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Sustainable Use and Management of Natural Resources

  1. Introduction
  2. Security of supply
  3. Equity
  4. Impacts on the Environment
  5. Policy
  6. Data and indicators
  7. Links

1. Introduction

The European Topic Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (ETC/SCP) understand natural resources to cover both renewable resources and non-renewable resources. These can be further split into altogether four categories:

For the sustainable use of natural resources, three generic management principles were established during the 1990s by political institutions following Rio. These are:

  1. The use of renewable resources should not exceed their renewable and/or regeneration rates;
  2. The use of non-renewable resources should not exceed the rate at which substitutes are developed;
  3. Outputs of substances to the environment from the use of resources (see below) should not exceed the assimilative capacity of environmental media (carrying capacity).

Today, the use of renewable resources as referred to by principle 3 (see above) is perceived to include the full life cycle of the resource use or material flow, respectively. The life cycle includes extraction from the environment, processing, transformation, utilisation and disposal. The material output of the life cycle includes the release of all resulting residuals (e.g. waste, emissions, heat) back to the environment during all the life cycle stages.

The principles above integrate two separate but interrelated perspectives with respect to the use of resources:

  1. The ‘source-perspective’ - natural resources are input to economic activities;
  2. The ‘sink-perspective’- the capacity of natural systems to absorb and assimilate residuals released by human activities.

On this ETC/SCP website, three generic objectives are described that can be derived from the three sustainability principles above:

With regard to these three generic objectives, this website describes subsequently the development of European and international policies dealing with the sustainable use and management of natural resources. Moreover, the site includes a section on data and indicators related to international and national material flows. Finally, the website provides a set of useful links on external homepages, which focus on the sustainable use and management of natural resources.

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2. Security of supply

Since the 1970s, modern societies have become increasingly aware that the majority of natural resources have a limited rate, at which they can be exploited, and thus are exhaustible. These physical limits can affect economic growth in different ways. Three main factors are:

In most cases, directly exploited natural resources are traded in global commodities markets, and resource prices fluctuate reflecting changing conditions of supply and demand (see figure 1). Resource prices can increase as a result of a variety of reasons, including political events (e.g. energy carriers) or limited availability of a resource. Over the past years, prices have considerably risen due to increasing demand in emerging economies and developing countries (e.g. China, India and Brazil). This trend had been reversed recently due to the superposition of the consequences of the economic crises. Both high resource prices and availability of supplies may pose a potential challenge to the EU’s continued economic growth.

Figure 1: HWWA commodity and fossil fuel price index 1980-2005

HWWA commodity and fossil fuel price index 1980-2005

Source: HWWA 2006

The Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWA) has tracked the prices of selected industrial raw materials (biomass, metals) and fossil fuels (oil, coal). The prices for the two different commodity groups (industrial raw materials and fossil fuels) were indexed taking the year 2000 as reference (= 100). The development of the HWWA index over the years 1980-2006 shows a continual fluctuation of prices. Within this period, energy carriers show variations of more than 125% of the mean value of energy carriers, while industrial raw materials show variations of less than 50% of their mean value. Therefore, prices of fossil fuels have been much more volatile than those of industrial raw materials.

The earth crust provides abundant reserves of non-renewable resources. Supply with non-renewable resources is to a large extent influenced by investments in exploration and extraction technologies, and by installed extraction capacities. For some non-renewable resources including construction minerals and many metals, the security of supply does currently not give cause for concern. For other non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels and land, the availability is starting to become a concern that is expected to increase within the next years. With regard to crude oil – perhaps currently the most important non-renewable resource – many experts are concerned over scarcity in the near future, given that its mid-depletion point may already have been reached (cf. global oil peak).

Short-term economic scarcity of non-renewable resources can arise, if the extension of exploitation capacities (including the development of new exploration and extraction technologies) requires more time than expected. Moreover, new exploration and extraction technologies are costly, which is one of the reasons why prices are likely to remain on a high level.

