A mission to accomplish

In november 1993, the World Council for Sustainable Development defined eco-efficiency as:
"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." (Eco-efficient Leadership, WBCSD, 1996).

This business oriented definition links two aspects of good governance ( Fig. 1.1 ):
- modern management practice ("the delivery of competitively priced goods and services ……quality of life")
- the need of a sustainable society ("while progressively reducing …… to …… earth's carrying capacity").
The first part of the sentence asks for a maximum value/costs ratio of the business chain, the second part of the sentence requires that this is achieved at a minimum level of ecological impact.

But what does this rather philosophical definition mean to business managers, designers and engineers in terms of the practical decisions they take?
There is a need to resolve simple questions like: what is the best product design in terms of ecological impact?, what is the best product portfolio in terms of sustainability?, what is the best sustainable strategy?

It is now widely recognised by economists that the goal of sustainable development is principally an equity issue. Sustainable development is a requirement to our, and future, generations to manage the resource base such that the average quality of life we ensure ourselves can potentially be shared by all future generations. High levels of eco-efficiency of product-service systems are required to achieve such a 'intergenerational equity'.
However, there is also the awkward question of the equity within our own generation: the 'intragenerational equity', which is related to the sustainability issues with regard to the poor parts of our world.

The need for a better organised economy, de-linking the economic growth and the environmental degradation, was expressed for the first time in the Brundtland Report "Our Common Future" (1987, page xii), as the conclusion of a study on the situation in the developing countries:
"The downward spiral of poverty and environmental degradation is waste of opportunities and of resources. In particular it is a waste of human resources. These links between poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation formed a major theme in our analysis and recommendations. What is needed now is a new era of economic growth - growth that is forceful and at the same time socially and environmentally sustainable."

Literature: see under tab data, reference 1.0