Product roadmaps

Defra is piloting product roadmaps to help improve the environmental performance of ten priority products.

What is a product roadmap?

A product roadmap is a process to help us better understand the environmental and, in some cases, wider sustainability impacts of a particular product and the ways in which these impacts can be mitigated. The roadmaps aim to:

  • identify the impacts that occur across each product’s life cycle
  • identify existing actions being taken to address those impacts
  • develop and implement a voluntary action plan to address any gaps.

The roadmaps are being developed gradually and collaboratively with a range of  government and business stakeholders.

What products are we looking at?

The pilot product roadmaps focus on the following ten products from four high impact product areas:

Priority area


Food and drink

Passenger transport

(including construction and appliances)

Clothing and textiles

How have these pilot products been selected?

Evidence shows that certain product groupings generate most of the overall impacts on the environment at both a domestic and international level.

For example the EU-25 study, ‘The environmental impact of products’  (EIPRO), a principal EU source of evidence, shows that four product groupings account for 70-80% of all environmental impacts and 60% of consumer expenditure. These are:

  • food and drink (20-30% of impacts)
  • housing, including buildings, construction and appliances (20-35% of impacts)
  • passenger transport (15-35% of impacts)
  • clothing (5-10% of impacts)

Data is not currently available below this level to indicate which particular products have the highest impacts.The ten selected products were chosen to provide a variety of examples, and all of them were known to cause significant environmental impacts in at least one area or life cycle stage.

What is a product ‘life cycle’?

This refers to the stages a product progresses through, typically these include: raw material, production, distribution and retail, consumer use and end of life.

What are the ‘impacts’?

At the different life cycle stages, impacts can include:

  • Environmental: including greenhouse gas emissions, air and water pollution, resource depletion and biodiversity loss
  • Social: including child labour, health and safety risks, poor working conditions and low wages
  • Economic: including costs and benefits for business, and international development

How will impacts be addressed?

Through the road mapping process we are working to agree a voluntary action plan for each product, containing a range of practical actions to improve sustainability performance. These include actions by business, Government and others.

Page last modified: 8 June 2009