In contrast, scarcity of renewable resources is primarily a result of environmental factors. Those resources we refer to as renewable have the ability to regenerate within a relatively short period of time. However, their extraction rates need to be maintained within the reproductive capacities of the natural systems and must leave enough of these resources in the ecosystem in order to maintain their resilience and biodiversity. This latter element shows a link between the ‘source’ and the ‘sink’ perspectives (cf.introduction): the depletion of renewable resources in the biosphere due to over extraction can in some circumstances (e.g. deforestation due to timber extraction, removal of marine biomass due to trawling) reduce the carrying capacity of the sink. This is elaborated in more detail in the under the objective ‘protection of the environment’

Threat to the security of supply
Security of supply is a strategic issue for the EU as the EU is becoming increasingly dependent on the imports of some key natural resources. For instance, more than 90 % of the primary energy supply in the EU is based on fossil fuels, half of which are imported. Figure 2 shows the high degree of dependency of EU-25 on imports of selected fossil fuels. A large share of these imports is imported from regions where long-term political stability is yet to be achieved. Furthermore, rapid economic development in large emerging economies (e.g. Brazil, India, China) is currently increasing the overall global demand. This is already a matter of concern to the European Commission and has been the focus of a green paper “Towards a European strategy for the security of energy supply” (COM 2000 (769)). According to the Commission, we are currently facing the need for a debate on energy policy “unprecedented in 30 years” (COM (2002) 321, p.2).

Figure 2: EU-25 import dependency on oil, natural gas and solid fuels, 2000-2030.

EU 25 import dependency on selected fuels 2000-2030

Source: European Commission, DG Energy and Transport

Record-high prices for crude oil and a number of metal and non-metal ores present an increasing risk to the security of supply. Regarding some of strategic importance (e.g. copper, zinc, scrap iron), temporary scarcity has been emerging.

Where a natural resource crosses geo-political borders, the ownership of these resources is not clearly defined. Two examples of such resources are: fisheries moving through territorial and non-territorial waters, and fresh water carried by a major rivers crossing through at least two states. In these cases, exploitation by one country will directly decrease the potential for exploitation by the other country. This can lead to geopolitical resource tensions between the countries involved.

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3. Equity

Regional Equity
The principles of equity and environmental justice require that environmental burdens should not be shifted from one region to another.

Currently, through global trade and domestic production and consumption patterns, the global marketplace has caused a shift in some of the environmental burdens resulting from European consumption, from the EU to other countries. Domestic extraction of raw materials has fallen significantly, while imports of raw materials, semi-finished and finished products have been on the increase. Thus, the emission of pollutants and the generation of waste during the extraction and manufacturing stages of the life cycle for many products consumed in the EU, are increasingly taking place outside the EU. (Schütz et al 2004).

Furthermore, there is a more fundamental conflict. In order to support current lifestyles, average citizens of industrialised western countries are using several times more natural resources than average citizens of developing countries. This implies that industrialised societies tend to put more pressure on the global commons at the expense of developing societies. Unfortunately, solving this equity issue has the potential to significantly increase cumulative environmental burdens across the globe as a whole. For example, resource consumption levels in expanding economies such as China, India or Brazil, will eventually reach equal footing with the industrialised countries of the OECD. While this effect will begin the process of levelling out equity issues in terms of material wealth, the overall global consumption rates and therefore potential environmental impacts will increase rapidly. If the emerging and developing economies follow the traditional patterns of consumption as their economies grow, it is estimated that global resource use will quadruple within 20 years. The negative impact on the environment could be substantial.

Intergenerational equity
The World Commission on Environment and Development report suggested that the use of resources should be managed in such a way that future generations should not be burdened with the negative environmental impacts of our consumption of resources, and that they should be able to cover their own needs using existing natural resources (WCED 1987). The former issue is one concerned with environmental impacts (i.e. a “sink issue”) while the latter concerns scarcity (i.e. a “source issue”). However, increasing scarcity of a resource only affects inter-generational equity, if no alternatives to that resource become available over the same period of time.

