and identification of data sources;
  • Delimitation of time interval used (2000-2012);
  • Criteria determination for base selection: multidisciplinary, applied social sciences and engineering with access via Portal Capes, and with filters for making exporting data to a bibliographic reference management software possible;
  • Base test: they were previously tested with the keyword “root” ecodesign and eco-design to verify their contribution on the subject. The selected bases were: Scopus (, ScienceDirect (, Emerald (;
  • Limitation only to journals as data sources, because these can be considered validated knowledge and are likely to have greater impact.

The second step, Implementation, consists of:

  • Conducting searches in selected bases, totaling 523 articles;
  • Export to Software bibliographical reference manager Endnote version Web;
  • Duplication elimination, where 111 discarded items;
  • Affinity analysis, such as: titles, keywords, abstract and content of the articles on the theme, totaling 237 eliminated articles;
  • Elimination of paid journals, a total of 43 articles;
  • Analysis of a sample resulting from 132 articles, in stage 3.

The third and last stage concerns the Reporting that is the bibliometric analysis of the selected articles sampling. The methodological procedures final result was a sample of 132 articles in which the following aspects were analyzed: authors’ origin, most cited authors, most cited journals, most cited articles (or scientific recognition), and the dimensions of ecodesign from the analysis of keywords and content analysis of the 132 articles. The types of research conducted in these articles were also analyzed, being considered in the used classification (Filippini, 1997; Berto and Nakano, 2000; Gupta, Verma and Victorino, 2006):

  • Field Study – presence of field data, especially with qualitative approach, without the research method formal structuring;
  • Theoretical/conceptual – conceptual discussions from literature, literature reviews. Conceptual modeling, based on the author’s perceptions and experiences;
  • Case Study – depth analysis of one or more objects (cases), using multiple instruments for data collection and interaction between the researcher and the research object;
  •  Experiment – a study of the causal relationship between two system variables under conditions controlled by the researcher;
  • Simulation – presence of computational techniques to simulate the operation of production systems, from mathematical models;
  • Modeling – use of mathematical techniques to describe the operation of a system or part of a production system;
  • Survey – use of a single data collection instrument, usually a questionnaire, applied to large size samples, using sampling techniques and statistical analysis.

3. Results

Following are the analysis results of step 3 – Reporting, referring to the survey data collected in steps 1 and 2.

3.1. Most cited authors of the sample

There were 431 authors counted in total, among authorships and co-authorships. Figure 2 highlights authors that contain the largest number of selected sample articles.

The featured author was Rieradevalli Pons, J., appearing in 7 co-authorships, which are: “The ecodesign and planning of sustainable neighbourhoods: the Vallbona case study (Barcelona)”;Eco-innovation of a wooden based modular social playground: application of LCA and DfE methodologies”; “Eco-innovation of a wooden childhood furniture set: an example of environmental solutions in the wood sector”; “Assessing the global warming potential of wooden products from the furniture sector to improve their ecodesign”; “Using LCA to assess eco-design in the automotive sector: case study of a polyolefinic door panel” and; “Eco-design in innovation driven companies: perception, predictions and the main drivers of integration: the Spanish example”.

Figure 2 Most cited authors in the sample

Source: Authors’ elaboration.

González-García, S. presented the authorship of 5 articles, which deal with the use of ecodesign in manufacturing furniture and sustainable production of wooden boxes for storing wine bottles, being: “Eco-innovation of a wooden based modular social playground: application of LCA and DfE methodologies”; “Eco-innovation of a wooden childhood furniture set: an example of environmental solutions in the wood sector”; “Assessing the global warming potential of wooden products from the furniture sector to improve their ecodesign”; “Environmental assessment and improvement alternatives of a ventilated wooden wall from LCA and DfE perspective” and; “Combined application of LCA and eco-design for the sustainable production of wood boxes for wine bottles storage”.

 3.2. Most cited journals

Figure 3 shows the most cited journals in the selected article sampling. The objective of this analysis is to identify the main sources of publication on ecodesign and determine which (s) journal (s) has the greatest influence in forming of the content in this area.

