What is Eco-Efficiency?

Kristin Wood

Eco-efficiency is the promotion of environmentally-friendly policies, designs and products within a business. The chief goals of eco-efficiency are to reduce wasting resources without compromising the creation of products or quality of services within a business. There are several ways a business can achieve a sustainable design. These might include a reduction of the materials needed for packaging, cutting back on energy costs, starting a recycling plan, or avoiding the use of toxic substances.

Manufacturing facilities that practice eco-efficiency often have drastically reduced overhead costs.
Manufacturing facilities that practice eco-efficiency often have drastically reduced overhead costs.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) created the term "eco-efficiency" in 1992. It was first introduced in the organization's publication "Changing Course." As of 2010, 150 international companies from 30 countries have joined WBCSD and pledged to adopt sustainable business practices. These companies include Kodak, Toyota and AT&T.

Some industrial wastewater treatment processes remove contaminants and then pipe the water back into use in the factory.
Some industrial wastewater treatment processes remove contaminants and then pipe the water back into use in the factory.

Each company in the WBCSD strives to assemble its products with a sustainable design, without adding to the earth's waste or pollution during their production. WBCSD also encourages its members to assign a reasonable price to eco-efficient products. Lower pricing might encourage customers to choose a sustainable product over its traditional competitor.

Many believe that eco-efficiency might have more benefits than just helping the environment. Some business owners are also attracted to the lower overhead costs. Common steps to eco-efficiency might include lowering energy uses and production waste. Both of these reductions will also save money for the business that implements them. If a business is not inspired to help the environment, it might be motivated by a larger bottom line.

As eco-efficiency sweeps over businesses worldwide, some historians are beginning to use the phrase "the new industrial revolution." In this new business model, some corporations are beginning to question whether wastefulness is really a necessary cost to production. More and more companies are researching and exploring ways to create without wasting any resources at all. Some businesses report that they are not only cutting production costs, but also attracting more customer loyalty and prospective employees with their eco-friendly policies.

Eco-efficiency beholds a few critics, some of whom believe that businesses aren't doing enough. They suggest that although eco-efficiency is better than regular production habits, these corporations could still be contributing to a global environmental problem. A common argument is that contributing less pollution is still contributing to some pollution. Some critics suggest that global production and trade could be halted altogether, and customers might look to buy only locally made and sold items.

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