Resource efficiency

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At the moment, the Western way of life and economy are based on wasteful use of natural resources, which jeopardises the well-being of humans and animals through climate change and the depletion of biodiversity, for example. This has become an increasingly widely recognised issue, and the EU too has become concerned about the growing scarcity of natural resources and global competition over them, especially with regard to critical natural resources. This is one of the reasons why resource efficiency has become a key strategic theme in the pursuit of sustainable development.

Resource efficiency: one route to a green economy

The premise of resource efficiency is to use the resources available on earth in a sustainable manner and to reduce their environmental impacts. It is also one of the most important means of transitioning to a low-carbon, or “green”, economy. The concept of ‘green economy’ is based on using natural resources efficiently in society with the help of environmental, economic and social policy and innovations. Resource efficiency covers issues such as enhancement of the use of materials and energy and the recycling and reuse of products or waste. In its broadest sense, resource efficiency encompasses not just the use of materials and energy but also the use of air, water, land and soil.

Economic effects of resource efficiency

Resource efficiency allows economies to create more from less, i.e. to add more value with smaller inputs. Reducing the use of resources in production leads to lower costs, increased competitiveness and fewer harmful environmental impacts.

Measures that promote resource efficiency

  • Evaluation of lifetime environmental impacts and eco-efficient product development
  • Adoption of measures that increase the efficiency of recycling and reuse
  • Promotion of bioeconomy and renewable forms of energy
  • Development of innovation partnerships

Indicators for evaluating resource efficiency

There is currently no international consensus on how resource efficiency should be measured or evaluated, but work on indicators is in progress. The task has proven extremely challenging due to the diversity of resources. At the moment, national resource efficiency is calculated as a ratio of resource use and economic benefit (GDP).

More information

Senior Researcher Sirkka Koskela, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE,

Published 2013-12-17 at 10:35, updated 2013-12-16 at 16:18