Business-as-usual, it is widely accepted, will exceed the Earth's carrying capacity in an alarmingly short space of time. In simple terms, we need to learn to use the world's rapidly depleting resources in a significantly more efficient manner. Practical and readily adopted solutions are needed now. Eco-efficiency-or "produce more with less" – is achieved when goods and services satisfy human needs, increase the quality of life at competitive prices and when environmental impacts and resource intensity are decreased to a degree that keeps them within the limits of Earth's expected carrying capacity. Eco-efficiency – a term first proposed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development in 1992 – is a management approach that allows businesses to carry out environmental protection measures from a market-oriented point of view, with the aim of illustrating that ecology and the economy do not need to be a contradiction. Indeed, eco-efficiency has been portrayed as a win-win-for both business and the environment.
This book, which developed out of two conferences on eco-efficiency held in Düsseldorf in 1998 and 2001, is edited by Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker and his team from the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, one of the world's leading research programmes on resource productivity. The aim is not simply to explain the past and present of eco-efficiency but to look forward to and encourage a future where the comprehensive take-up of the concept by business, government and consumers could lead to innovation on a grand scale and the possibility of a giant leap beyond towards overall sustainability.
There have been considerable achievements to date. The Dow Jones Sustainability Index, which aims to list the most sustainable corporations for investors, includes companies such as BASF, Climatex, Henkel and Matushita/Panasonic (all represented in this book), who are implementing eco-efficiency measures. A number of political initiatives have also been formed. In December 2001, the German government suggested a National Sustainability Strategy to measure Germany's sustainable development. While this not yet an accepted political target or even law, it shows that politics is moving toward binding targets for increasing efficiency.
Eco-Efficiency and Beyond collects together the leading thinkers on the topic and aims to illustrate not only that the concept should be part of every business strategy but that it is a key trigger for innovation. Innovation cuts through paradoxes. It is the creation of solutions to conflicting demands. Flying in a vacuum gave us rockets and satellites; switching electrons through insulators gave us Silicon Valley and the digital age. Sustainable development presents a similar field of paradoxical innovation forces: i.e. provide affordable products and services for the growing unmet needs of the world population while reducing environmental impacts.
This book is the definitive collection on eco-efficiency and will be required reading for business, government, NGOs and academicians.
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Jan-Dirk Seiler-Hausmann was project leader in the Working Group "Eco-efficiency and Sustainable Enterprises" at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy. Together with Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker, he published a collection of essays on eco-efficiency (OEkoeffizienz: Management der Zukunft; Birkhauser, 1999). He organised the international conference "From Eco-efficiency to Sustainability in Enterprises" held alongside the ENVITEC trade fair in Dusseldorf in 2001. The proceedings of the conference are documented in a book of the same name published with Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker and Bjorn Stigson. In 2001-2002 he spent six months as a visiting researcher at the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in Japan before joining sustainability communications at Henkel. Dr Christa Liedtke, born in 1964, studied biology and theology. Since 1993, she has been working as project leader at the Wuppertal Institute, Division for Material Flows and Structural Change, advancing in 1995 to team leader for product-related material flow analysis and sustainable management systems. Since 2000 she has been working as head of the Working Group "Eco-efficiency and Sustainable Enterprises", now "Research Group Sustainable Production and Consumption", which is concerned with developing workable concepts, tools and management systems that support economic, ecological and social sustainability in industries, enterprises and product lines Dr Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker is a member of the German parliament, and, since 2002, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. He has also been chairman of the Parliamentary Study Commission "Globalisation of the Economy: Challenges and Answers" (2000-2002), and, previously, president of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy from 1991 to 2000. He is a member of the Club of Rome and of the ILO Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation. With Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins, he wrote the landmark book Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Halving Resource Use (Earthscan Publications, 1997).Review:
...this compilation of essays from an impressive range of sustainability experts shows how and where those at the leading edge are taking the debate. - Corporate Citizenship Briefing, February/March 2004 |
| The main strength of this book is that it discusses eco-efficiency at a practical level of applications. In this way the concept becomes tangible and the authors clearly go beyond the theory ... It is required reading for business, government, NGOs and academics, in the field of business management. - International Journal of Environment and Pollution Vol. 23 No. 4 (2005)
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