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4. Impacts on the Environment

The use of resources can have multiple impacts on the environment: the use of fossil fuels changes the global climate and has impacts on air quality; other resource uses result in toxic releases or a change of the aesthetic value of a landscape. The ability of the natural environment to adsorb residuals (emissions, waste) associated with the use of natural resources - that is, its ecological carrying capacity - is finite. Environmental impacts can occur if the rate of emissions of residuals exceeds this capacity. Climate change is a prominent consequence of carbon dioxide emissions exceeding the absorption and recycling rates of carbon dioxide by the biosphere (i.e. sea, atmosphere and biomass).

Moreover resource use can actually reduce the carrying capacity of the biosphere - for example over-fishing can reduce the carrying capacity of the marine ecosystem to absorb and recycle toxins, deforestation caused by timber removal can reduce the total biomass and thereby rate at which carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is recycled.

While resource use has a myriad of diverse potential impacts on the environment, there is currently no generally accepted standardized methodology for comparing these different impacts with one another. Moreover, not all environmental impacts are fully understood today and some environmental implications of resource uses involve many complex interactions that are difficult to model and quantify (e.g. effects of land use and land use change on biodiversity, and its feedback on climate change or dynamics and ecological impacts of certain chemicals).

The life-cycle of materials involves several stages, from extraction over transformation processes to use and eventual disposal, all of which have different environmental implications. However a general rule of thumb might be that increase in resource use will lead to an increase in environmental impact unless direct intervention is used to decouple impact from resource use.

"Decoupling" is one of the key goals of policies related to management and use of natural resources.

As a technical term, decoupling means that the growth rate of environmental impacts is less than that of a given economic driving force (e.g. GDP) over a certain period. Relative decoupling occurs when environmental impact increases, but at a slower rate than the underlying economic driver. Absolute decoupling occurs when environmental impact decreases while the economy grows. The Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources published in 2005 aims at reducing the negative environmental impacts of resource use by decoupling economic growth and environment impacts. Given current levels of economic growth, the Strategy recognises that it is likely that two distinct decoupling mechanisms will be required in combination to achieve absolute decoupling of environmental impact from GDP. These two mechanisms are, firstly, the decoupling of resource use from economic growth, and secondly, the decoupling of environmental impact from unit resource use. The figure below illustrates how these two decoupling mechanisms can combine to give an overall absolute decoupling of environmental impact of resource use from economic growth.

Source:  http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/natres/pdf/annex_com_en.pdf

With respect to the first decoupling mechanism, Europe has achieved at least partial decoupling of resource use from economic growth (figure 3). In many EU countries, the economy in recent years has been growing at a faster rate than resource use. The EU economy grew by almost 50 % since the 1980s, while the use of energy and renewable and non-renewable resources remained fairly constant. In other words resource productivity has grown by 50% over the same period. (Note: under the Equity section, there is some evidence to suggest that at least part of this decoupling has occurred as a result of burden shifting to countries outside the EU).

Figure 3: Relative decoupling of resource use from economic growth, EU-15 1990-2002

Relative decoupling of resource use from economic growth, EU-15 1990-2002

Source: ETC/RWM

The graph shows the development of the Gross National Product (GDP) taking the year 1990 as base year (=100). Several indicators of environmental pressure have not risen at the same rate as GDP growth since 1990. The gross inland energy consumption has still risen, but less than GDP. The emission of greenhouse gases has not only stabilized, but has shown a slight reduction. Indicators of material consumption have been more or less stable. This concerns domestic and imported resources, which are used for domestic consumption expressed as Domestic Material Consumption (DMC) as well as the environmentally weighted material consumption (EMC).

The last decades have, therefore, seen at least a relative decoupling of resource and energy consumption from economic growth.

