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Spider Diagram

A spider diagram represents the relevant environmental aspects of a product's life cycle in different axes, which results in a web-like graph.

This tool is normally used to compare different products or design options, and is particularly useful to view the results of an environmental assessment. For example, you can compare the results of different LCA studies with the eVerdEE tool using such a plot diagram. Different types of spider diagram have been developed so far, such as:

Eco-compass

Developed by Dow Europe and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (see image 1, below). This diagram has the following six axes:

  • mass intensity
  • energy intensity
  • extending service and function
  • health and environmental risks
  • resource conservation
  • reuse and revalorisation of wastes
New options or designs are compared to the original design or base case. The score of assessed products is recorded from 0 to 5 in each axes. The base case scores 2 in all the axes and the new option scores according to the following criteria:
  • 0: means that the new option is worse by greater than 50% (e.g.: 75% more material intensity then the base case)
  • 1 : the new option is worse by 0-50%
  • 2 : the new option is equivalent
  • 3 : the new option is better by 1-200%;
  • 4 : the new option is better by 200% - 400%
  • 5 : the new option is better by more than 400%
The closer the shape of the product gets to the outer hexagon, the better its environmental performance is.

Ecodesign Strategy Wheel

Developed by The Centre for Sustainable Design (CfSD) in the UK and the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. This is a qualitative spider diagram for the evaluation of the fulfilment of seven ecodesign strategies

  • selection of low-impact materials
  • reduction of materials usage
  • optimisation of production techniques
  • optimisation of distribution systems
  • reduction of impacts during use
  • optimisation of initial lifetime
  • optimisation of end of life system
A set of relevant questions helps to score each axes with a low, mid or high qualitative value. You can download the questionnaire from the CfSD site.

Spider Diagram Image 1 : The Eco-compass spider diagram, by Dow Europe and The World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

You can also create your own spider diagram adapted to your product depending on the available environmental information. In this case, you may select relevant environmental aspects related to your product's life cycle, such as the use of non-renewable materials, energy consumption during manufacturing or use, the greenhouse emissions produced during distribution etc. Environmental aspects identified during implementation of an Environmental Management Systems (EMS) may be used as the axes, and then the spider diagram may be used for communication of the EMS as well.

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Issued:  2004-08-11
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