The Business Case for Resource Efficiency

Today, resource efficiency (RE) and cleaner and safer production (CP) are fundamental elements in the transition towards a future low-carbon economy and society. Improvements in resource management play a key role in limiting energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time maintaining the quality of products and services. Thus, actions to persuade businesses to intensify investment in resource efficient and cleaner and safer production can significantly reduce demand for resources and support a sustainable future.

As of today, the potential of resource efficient production is untapped and unanswered questions remain concerning the best means to stimulate action. There is a lack of understanding of the economic drivers that will stimulate energy and resource efficient, cleaner production among Small and Medium-size Enterprises (SMEs), particularly in developing and transition countries. There is also uncertainty on the factors that can stimulate businesses to integrate RE, CP and life cycle management (LCM) in their business models and the likely economic, environmental, and social benefits that can be achieved.

Supporting SCP by developing and delivering a business case

The Business Case for Resource Efficiency (BC4RE) project explored the economic drivers and factors that can support resource efficient production by exploring innovative industrial processes and business models that have proven successful in promoting resource efficient and cleaner and safer production. The project also aimed to quantify the potential social, economic and environmental benefits.

The goal was to build a compelling business case with potential to increase business investment in resource efficiency and cleaner and safer production. As it has been widely acknowledged that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, particularly in the case of SMEs, a practical guideline has also been formulated and developed. The guideline provided a step-by-step approach to guide SMEs through a process of planing, designing and implementing customised resource efficiency, cleaner and safer production, and life cycle management (LCM) measures.

Several interrelated technical phases were undertaken within the project, the first being to compile existing tools, methods, guidelines and case studies for analysis. This was accomplished through a series of surveys and semi-structured interviews with industry experts, topic area experts, and National Cleaner Production Centres (NCPCs). This compilation forms a key element of the RECP Business Case Report and LCM Guidelines for SMEs in developing and transition countries.

Revolutionise the Business Model and Solution

The project was instrumental in providing further support for the discussion on resource efficiency and cleaner and safer production in businesses by highlighting the economic, environmental and social benefits linked to resource efficient business solutions. From an academic perspective, the project also made a contribution toward identifying innovative industrial applications and resource efficient business models. From a business angle, the project built a robust business case for increased investments in resource efficiency and prepared general guidance for SMEs on the application of cleaner and safer production methods using life cycle data and innovative business and social models.

The project “Development of the Business Case for Resource Efficiency and Guidelines for SMEs and Integrated Approach to Resource Efficiency, Cleaner and Safer Production using LCM as a Tool” was financed by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).