However, this factor on its own has not led to an absolute decoupling of environmental impact from economic growth. The second decoupling mechanism, that of environmental impact from unit resource use, is much more difficult to measure and monitor as outlined earlier. Increased use of end-of-pipe technologies can reduce environmental pressures resulting from unit resource use. The use of catalytic converters on cars is a prime example of this: reducing significantly the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC), nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide emitted per litre of fuel burnt.

On the micro level or for specific substances, it is rare that there is a concrete and linear relationship between environmental pressures and resulting environmental impacts. The linkages between environmental pressure and impact are often complex and involve long chains of interactions and exchanges, exposure routes and non-linear responses to exposure. The spatial element is often critical, for example, in the magnitude of impact resulting from a given quantity of an emission. It is, therefore, difficult to estimate aggregated environmental impacts accruing over Europe as a whole from a given total quantity of emissions, without having to model pressures and resulting impacts at the local level. Even then, for many environmental impacts there are no generally accepted standardised methodologies for deriving impacts from pressures even at the local level. Nevertheless, first scientific evidence seems to indicate a more or less linear relationship between overall resource use and overall environmental impact on the macro level (figure 4).

Figure 4: The relationship between Environmentally-weighted Material Consumption (EMC) and Domestic Material Consumption (DMC)

The relationship between Environmentally-weighted Material Consumption (EMC) and Domestic Material Consumption (DMC)

Source: Van der Voet, E, van Oers,L., Moll, S., Schütz, H., Bringezu, S., de Bruyn, S., Sevenster, M., Warringa, G. (2005): Policy Review on Decoupling: Development of indicators to assess decoupling of economic development and environmental pressure in the EU-25 and AC-3 countries. CML report 166, Leiden: Institute of environmental sciences (CML), Leiden: Leiden University, Department Industrial Ecology, 2005

The European Commission had asked scientists from Leiden University, CE Solutions and the Wuppertal Institute to assess the linkage between the weight of resources and the environmental impacts of resource use. The question was whether the absolute amount of resource use expressed in tonnes with the indicator Domestic Material Consumption would correlate with impacts assessed with the methodology of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). For this purpose a new indicator was developed; the so-called EMC (Environmentally-weighted Material Consumption) which integrates LCA-based assessments. The EMC considers a selection of 32 base materials and weighted 13 quantifiable categories of impacts. The shares of each country are normalized against the global impact of each equally weighted impact category.

Thus, the graph shows the correlation between the amount of Domestic Material Consumption and environmental impacts. It seems plausible, however, that the use of certain resources causes more environmental impacts than others. Until methodologies for modelling and aggregating environmental impacts over Europe as a whole has been developed to an acceptable level for all pressures and impacts, it may be possible to make use of proxy indicators. In the case of using fossil fuels as an energy source, a strong link is already established between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change which demonstrates that our emissions of CO2 already exceed sustainability thresholds. The life-cycle of many other material resources, e.g. metals (iron, steel, copper etc.) and other minerals (cement, ceramics, glass etc.), may be dominated by impacts resulting from fossil energy use. A first prioritisation of resource use in terms of overall environmental impact could potentially be based on primary energy use and other key environmental pressures.

The level of resource use in Europe, and hence the likely magnitude of its environmental impact, is high compared to global averages. The effort of developing countries to achieve greater levels of wealth through adopting industrialised life styles, combined with a rapid population growth in much of the world, could potentially lead to a dramatic increase in both resource use and associated environmental impacts globally. The increased impact associated with global economic growth could increase by a factor of four to five over the next two to three decades, unless unprecedented levels of action are taken to decouple environmental impacts from increased wealth.
Current outlook is that JRC-IES (Joint Research Centre – Institute for Environment and Sustainability) is going to develop by 2010 life cycle based environmental indicators for decoupling set out in the Thematic Strategy on Natural Resources:

Source: Pretato, U, et al. (2009): Life Cycle indicators for the Data Centres on resources, products and waste. Presentation at the IMEA Workshop, 20 March 2009, Paris. PE International and Wuppertal Institute are contractors for this study.

