The Residential Clothes Washer Initiative: A Case Study of the Contributions of a Collaborative Effort to Transform a Market

Date Published: June 1, 2001

Document Type: Evaluation Study / Report, Report



20278; Research Into Action; Xenergy, Inc.; Shel Feldman Management Consultants


This report reviews the effects of CEE's Residential Clothes Washer Initiative (RCWI) and identifies CEE's contributions to increasing the availability and penetration of resource-efficient clothes washers in the North American market. The study is based largely on in-depth interviews with decision-makers and observers from a broad range of relevant organizations and agencies, including participants in the Initiative, manufacturers, and national retailers. Findings include that the RCWI and its antecedents helped accelerate the development of a sustainable market for resource-efficient clothes washers. The RCWI strongly encouraged manufacturers to increase their production of resource-efficient models and to broaden their promotional efforts because of the support promised and then demonstrated. The initial sales successes of Initiative participants also appear to have stimulated competition among clothes washer manufacturers and to have ensured that all major players would enter the RECW market. Other important contributions to the success of the relationship between the RCWI and manufacturers were the development and promulgation of common specifications by CEE and the use of performance criteria rather than design criteria. The RCWI was not alone in its influence. The process for establishing minimum federal efficiency standards for appliances and the effects of the ENERGY STAR® program are also worthy of further analysis. Indeed, it may be necessary for a successful initiative like the RCWI that the product or service be the subject of codes or standards. In addition, the ENERGY STAR program appears to have provided useful synergism that might be further expanded. In establishing the RCWI itself, CEE has created a useful and potentially replicable national initiative model--a voluntary agreement by utilities and regional programs to work together to promote the manufacture, distribution, and sale of products.

Efficiency Topics