The Parallelism of Eco-efficiency and Profitability in Companies

A company that integrates sustainable development principles to its strategy and operations sets goals to maintain a continuous friendly system that promotes progressive societal and environmental values, while involving internal and external stakeholders. Eco-efficiency is considered an economic and environmental concept that goes in line with the spirit of sustainable development. It was developed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), having been presented by Stefan Schidheiny in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio. Its purpose is to produce quality and at the same time, reduce negative impacts of production on the environment.

The philosophy of eco-efficiency looks at the ratio between the outputs of an enterprise and their environmental impacts. It targets to produce more with less by eliminating and recycling waste.

A conceptual industrial asset

Eco-efficiency is a philosophy that is recommendable to companies because there is an increase in material cost as a result of the economic growth relying on ‘business as usual’. The primary increasing factors of the African economy are noted to be the agricultural, oil and mineral sectors. In the year 2017, Africa’s economy recorded “an annual average growth of more than five percent”[1]. However, the forecasted Gross domestic product growth for 2019 is 2,9%[2]. Concomitantly, a steep decline is noted in the African biodiversity: 40% in 40 years’[3]. According to economic analysts, Africa is said to be “at a critical juncture in its development trajectory. Policies adopted now will determine how quickly the continent accelerates growth and creates prosperity for all”[4].
Eco-efficiency aims to contribute by enabling companies to provide products or services of quality using less raw resources and energy, thus reducing the volume of waste.
As such, eco-efficiency has two advantages: reducing the harmful impact of products or services on the environment, and achievement of quality for companies. This is possible through industrial ecology policies.

Getting from concepts to actions through industrial ecology policies

Industrial ecology policies are considered as a conceptual device for every societal stakeholder, including companies to regulate energy and material flows [5]. It’s about the implementation of a number of assessment tools such as: ‘ecological footprint’ and ‘virtual water’ which are increasingly used by companies in different sectors. These practices are seen in the increasing rate of commercialised products and services under environmental and social certifications. In order to improve their environmental performance, between the year 2011 to 2017, several companies in different African countries have acquired ISO 14001:2015. However, just 2 African countries in 2017 have gone in for a certificate to improve their energy performance and thus reduce its costs via the ISO 50001: Egypt and Ghana.

Figure: ISO 14001 – Africa, 2017 [6]

Through industrial ecology policies, there is a possibility of maximizing synergies in production processes and creating more opportunities on the global trade market. This has as impact, innovative practices in the conception of by-products: the development of closed-loop, the increase in life cycle of products, the use of residuals in production processes, of energy recovery resources, the processing of raw materials to finished products.
These practices serve as indicators for companies to evaluate their environmental and energy performances. Their integration into companies promotes a pro-environmental culture in the daily production of goods and services targeting sustainability both at local and global levels.

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