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5. Policy

The sustainable use and management of natural resources is a relatively new issue on the policy agenda, compared with the more traditional areas such as air pollution, energy and waste.

United Nations Policy and Programmes
The sustainable use of resources first appeared on the political agenda at the international level, in 1992 at the UN conference for environment and development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro under the wider topic sustainable consumption and production. Within Agenda 21 t was stressed that “action is needed to promote patterns of consumption and production that reduce environmental stress, and meet the basic needs of humanity”

Ten years on at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, the UN recognised that current consumption and production patterns, particularly in developed economies, are not sustainable. The UN accordingly adopted a 10-year-framework programme on sustainable production and consumption.

Agreement was subsequently reached in 2003 at Marrakech, Morocco, on a further 10-year plan for revising patterns of production and consumption, and turning international commitments into reality. The Marrakech process UNEP has so far resulted in the establishment of seven task forces aiming to make progress in seven specific elements of SCP.

EU Strategy for Sustainable Development
At the EU level, the EU Strategy for Sustainable Development (SSD) presented at Gothenburg in 2001, sets out a road map for implementing sustainable development in the European Union. The Strategy emphasises the objective of breaking the link between economic growth, the use of resources, and the generation of waste. This aspect was also been featured in the European Environment Agency’s Signals Report 2002, which included two indicators for decoupling waste generation and resource use from economic growth.

The EU SSD was reviewed during 2005 with the goal of better integrating the domestic and international dimensions of sustainable development. The Commission adopted the revised strategy in December 2005, and the European Council of June 2006 adopted an ambitious and comprehensive renewed SDS for an enlarged EU. On 16 July 2008 the European Commission presented the Sustainable Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial Policy (SCP/SIP) Action Plan. It includes a series of proposals on sustainable consumption and production that are meant to contribute to improving the environmental performance of products and increase the demand for more sustainable goods and production technologies. It also seeks to encourage EU industry to take advantage of opportunities to innovate. The Council endorsed the Action Plan in its conclusions adopted on 4 December 2008. In July 2009, the Commission adopted the 2009 review of SDS stating that unsustainable trends still persist in many areas and the efforts need to be intensified.

The Lisbon Strategy
At the summit in Lisbon in March 2000, the European Council declared the new strategic goal for 2010. The goal was that the European Union should become ”the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world with sustainable economic growth and more and better employment opportunities and greater social cohesion”.

Before the financial and economic crisis hit the EU in 2008, the Lisbon strategy had helped to create more than 18 million new jobs. When the economy slumped, the EU acted to stabilise the financial system and adopted a recovery plan to boost demand and restore confidence. The EU will soon devise a new strategy for the period beyond 2010. This new strategy should enable the EU to make a full recovery from the crisis, and help speed up the move towards a greener, more sustainable, and more innovative economy. To make this transformation happen, Europe needs a common agenda: the EU 2020 strategy.
The Commission intends to present a formal proposal for the EU 2020 strategy in early 2010. In the meantime, consultation paper on the future EU 2020 strategy is opened for comments (closing date: 15th January 2010).

6th Environment Action Programme
The 6th Environmental Action Programme of the European Union identified the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources and Management of Wastes as one of its priority areas for the ten year running period of the programme. The main objective of this element of the programme is:

To ensure the consumption of renewable and non-renewable resources and the associated impacts do not exceed the carrying capacity of the environment and to achieve a decoupling of resource use from economic growth through significantly improved resource efficiency, dematerialisation of the economy, and waste prevention.” (Article 6.1.2 ).

