Eco-Efficiency: The Business Link to Sustainable Development

Eco-Efficiency: The Business Link to Sustainable Development

Eco-Efficiency: The Business Link to Sustainable Development

Eco-Efficiency: The Business Link to Sustainable Development


The term "eco-efficiency" describes business activities that create economic value while reducing ecological impact and resource use. This book outlines the principles of eco-efficiency and presents case studies of their application from a number of international companies, including 3M and the Dow Chemical Company. It also discusses the value of partnerships -- with other companies, business associations, communities, regulators, and environmental and other nongovernmental groups. In the conclusion, the authors argue that business must become more eco-efficient and that governments need to change the conditions under which business operates, including tax and regulatory regimes, to make them more conducive to eco-efficiency.


In 1992 business received a wake-up call. The Rio Earth Summit highlighted the potential risks to ecology and long-term economic and social development created by current patterns of industrialization, population growth, and social inequality.The message to companies doing nothing was the need for urgent action. The message to companies already taking the environment seriously was to do more—and to pay greater attention to the issue of sustainable development.

Those issues were set out in a blueprint—called Agenda 21—signed by over 150 heads of state and government.Agenda 21 stresses the need for fundamental political, social, economic, and industrial change in order to conserve natural and biological resources, limit pollution, and build strong and prosperous communities in all parts of the world.

The business inputs to Rio were summarized in two influential books.One, Changing Course, was a product of the Business Council for Sustainable Development. The other, From Ideas to Action, was associated with the International Chamber of Commerce. The books set out the views of progressive business leaders who recognized the challenge of sustainable development and were—as a number of case studies showed—already beginning to integrate it into their business strategies. Changing Course also coined a term—eco-efficiency—to describe activities that create economic value while continuously reducing ecological impact and the use of resources.

Since then, business—and its new representative body for environmental and sustainability issues, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD—see appendix)—has done a great deal to develop the principles and practices of eco-efficiency.It has also . . .

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