A DEAD END OR A WAY TO PROSPERITY? EFFICIENT AND EFFECTIVE STRATEGIES TOWARDS ECO-SUSTAINABILITY IN
Paper in proceedings, 2012
For producing companies, managers’ motivation for eco-sustainability (ES) improvements in products and value chains differs, and for companies that decide to work on ES issues, there are different routes to take. In this article we focus on two of those routes, the “eco-efficient” and the “eco-effective” one.
Eco-efficiency can be seen as “doing things the right way”, i.e. to get more from less, to minimize, to aim for zero waste, energy and water use etc. Eco-effectiveness can be seen as aiming at “doing the right things”, i.e. develop products and industrial systems that maintain or enhance the quality and productivity of materials through subsequent life cycles.
Some companies chose to execute their ES vision through the eco-efficient route, e.g. through Environmental Management Systems (EMS), or Eco Design while others take the eco-effective route through for instance design for sustainability, with principles of Cradle-to-Cradle, Biomimicry etc. For many companies, choosing the efficient route is more familiar with its ongoing business logic. But after the low hanging fruits have been harvested there is a risk of marginal cost increases for every additional reduction step taken. Proponents for the eco-effective route aim at ES through more radical innovations but these solutions may require substantial changes in value chains.
Less researched reasons to a firm's ES progress are the motivational factor and the organization as interpretation system. Although this study comprise only five companies, some interesting observations in this respect have been made.
The organization as interpretation system may help understand a company’s choice of ES route, eco-efficient or eco-effective. Eco-efficient companies can expect, at some point in time, to face raising ES costs which they should take as signs that the time may have come when a switch to a more eco-effective approach as a way forward.
A shift from eco-efficient to eco-effective may require a substantial change of the company’s senior management setup.
design for sustainability
Cradle to Cradle