In order to pursue the general objectives of the 6EAP, the European Commission has developed seven Thematic Strategies covering natural resources, waste, air pollution, marine environment as well as soils, pesticides and the urban environment. One of these relates directly to furthering the objective quoted above. This is the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources which was adopted by the Commission in December 2005. The mid-term review of the 6th EAP was adopted by the Commission on the 30th April 2007. It has confirmed that the Programme remains the correct framework for Community action in the field of the environment up to 2012.
Source: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/newprg/review.htm

The Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable use of Natural Resources
The Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable use of Natural Resources aims to "reduce the negative environmental impacts generated by the use of natural resources in a growing economy – a concept referred to as decoupling. In practical terms, this means reducing the environmental impact of resource use while at the same time improving resource productivity overall across the EU economy. For renewable resources this means also staying below the threshold of exploitation"

The Thematic Strategy outlines a number of broad action areas for achieving this objective. These are:

Life cycle thinking is to be the key concept in development of the strategic approach. The Thematic Strategy encourages the application of life cycle thinking in the development and assessment of existing and future EU and national policies that might have a direct or indirect impact on resource productivity or the environmental impact of resource consumption. These would include transport policy, agricultural policy and energy policy for example.

A further Thematic Strategy which is closely related to that on Natural Resources, is the Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste. This strategy, which was also adopted by the Commission in December 2005, will have a complementary effect with respect to resource use, to the first strategy. Actions aimed at preventing waste generation will also by definition, reduce resource use. Meanwhile, the Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste aims at developing Europe into a recycling society, breaking down barriers for waste to be used as a resource, and thus taking a certain degree of pressure off the need for virgin resources to meet our consumption needs.

Further policy with relevance to resource use is the Commission’s Communication on Integrated Product Policy from 2003.While its focus is on sustainable products, IPP is a broad umbrella which loosely integrates and combines many concepts, instruments, tools and measures which actively promote the sustainable use of resources during the production, use and disposal phase of material goods. A couple of actions have been carried out to implement the IPP communication.

National Policies
Several EU countries have now adopted national policies related to the sustainable use of resources. These include the UK, Finland, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal. Of these, the last six have concrete targets for decoupling of environmental impact from economic growth.

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6. Data & Indicators

This section provides downloadable studies and datasheets, respectively, with MFA statistics and indicators for both the European Union and for individual countries.

Resource Use in European Countries (Zero Study)
This study provides the baseline data on material flows for the further development of the "Resources Strategy".The study was commissioned to the Wuppertal Institute via the European Topic Centre on Resource and Waste Management (ETC/RWM).

Eurostat has published MFA studies including MFA data and indicators for the European Union. The 2002 report Material use in the European Union 1980-2000, indicators and analysis (prepared by IFF/Austria), Working Paper and Studies series, Eurostat, Luxembourg.

Country specific material flow data can also be found on the following homepages:

Statistics Austria

The German Environmental and Economic Accounts comprise Material flow balances that are published every two years

Van der Voet, E., L. van Oers, and I. Nikolic (2003), Dematerialisation: not just a Matter of Weight, Development and Application of a Methodology to Rank Materials based on their Environmental Impacts”, CML rapport 160, Leiden University, Institute for Environmental Studies.

See compilation on Natural Resources and the Environment 2008. Statistics Norway

See INEbase Environmental Accounts . (Material flow accounts), Spanish National Statistics Institute (INE).

see Sustainable Development Indicators, Statistics Sweden.

United Kingdom
see Material Flow Accountfor the United Kingdom (1970-2007).

For further information on data & indicators, please contact Dominic Wittmer from the ETC/SCP team.

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The page provides useful internet links to organizations active in the area resource use.





EEA report on sustainable use and management of natural
EEA report on household consumption and the environment

EEA Topic report No 11/1999:
Making sustainability accountable: Eco-efficiency, resource productivity and innovation

DG Environment


Commission’s web pages on the ‘Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources’ explaining the background of this Thematic Strategy, what the Commission has done about it and what is planned in the future. There is also information about how you can get involved.