Figure 3Most cited journals in sampling

Source: Authors’ elaboration.

The journals’ highlight in Figure 3 is Journal of Cleaner Production with a share of 36% (or 48 articles) in the sample of 132 articles. The Journal of Cleaner Production has an interdisciplinary, international focus, and it aims to encourage industrial innovation, new and improved products, and the implementation of new processes, products and cleaner services.

3.3. Most cited articles

Figure 4 shows the citation or scientific acknowledgment number of the sampling articles. For this analysis the number of citation was stratified by categories. Out of the 132 articles, 14 had 51 or more citations, while 25 articles had no citation. To find the citation number, Google Scholar was used on 09/09/2012.

Figure 4Citation number of sampling articles

Source: Authors’ elaboration.

The most cited articles were: “Developing sustainable products and services” by Maxwell, D.; Van der Vorst, R., published on Journal of Cleaner Production in 2003 with 151 citations; “Sustainable product-service systems” by Roy, R., published on Futures in 2000 with 121 citations; “EcoDesign and The Ten Golden Rules: generic advice for merging environmental aspects into product development” by Luttropp, C.; Lagerstedt, J., published on Journal of Cleaner Production in 2006 with 110 citations.

3.4. Methodology types

Finally, the types of research present in the article sampling of were analyzed, and the highlights were: 47 case studies and 27 field studies as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5Types of researches in sampling articles

Source: Authors’ elaboration.

In this group, the paper of literature review, the conceptual discussions (with the absence of field data) and secondary data analyses were classified, i.e. obtained from sources other than direct, as well as conceptual modeling. So, as in the case study (Berto and Nakano, 2000) it is important to note that often, because the object of study refers to a single company, it makes the label "Case Study" be used, even if that data collection and organization analysis do not reach the depth required for this type of research.

3.5. Ecodesign dimension: content analysis

By analyzing the keywords and the content of 132 articles, one can classify the dimensions or contexts where ecodesign is (Table 1).

Table 1Detected ecodesign dimensions in the sample

Ecodesign Dimension

Economic and social

Economic gains; sustainable development; environmental costs; product life cycle cost; waste containment and treatment; technology; sustainability; environmental legislation; environmental policies; social impacts; conscious consumption; productivity natural resources; energy efficiency environmental impact.


Green marketing; Series ISO14000; reverse logistics; environmental performance; eco-efficiency; material selection; environmental strategy; environmentally conscious design; material composition; ethics; eco-innovation; material and energy reduction; creativity; product extended durability; innovation; functional requirement of the product; eco ideation; environmental benchmarking; product functional aspects; product simplifying; environmental communication; product lifecycle management; recovery; environmental audit; clean technology; material components; product disassembly simplifying; product life cycle assessment; product performance; eco-redesign; reengineering processes; material flow; life-cycle concept; renewable materials use; sustainable solutions;


Cleaner production; ecological gains; toxicity reduction; gas emissions; greenhouse; pollution control; environmental benefits; material extraction; recycling; reuse; environmentally friendly products; industrial ecology; environmental improvement; eco material; natural material reserves; low energy modal transport; material extraction process; eco product.

Source: Authors’ elaboration.

Thus, by means of Table 1 it is possible to establish the ecodesign dimension’s that is show in Figure 6.

Figure 6Ecodesign dimensions

Source: Authors’ elaboration.

