Creation of the Task Force
The President's Council on Sustainable Development created the
Eco-Efficiency Task Force in the belief that environmental protection and
economic growth can, and must be, linked. As stated in the Council's report:
The paradoxical challenge that the United States and the
world face at the end of the 20th century is to generate individual
economic opportunities and national wealth necessary for economical
healthy societies while, at the same time, lessening the environmental
risks and social inequities that have accompanied past economic
development... The challenge of sustainable development is to find ways
to meet those needs without destroying the resources upon, which future
The Eco-Efficiency Task Force set out to resolve this paradox and to
explore the means by which the U.S. economy could realize sustainable
What Is Eco-Efficiency?
Eco-efficiency is broadly defined as the production, delivery, and use of
competitively priced goods and services, coupled with the achievement of
environmental and social goals.
The Business Council for Sustainable Development, in its 1992
publication, Changing Course, introduced the term "eco-efficiency" to
describe corporations producing economically valuable
goods while continuously reducing the ecological impact associated with
the production of those goods. Before the term existed,
these corporations had already begun to realize the advantages of
eco-efficiency. Some of these business advantages are:
- An eco-efficient production system uses less material, water, and
energy inputs, and thus reduces the cost of manufacturing.
- An eco-efficient product is durable, repairable, and reusable, and
therefore more attractive to consumers.
- An eco-efficient business takes account of its environmental
responsibilities when designing technologies, processes and products. In
doing so, it finds opportunities for efficiency gains and other overhead
The challenge facing the Task Force was to reveal further the factors
that motivate conversion to eco-efficiency and, ultimately, to recommend
a set of policies that would foster the establishment of eco-efficiency
as the standard practice for businesses, individuals, and governments in the
From the outset, the Task Force envisioned an eco-efficient society, in
which ecological and economic values are married, producing cleaner,
safer workplaces, healthy, vibrant communities, and greater economic
opportunity for all Americans. In an eco-efficient
society, market forces would be harnessed to protect the environment.
Supply and demand would be influenced by better information about
environmental impacts and by a heightened sense
of responsibility among all. Price signals would incorporate
eco-efficient values. The more energy and materials
used to make a product and deliver it to the consumer, and the more
waste generated in its manufacture and use, the higher would be the
product's price tag. This is not always the case under the present system.
The Task Force also envisioned an eco-efficient regulatory system that
would maximize environmental protection while enhancing economic
competitiveness. Eco-efficient regulation would rely more on pollution
reduction at the source rather than on costly controls. Eco-efficient
regulation would foster trust and co-operation by inviting public
participation and by recruiting industry partnerships in the discovery of
cost-effective environmental solutions.
In short, the Task Force viewed eco-efficiency as both the end and the
means. Eco-efficiency could produce a high quality environment and a
robust and competitive economy; at the same time ensuring continuing
improvement to both.
Scope of Work: "Cradle-to-Cradle"
The President's Council on Sustainable Development directed its
Eco-Efficiency Task Force to study manufacturing in the United States to
determine how economic growth and environmental protection might be
aligned in a domestic policy agenda.
The Task Force interpreted this charge to include the full range of
manufacturing-related activities in the chain of commerce--not just the
actual production step. So, initially, the Task Force looked at
manufacturing from the time raw materials are extracted to the time
consumers finish with an end-product.
The Task Force soon realized that even this view was not broad enough.
It is an improvement to consider the whole process of product
manufacturing, from "design-to-disposal" rather than simply to look at
isolated steps in that process; but it is still not fully eco-efficient
Borrowing from our understanding of natural systems, in which waste from
one process becomes fodder for the next, the Task Force began using the
phrase, "from cradle-to-cradle," to describe eco-efficient
manufacturing. "Cradle-to-cradle" suggests that manufacturing be
treated not as a linear activity, but as circular. In eco-efficient
manufacturing the waste from one process should provide feedstock for the
next production activity. The products of eco-efficient manufacturing,
once used, should be able to be disassembled or reassembled to become
useful again. Eco-efficient manufacturing is a closed loop, sustainable
In crafting its workplan, therefore, the Task Force took a whole
systems approach to the manufacturing sector. It looked at material
flows to find opportunities to affect supply chain dynamics that
influence raw material extraction and the use of recycled
materials and products. It looked at product storage, shipping,
distribution, and use, to see how these are affected by demand and other
Trends in business competition and strategy, environmental security, and
federal-state-local government relations were also taken into account by
the Task Force in setting its workplan.
Task Force Workplan and Methods
At the core of the Task Force workplan was a series of "cleaner,
cheaper" demonstration projects, modeled in part on the 1993 Amoco/EPA
Yorktown Project. The members
identified possible projects that could highlight eco-efficiency
opportunities both in entire commercial systems and in a variety of
industries. The Task Force recognized the growing
contribution of small businesses. For this reason, the workplan
included studies of nine, small business dominated industries as well as
a new wave of hybrid industrial areas called eco-industrial parks, and
studies of traditional large manufacturers.
The workplan also called for an infusion of ideas from a wide range of
stakeholders, academics, and analysts in four policy clusters:
Information, Economics, Regulatory, and Money and Management.
The Eco-Efficiency Task Force recognized that the process used to
establish goals and formulate its recommendations was as important as
those end-products themselves. Consequently, the Task
Force designed an open deliberative process with multiple
stakeholders. Outcomes were to be based on consensus. Though not
always the easiest or quickest methods for completing a job,
inclusion and consensus engendered creativity and a spirit of trust
among the participants.
This report is a summation of the work of the Eco-Efficiency Task
Force. The goals, policies, and measures of progress put forward in the
report can help to shift the US. economy to one which more effectively
yields environmental security, and economic vitality and social equity.
Chapter 1 discusses the goals that guided all the Task Force work.
Chapter 2 contains recommendations for specific action that can be
undertaken by government, the private sector, environmental groups, and
individual citizens. The work of the demonstration projects and policy
clusters are summarized in Chapters 3 and 4, respectively. The report
concludes with a roster of Task Force membership and acknowledgment of
all those who assisted in formulation of this report.
 The President's Council on Sustainable Development, Sustainable
America: A New Consensus (Washington, D.C., 1996), p. 6.
 The Business Council for Sustainable Development, Changing
Course (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1992), p. 10.
 In late 1989, EPA and Amoco Corporation began a voluntary, joint
project to study pollution prevention opportunities at an Amoco refinery
in Yorktown, Virginia. The study team, which included the Commonwealth of
Virginia, explored technical, legislative, regulatory, institutional, and
economic factors which impede or encourage pollution prevention. The team
learned that better environmental results could be achieved more
cost-effectively at the facility if less prescriptive regulatory
approaches were used, if information collection was improved, and if
additional public-private partnerships could be encouraged.
Chapter 1: Goals
for An Eco-Efficient Economy |