The Eco-Innovation Challenge

The Eco-Innovation Challenge


to ensure that those efficiency gains are not offset by growth in the total consumption of

natural resources. The perception of eco-innovation as being limited to producing “green

products” must be overcome to realise the full potential of eco-innovation.

Resource efficiency: Key trends and targets

Tracking trends: resource use and material productivity

Recent increases in relative material productivity have been significant in Europe; with an

annual increase of 3.2% (when GDP is measured in purchasing power standards, when

measured in exchange-rate values annual growth has been 2.2%) between 2000 and

2007. The EU has a material productivity similar to the United States, but much lower than

Japan. Nevertheless, consumption levels are increasing in absolute terms. Global material

extraction and consumption have grown from around 40 billion tonnes in 1980 to around 60

billion tonnes in 2007.

Future outlook: targets for sustainable resource consumption

Establishing targets for resource consumption is necessary if companies are expected to

invest seriously as well as to signal ambitions towards effective resource-efficiency policies.

This report puts forward Factor 2 (reducing consumption by 50%) to Factor 5 (reducing

consumption by 80%) targets for the absolute reduction in material consumption by 2050.

A concerted effort towards transferring the scope of macro-level targets and providing

appropriate incentives down to the scale of companies, where action is taken, is needed.

This would make the eco-innovation challenge more tangible for companies and other

stakeholders. Harmonised methodologies to measure progress across the EU will allow

for better comparison and assessment of progress towards achieving overall city, regional,

country, EU and global targets.

The EU: Eco-innovation performance of countries

The eco-innovation scoreboard

Tools to measure innovation have been developed and in place for a number of years,

but tools to measure eco-innovation were largely missing. The EIO intends to fill this gap

with the eco-innovation scoreboard; a new tool to track the eco-innovation performance

of countries. According to the first edition of the scoreboard, Finland, Denmark, Germany,

Austria and Sweden are the most eco-innovative countries in the EU. A closer look at the five

components comprising the scoreboard (eco-innovation inputs, eco-innovation activities,

environmental outcomes, eco-innovation outputs and socio-economic outcomes) reveals

that no country performed well across all categories. Finland, for example, is the most ecoinnovative

country according to the overall index, but ranks 19th in environmental outcomes.

Understanding country performance

Eco-innovation performance is correlated with GDP and competitiveness. Currently, no

direct relationship can be established between good eco-innovation performance and neither

low nor high material consumption. The top five countries of the scoreboard have relatively

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