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Green with envy - Less waste, more results thanks to new ISO standard for eco-efficiency assessment

by Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis on
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Given today’s economic turmoil, ongoing environmental challenges and pressure to contribute to a more sustainable planet, a new ISO International Standard for applying eco-efficiency assessment to product systems has a huge worldwide potential.

The newly published ISO 14045:2012, Environmental management – Eco-efficiency assessment of product systems – Principles, requirements and guidelines, describes the principles, requirements and guidelines for eco-efficiency assessment for product systems.

Bengt Steen, leader of the team of international experts who developed ISO 14045 explained its significance: "Eco-efficiency is an aspect of sustainability relating the environmental performance of a product life cycle to its value. In a world with growing economies, an eco-efficiency assessment is a necessary management tool to decrease the overall environmental impact.”

“Eco-efficiency is increasingly becoming a key requirement for success in business,” adds Reginald Tan, Co-Chair of the working group that developed the standard: “By applying ISO 14045, users are able to concurrently address the characteristics of the environmental, business and economic sustainability of their products and product systems.”

The goal of eco-efficiency assessment is to optimize the performance value of the product system, for example, its resource, production, delivery or use efficiency, or a combination of these. The value may be expressed in monetary terms or other value aspects. The result: doing more with less.

In practice, eco-efficiency is achieved through the pursuit of three core objectives:

  • Increasing product or service value
  • Optimizing the use of resources
  • Reducing environmental impact

Bengt Steen concludes: “Eco-efficiency is presently measured in a number of ways. To some extent, this may be motivated by varying goal and scope. ISO 14045, however, harmonizes the assessment of eco-efficiency and makes it more transparent, giving increased credibility to assessments that sometimes are regarded as ‘green-washing’".

The key objectives of ISO 14045 are to:

  • Establish clear terminology and a common methodological framework for eco-efficiency assessment
  • Enable the practical use of eco-efficiency assessment for a wide range of product (including service) systems
  • Provide clear guidance on the interpretation of eco-efficiency assessment results
  • Encourage the transparent, accurate and informative reporting of eco-efficiency assessment results

Within eco-efficiency assessment, environmental impacts are evaluated using life cycle assessment (LCA) as prescribed by other International Standards (ISO 14040, ISO 14044).

ISO 14045:2012, Environmental management – Eco-efficiency assessment of product systems – Principles, requirements and guidelines, was prepared by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, Environmental management, subcommittee SC 5, Life cycle assessment. It costs 140 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat through the ISO Store or by contacting the Marketing, Communication and Information department.