Environmental regulation and innovation driving ecological design in the UK automotive industry

Mark Smith*, Jo Crotty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


The theory of ecological modernization asserts that economic and environmental goals can be integrated within a framework of industrial modernity. Its central tenet is that environmental regulation can stimulate the application of 'clean' technologies or techniques. Ecological modernization also contends that environmental regulation can offer business benefits from innovation through improved product design and economic performance. The EU End of Life Vehicles Directive (ELVD) reflects many of these principles, as it compels all car manufacturers to 'take back' and dismantle vehicles at the end of their useful lives and to remove the hazardous substances from the production process. Each component will then be either reused or recycled. The legislation forces designers to introduce 'clean design' and 'design for disassembly' practices. In light of this, we examine the impact of the directive on UK automotive component manufacturers. We find limited evidence that the EU ELVD Directive has driven product innovation beyond short-term, incremental technological trajectories. We therefore conclude that a more radical approach, in line with the 'dematerialization' thesis by Dobers and Wolff (1999), is needed to generate more radical, ecological design solutions within the UK automotive industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)341-349
Number of pages9
JournalBusiness Strategy and the Environment
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008


  • Automotive
  • Eco-efficiency
  • EU End of Life Vehicles Directive
  • Innovation
  • UK


Dive into the research topics of 'Environmental regulation and innovation driving ecological design in the UK automotive industry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this