In 1994 the PROMISE manual ecodesign was introduced in the Netherlands. This manual was developed by the University of Delft, TNO institute for industrial technology, KIEM sustainable innovations and others. The PROMISE manual was the basis for an international eco-design manual published by UNEP in 1997 (eco-design, a promising approach).

Until recently, the focus of environmental considerations in most companies has been heavily driven by regulatory compliance. However, there is an increasing shift towards competing in the market on environmental performance. The increasing adoption of voluntary environmental management systems (ISO 14001 and EMAS) and product standards (e.g. eco-labelling) is part of this process.

Other pushes are coming from the European Commission. The Council and the European Parliament adobted in October 2007 a directive on establishing a framework for setting Eco-design requirements (such as energy efficiency requirements) for all energy using products in the residential, tertiary and industrial sectors.

It is no surprise that governments are more and more involved with the environmental aspects of R&D activities and it can be expected in the future that ecodesign becomes a standard activity in business like accountancy and waste management.
At the heart of eco-design is the concept of the product life cycle. Product life cycle starts with resources taken from nature, goes on to the production of materials and manufacturing processes, packaging and transport, the use and maintenance of a product and finally concludes at the end-of-life stage.

Key environmental factors of life cycle considerations are inputs and outputs that take place at every stage of the whole product-system: consumption of materials and energy, use of water, emissions to air, water and soil, generation of waste materials, transport and packaging.

Four different grades of environmental product innovation can be distinguished: product improvement, redesign, function innovation and system innovation.

Ecodesign is part of the product development process. It adds several new activities to the traditional design process, the structure of which stays the same.

Many methods and software tools are developed to support companies in their aim to develop green product and services. An R&D strategy can be found that can bring their business more aligned with nature. CEED wants particularly to support small and medium sized enterprises with practical methods.