A4.6 Continued…


Please note that the following section is reproduced with the permission of the “World Business Council for Sustainable Development”, as indicated by blue text.


About eco-efficiency 

Eco-efficiency is a management philosophy that encourages business to search for environmental improvements that yield parallel economic benefits. It focuses on business opportunities and allows companies to become more environmentally responsible and more profitable. It is a key business contribution to sustainable societies.


What is eco-efficiency?

As defined by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), “eco-efficiency is achieved by the delivery of competitively priced goods and services that satisfy human needs and bring quality of life, while progressively reducing ecological impacts and resource intensity throughout the life-cycle to a level at least in line with the Earth’s estimated carrying capacity.”

In short, it is concerned with creating more value with less impact.

  • Interface, one of the world’s largest producers of commercial floor covering, saved over $200 million from 1996 to 2002 through its sustainability efforts.
  • HP in California reduced its waste by 95% and saved $870,564 in 1998.
  • STMicroelectronics, a Swiss-based technology manufacturer, saved £38 million in energy and $8 million in water costs, with a total saving over a decade predicted at $900 million.
  • Dupont reduced energy use by one-third at one facility saving over $17 million per year on power while reducing greenhouse gas pollution per pound of product by half. In 2000, it saved almost $400 million due to resource and productivity improvement.
  • In five years, SC Johnson increased production by 50% while waste emissions were cut by half, resulting in annual cost savings of more than $125 million.
  • United Technologies Corporation’s sites eliminated almost 40,000 gallons per year of waste water and saved over US$50,000 per year with a fundamental change in the way it manages its test cells, underground storage tanks and waste streams.


Eco-efficiency in practice

There have been great advances in the application of eco-efficiency principles to the real world. Industry, for example, has had considerable success in reducing pollution and emissions, and eliminating hazardous materials from production processes. In the past, business viewed the environment and sustainable development as problems and risk factors.

Today, they are also seen as opportunities – sources of efficiency improvement and growth. Eco-efficiency is very much a part of this picture. Basically, it is about doing more with less: delivering more value while using fewer resources. If you save energy, for example, you cut your costs while also reducing unwelcome outputs such as emissions.

Eco-efficiency is not limited simply to making incremental efficiency improvements in existing practices and habits. It should stimulate creativity and innovation in the search for new ways of doing things. Nor is eco-efficiency limited to areas within a company’s boundaries, such as in manufacturing and plant management. It is also valid for activities upstream and downstream of a manufacturer’s plant and involves the supply and product value chains. Consequently, it can be a great challenge to development engineers, purchasers, product portfolio managers, marketing specialists and even finance and control.

Companies can use eco-efficiency as an integral cultural element in their policy or mission statements. They can also set eco-efficiency objectives for their environmental or integrated management systems. And it is a useful tool for monitoring and reporting performance, and for helping the firm’s communication and dialogue with its stakeholders.

“This is what eco-efficiency is all about: combining the goals of business excellence and environmental excellence, and creating the link through which corporate behaviour can support sustainable development.”

Bjorn Stigson, President WBCSD

Eco-efficiency opportunities can emerge at any point in the entire life-cycle of a product. This means employees need to understand what eco-efficiency is, the value it can bring to a company and how to make it happen. This in turn requires building skills and understanding in order to integrate eco-efficiency across business operations, sectors, countries and issues, and allowing space for innovation and creativity.

  © 1997-2010 World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)