Resource efficiency is not only a critical environmental issue, it also plays a decisive role in industrial competitiveness. Despite the huge potentials present, resource efficiency measures have mostly been enacted only within single factories. However, hidden resource efficiency possibilities of up to 70% of resource costs are available through optimisation of the entire manufacturing value chain.
By using fewer resources and optimising their use, businesses can become more environmentally friendly, competitive and profitable. The potential savings to be found through resource efficiency have been highly touted, with one recent study estimating that with a 100% uptake rate of best-practice in resource efficiency measures, European industry could save over €600 billion per year.
There are a variety of issues at play, though, that currently stand in the way of value chain optimisation, including lack of awareness, insufficient benchmarking data and low incentives due to long pay-back time. However, the main issue remains a lack of holistic, life-cycle thinking at political and business level. Resource efficiency needs to go much further to have a decisive economic impact. Broadly speaking, resource efficiency involves three primary approaches, which in future will need to be integrated closely together:
- Improving resource efficiency of manufacturing processes and at single-factory level;
- Integrating resource efficient process optimisation across the entire industrial value chain;
- (Re-)designing products with life-cycle impact and resource efficiency in mind.
Greenovate! Europe have carried out projects on resource efficiency along value chains, developing analytical tools for identifying resource savings. Example projects include REMake and MEMAN.