European Topic Centre on Resource and Waste Management (ETC/RWM)


The ETC European Topic Centre on Resource and Waste Management (ETC/RWM) has accompanied the EU policy development since 2001. The main focus has been on material flows, applying the method of Material Flow Analysis (MFA). Comprehensive MFA data and indicators have been compiled for the EU. The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published key findings and conclusions in various reports




OECD work on environmental data and indicators.

UN System of integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA)


The System of integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) was developed by UNSD as a satellite system of the System of National Accounts (SNA) to analyze environmental and economic concerns in a common and flexible framework.
The London Group on Environmental Accounting was created in 1993 to provide a forum for practitioners to share their experience of developing and implementing environmental satellite accounts linked to the economic accounts of the SNA. It is currently participating in the SEEA revision process at the request of the Statistical Commission.

International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE)


ISIE is a new society that promotes industrial ecology as a way of finding innovative solutions to complicated environmental problems and facilitates communication among scientists, engineers, policymakers, managers and advocates who are interested in how environmental concerns and economic activities can be better integrated.

Wuppertal Institute


An interdisciplinary research institute oriented to solving problems in the area of applied sustainability research. The Wuppertal Institute develops guiding principles and concrete concepts in the area of energy, transport, material flows and resource management, climate policy and eco-efficient enterprises as well as creating new and innovative models of wealth.



ConAccount is a network of institutions working on Material Flow Analysis (MFA). The basic objectives of ConAccount are to support the information exchange between the scientists developing MFA and the users of the results, to provide the basis for the development of a coherent framework of MFA methodology, and to promote the use of MFA for statistics and policy.

Factor Four – best practises


A website, maintained by the Wuppertal Institute, providing best practise examples of products and services following the Factor Four principle (including further links to other best practice websites).

World Resources Institute


WRI is an environmental think tank that goes beyond research to find practical ways to protect the earth and improve people's lives. World Resources Institute provides information, ideas, and solutions to global environmental problems.

UNEP Center for Sustainable Production and Consumption


The Centre contributes to the Plan of Implementation agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 to promote sustainable patterns of consumption and production by providing scientific support to activities undertaken by UNEP and other organisations in the field of SCP.

Institute for Interdisciplinary Research and Education (IFF) – Department Social Ecology


IFF Social Ecology focuses on the relationship between social and natural systems in the context of sustainable development. Inter-disciplinary approach is a central feature of the work, in both research and teaching.

National Institute for Environmental Studies Japan (NIES)


To tackle the growing environmental problems of the 21st century, NIES has restructured itself to respond to public needs with agility, as a flexible and efficient organization, one of which is "Waste Management and Sustainable Material Cycles" dealing with MFA approaches.

Ecological Footprint





The Global Footprint Network is an international think tank working to advance sustainability through the use of the Ecological Footprint.
Ecological Footprint is an indicator to measure "use of nature," and increase awareness for sustainable development. Ecological Footprint accounts provide a conservative estimate of humanity's pressure on global ecosystems. They represent the biologically productive area required to produce the food and wood people consume, to supply space for infrastructure, and to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from burning fossil fuels.
The EEA sponsored national ecological footprint and biocapacity accounts for European countries in 2005.

Ecological backpack

An info page on MIPS (material input per service unit), which is a method to calculate the resource use of products, services, companies, life styles etc. The MIPS calculation takes into account all the natural resources used from cradle to grave and displays them in five different categories of resources: abiotic resources, biotic resources, soil used in agriculture and forestry, air, water. http://www.mips-online.fi
To calculate your own ecological backpack and suggestions to reduce the resource use of your everyday life and lifestyle: http://www.onedidit.com/
In order to implement effective strategies towards higher resource efficiency, the Sustainable Europe Research Institute (SERI) measures and analyses human resource use. http://seri.at/themes/resource-use/
The Factor 10 Institute has been created to provide practical support for achieving significant advances in sustainable value creation, in particular through increases in resource productivity throughout the economy. http://www.factor10-institute.org/

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