  1. The economic and social dimension of ecodesign (sustainable product) implies that products will be evaluated based on whether they meet needs considered important. The basic principle of sustainable development is to meet current needs without harming future generations from meeting their needs. Sustainable development has a broader view of the environment, including also social and political factors that affect the quality of life and environmental preservation. However, the design of sustainable product will not succeed without changes in the system around the products, such as raw material production, taxes, and consumption patterns. The product integrated policy (Bhander, Hauschild and Mcaloone, 2003) is seen as one of many promising initiatives to improve structure around the practice of sustainable product design.
  2. The environmental dimension implies that one of the main causes of environment pollution and degradation comes from the current production and consumption model. This is based on the concept that the environment is an infinite unlimited resource and energy supplier and it is seen as an unlimited waste receptor (Manahan, 1999). In this waste reduction issue, (Borchard et al., 2008) it is important to highlight the concept of industrial ecology proposed by Jay Forrester, in the 1960s, based on systems theory. The industrial ecology considers that all waste and materials must be continuously recycled within a closed system and only unlimited solar energy would be used in a dissipative.
  3. Finally, in the managerial dimension, there are new techniques that are constantly evolving and seek to incorporate environmental analyses in the early stages of product development (Figure 7 illustrates the complexity of issues in new product development), including the reuse, remanufacturing, recycling and waste treatment. A common feature of these technologies is that they apply a life cycle perspective on the environmental and health impacts from the product or system. The methodology used most (Bhander, Hauschild and Mcaloone, 2003) for this purpose is the evaluation of the product Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a technique for assessing environmental aspects and potential impacts associated to a product. LCA methodology comprises a set of different approaches and methods within a general framework. It is a powerful tool for environmental analysis in the development of environmentally superior products.

Figure 7Issues affecting product development

Source: Adapted from Bhander, Hauschild e Mcaloone (2003)

However, these products are not favorable in the market place as expected even though they sound environmental more friendly and economical dimension. This situation may be due to that they are focused solely on environmental impact analysis without paying much attention to customer needs and cost considerations (Bereketli, Genevois and Ulukan, 2009). In other words, the key issue for a successful ecodesign product is not only to meet environmental objectives such as resource and energy conservation and environmental burden reduction but also to take into account cost effectiveness, market demand, and multi-functionality requirements.

Therefore, products with ecodesign must allocate limited resources as much as possible, reduce environmental impacts, but without reducing performance. That is, improving environmental impact without compromising on quality, functionality, cost, and appearance of the products. With this research, it was possible to provide the researcher needed knowledge to start a study with ecodesign theme.

4. Conclusions

In the current socioeconomic context, organizations are realizing the importance of using materials and processes that entail less environmental impact, considering that the ecological issue will directly reflect in the cost, once you consider the time spent on operation, material and production energy reduction. Thus, the importance of ecodesign is highlighted for the correct material choice, which causes less damage to the environment.

That is, ecodesign is generally oriented to reduce the depletion of primary and/or other types of environmental impact, providing the following advantages: reducing the number of different materials and selection of the most suitable ones, reducing the environmental impact during the production phase; optimizing the distribution phase; reducing the environmental impact during use; prolonging the useful product life; simplification of the product disassembling; reuse design; recycling design, among others.

This paper aimed to present the results of a structured literature review (through a selection of sampling of articles) and bibliometric analysis on the topic as well as provide a conceptual framework for future research. Therefore, a three-stage procedure was performed, Planning, Implementation and Reporting for building this portfolio. Searches were conducted via Capes periodic portal (in the databases Scopus, ScienceDirect and Emerald), comprising the period 2000-2011.

The advantage of this proposed methodology type in this article is that it can be used to structure any research topic in several areas. A bibliometric analysis provides a guide to researchers, because through it, for example, one can find out which journals or periodicals that publish on the topic you want to paper, recognized authors and scientifically recognized titles.

Some limitations in the research can be highlighted: (i) it only considered articles published in international journals; (ii) research sources such as books, dissertations, conferences annals theses, events were excluded; (iii) only three databases were considered and; (iv) only free access databases via portal Capes were considered.

As recommendations for future study, it is suggested to perform bibliometric analysis of the references of the sample, and thereby compare whether the most cited journals in the sample coincide or not with the references used for this articles, and if the authors cited are present in references. Also, as a suggestion, to highlight the conducting of a field survey in enterprises, to discover what practices and the degree of knowledge there is on ecodesign.

This work, besides contributing to fostering discussions in academic science, also contributes to the business sector. For, ecodesign is extremely important to success in the long term, promotes advantages as lower costs, less waste, raises product innovation and attracts new customers.


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1 Postgraduate Program in Production Engineering, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil.
Postgraduate Program in Production Engineering, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Florianopolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil.

Vol. 34 (6) 2013

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