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The term eco-efficiency was coined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development
World Business Council for Sustainable Development
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development is a CEO-led, global association of some 200 international companies dealing exclusively with business and sustainable development....

 (WBCSD) in its 1992 publication "Changing Course". It is based on the concept of creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution.

The 1992 Earth Summit
Earth Summit
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development , also known as the Rio Summit, Rio Conference, Earth Summit was a major United Nations conference held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 June to 14 June 1992.-Overview:...

 endorsed eco-efficiency as a means for companies to implement Agenda 21
Agenda 21
Agenda 21 is an action plan of the United Nations related to sustainable development and was an outcome of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992...

 in the private sector, and the term has become synonymous with a management philosophy geared towards sustainability.

According to the WBCSD definition, eco-efficiency is achieved through the delivery of "competitively priced goods and services that satisfy human needs and bring quality of life while progressively reducing environmental impacts of goods and resource intensity
Resource intensity
Resource intensity is a measure of the resources needed for the production, processing and disposal of a unit of good or service, or for the completion of a process or activity; it is therefore a measure of the efficiency of resource use. It is often expressed as the quantity of resource embodied...

 throughout the entire life-cycle to a level at least in line with the Earth's estimated carrying capacity."

This concept describes a vision for the production of economically valuable goods and services while reducing the ecological impacts of production. In other words eco-efficiency means producing more with less.

According to the WBCSD, critical aspects of eco-efficiency are:
  • A reduction in the material intensity of goods or services;
  • A reduction in the energy intensity of goods or services;
  • Reduced dispersion of toxic materials;
  • Improved recyclability;
  • Maximum use of renewable resources;
  • Greater durability of products;
  • Increased service intensity of goods and services.

The reduction in ecological impacts translates into an increase in resource productivity
Resource productivity
Resource productivity is the quantity of good or service that is obtained through the expenditure of unit resource. This can be expressed in monetary terms as the monetary yield per unit resource....

, which in turn can create a competitive advantage.

Strategies that have been linked to eco-efficiency include “Factor 4” and “Factor 10”, which call for specific reductions in resource use, “natural capitalism”, which incorporates eco-efficiency as part of a broader strategy, and the “cradle-to-cradle” movement, which claims to go beyond eco-efficiency in abolishing the very idea of waste. According to Boulanger, all versions of eco-efficiency share four key characteristics:
  • Confidence in technological innovation as the main solution to un-sustainability;
  • Reliance on business as the principal actor of transformation. The emphasis is on firms designing new products, shifting to new production processes, and investing in R&D, etc., more than on the retailer or the consumer, let alone the citizen.
  • Trust in markets (if they are functioning well);
  • “Growthphilia”: there is nothing wrong with growth as such. Moreover, with “cradle-to-cradle”, growth is conducive to sustainability per se.

See also

  • Eco-innovation
    Eco-innovation is a term used to describe products and processes that contribute to sustainable development. Eco-innovation is the commercial application of knowledge to elicit direct or indirect ecological improvements....

  • Sustainable Design
    Sustainable design
    Sustainable design is the philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment, and services to comply with the principles of economic, social, and ecological sustainability.-Intentions:The intention of sustainable design is to "eliminate negative environmental...

  • Source reduction
    Source reduction
    Source reduction refers to any change in the design, manufacture, purchase, or use of materials or products to reduce their amount or toxicity before they become municipal solid waste.- Synonyms :...

  • Industrial Ecology
    Industrial ecology
    Industrial Ecology is the study of material and energy flows through industrial systems. The global industrial economy can be modeled as a network of industrial processes that extract resources from the Earth and transform those resources into commodities which can be bought and sold to meet the...

  • Sustainable Value
    Sustainable Value
    Sustainable value is a way of managing and measuring sustainability performance. The concept was developed by researchers who are working today for and the...

  • Material input per service unit
    Material input per service unit
    The concept of material input per unit of service originally developed at the Wuppertal Institute, Germany in the 1990s. The MIPS concept can be used to measure eco-efficiency of a product or service and applied in all scales from a single product to complex systems. The calculation takes into...

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