OECD Sustainable Development Studies

2074-3262 (online)
2074-3270 (print)
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Presents a series of studies on various aspects of sustainable development.
Measuring Sustainable Production

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25 Mar 2008
9789264044135 (PDF) ;9789264044128(print)

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Most people support sustainable development without knowing what it is. What exactly are sustainable consumption and sustainable production, and how are these practices identified?  This volume reviews the state-of-the-art in measuring sustainable production processes in industry. It includes metrics developed by business, trade unions, academics, NGOs, and the OECD and IEA. These measurement approaches cover the "triple bottom line" (economic, environmental and social dimensions) of industrial sustainability.

In the Same Series

Subsidy Reform and Sustainable Development: Political Economy Aspects

Subsidy Reform and Sustainable Development: Economic, Environmental and Social Aspects

Institutionalising Sustainable Development


Further Reading

Measuring Sustainable Development: Integrated Economic, Environmental and Social Frameworks


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  • Workshop Overview
    The workshop on Sustainable Manufacturing Production and Competitiveness was held in Copenhagen, Denmark on 21-22 June 2007. Ken Warwick, UK Department of Trade and Industry and CIIE Chair, acted as Chair of the Workshop. It was opened by Connie Hedegaard, Danish Minister for the Environment, and Finn Lauritzen, Director General of the Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority in the Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs. Both stressed how Industry Ministries and Environment Ministries should strengthen ties in promoting sustainable business practices in the interest of increasing competitiveness.
  • Sustainable Production as Good Business
    Sustainable production is highly important in order to meet the environmental challenges we are now faced with. At the same time, a growing number of companies have found new business opportunities in sustainable production. But we need new ideas and new initiatives from all parties to enhance the development of even more win-win solutions. We need better insight into how sustainable production can contribute to the performance, profitability and competitiveness of business in order to get more companies on board. And it is important for governments to obtain knowledge from business on what is possible in practice.
  • Sustainable Production as Industrial Policy
    The fact that this workshop on sustainable production has attracted participants from nineteen different countries and three continents underlines the importance of the workshop topic. It is no coincidence that the workshop is hosted here at the Danish Enterprise and Construction Authority (DECA), which is a central part of the Danish Ministry of Economics and Business Affairs. We are in charge of both administering and developing a modern industrial policy for Denmark.
  • Developing Indicators of Energy Efficiency
    The leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) countries and the governments of International Energy Agency (IEA) Member countries have asked the IEA to contribute to the Dialogue on Climate Change, Clean Energy and Sustainable Development. The aims of the G8 Dialogue and Plan of Action are to:
  • Measuring Social Dimensions of Sustainable Production
    Sustainable development is defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (UN, 1987). It is built on the integration of three underlying pillars – economic, environmental and social. However, sustainable development has not become truly operational owing to difficulties in fully incorporating the social dimension. This includes considerations such as human rights, education and health, and gender diversity in economic planning and policies. On the other hand, environmental economics has made great progress in integrating the economic and environmental spheres.
  • Measuring Ecological Footprints
    Sustainability in the environmental sense is a simple idea. It is based on the recognition that when resources are consumed faster than they are produced or renewed, the resource is depleted and eventually used up. In a sustainable world, society’s demand on nature does not exceed nature’s capacity to meet that demand. But how much of nature’s capacity is now being used by human activities? This is the underlying research question behind the Ecological Footprint. This resource accounting tool allows us to measure the demand placed on nature by individuals, cities, countries, business activities, etc. It is increasingly being used by firms in manufacturing and other sectors to understand the context of a resource-constrained world, and its implications for its operations, both in terms of risks and opportunities.
  • Using Environmental Accounts
    Unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, particularly in industrialised countries, are a major cause of global environmental degradation. This statement made by the United Nations in 1992 in the ground breaking Agenda 21 was the seed of what 15 years on has become a major area of international and European policy. Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) – an economy wide search for more environmentally sustainable production processes and consumption behaviour – is a key priority area in the renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy and is the theme of a future EU Action Plan.
  • Surveying Firm Environmental Practices
    It is well understood that in the absence of public policy interventions, firms will face inadequate incentives to take into account the environmental impacts of their production choices. It is also known that market-based instruments and flexible performance standards are a more efficient means for public authorities to provide such incentives than more direct forms of regulation. However, a detailed analysis of the effects of public environmental policy on the inner workings of the firm has been largely absent from the vast body of literature which has been marshalled in support of these insights.
  • Measuring Minimal Manufacturing
    A great deal of natural resources is used to make products and substantial amounts of materials and energy are wasted at the end of the flow. Looking at market flows, suppliers produce products to meet the specific demands of users. Because the market itself is governed by economic principles, cost and performance are the most crucial factors, with less attention paid to the effects of using resources and wasting materials and energy. The environment or ecological system may collapse if we continue to leave things solely to economic principles.
  • Auditing Industry Performance
    There is an increasing trend towards requests for auditing the economic, environmental and social performance of companies and their corporate reports as a means for reducing risks and increasing shareholder value, performance and competitiveness. There are a number of drivers for this, including for example:
  • Developing a Composite Sustainability Index
    The concept of sustainable development (SD) has become an important objective of industry leaders. The Brundtland Report defines sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" (WCED, 1987). There are a number of frameworks for sustainability assessments that evaluate the performance of companies. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD, 1997), the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI 2002a, 2002b) and development of standards (OECD, 2002) have been the foundation for sustainability reporting. There is also a special framework for sustainability indicators for the mining and minerals industry, which is also compatible with GRI (Azapagic, 2004).
  • Developing a Product Sustainability Index
    The automotive industry is facing a multitude of challenges in moving towards sustainability that can be partly addressed by product design. All of these challenges present both risks and business opportunities. They include:
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