The Ecologic Institute, a private not-for-profit think tank, has released a new report on resource efficiency indicators and their potential use for measuring progress towards sustainable industries. The report, titled “Integrating resource efficiency, greening of industrial production and green industries – scoping of and recommendations for effective indicators,” is the outcome of work undertaken by the Ecologic Institute as part of the process of establishing a Green Industry Platform by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in 2012.
The authors of the report note that there currently appears to be a gap concerning indicators for measuring progress towards sustainable industries and sustainable industrial development (including the greening of industries, progress achieved in green industries, and greater resource efficiency in industrial production) and this report aims to contribute to filling this gap.
The report uses the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as an organizing framework for systematic evaluation of the existing indicators as a measure of resource efficiency. The 10 most promising indicators considered in this study are:
- Environmentally weighted material consumption (EWC)
- Energy intensity by sector
- Production based CO2 productivity
- Water consumption by sector
- Sustainable Process Index (SPI)
- Water abstraction rates and water stress
- Corporations’ turnover, value added and exports of the environmental goods and services sector
- Resource Productivity / Material Productivity
- Total Material Consumption (TMC)
- Ecological Footprint (EF)
The authors suggest that since there exist many different aspects of industrial production it is only logical to consider building a basket of indicators that jointly give a more comprehensive picture than any of the indicators could give alone. They propose 4 different dimensions of sustainable industrial development to be part of the basket, namely:
- Protection of critical environmental goods and services;
- Minimal environmental impacts;
- Efficient resource-use; and
- Social and economic aspects of industrial production.
Based on the reviews conducted in report the following indicators are proposed to be included in the basket:
- EMC (or eco-efficiency or overall environmental impact indicator) to capture environmental impacts;
- Energy intensity by sector and production-based CO 2 productivity to cover the critical environmental areas energy and climate change;
- Water productivity by sector and water stress to capture resource efficiency for a second critical environmental resource; and
- Resource productivity (or TMC over GDP) to capture resource efficiency.
The authors note that the social aspects of sustainable industry have not been within the scope of their analysis, but should be considered in the development of the basket. They also highlight that this scoping study did not provide the necessary frame to develop a fully fledged analysis or road-test the proposed indicator basket and that such research tasks should be undertaken in followup projects under the auspices of UNIDO.