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Economy | Consumption

Current business practices and economic policies are compromising the very underpinnings of our economic well being, for they are destroying the natural foundations of business and commerce. Two prime examples in this regard are resource over-use and climate change. Hence our overarching goal when it comes to consumption and the economy should be working toward a green economy and sustainable manufacturing and consumption.

The concept of a green economy is a new paradigm for economic development. It allows for a positive and robust interconnection between ecological and economic factors, and is thus a genuine boon to the well being of society as a whole. Transforming our current economy into a green economy will necessitate across the board ecological modernization of our current business practices, particularly in terms of resource use, emission reduction, product design and value chain transformation. Measures that promote environmental innovation will play a key role here. The UBA is currently elaborating guiding principles and is developing recommendations aimed at promoting this transformation process.

To do this, it is necessary to analyze the myriad interrelationships between the environmental and economic aspects of modern life, and to leverage the latent synergies between environmental protection and economic development. For example, it is essential to analyze environmental economics and emerging eco-markets. German companies are world leaders in these rapidly growing markets, and if they successfully maintain this position the German economy stands to benefit greatly. Environmental protection also creates jobs in fields such as climate and resource protection. Environmental protection cost benefit analyses are another key field of endeavor. This involves, for example, prognosticating the potential benefits of environmental policy measures by virtue of the fact that they help to counter environmental pollution and health hazards. The UBA has developed a methodology for projecting environmental costs and has issued recommendations for best-practice estimates in areas such as greenhouse emissions and air pollution.

Industrial manufacturing is one of the key worldwide sources of emissions that pose a hazard for the environment and human health. Hence the UBA is promoting efforts to optimize current environmental standards. Current international environmental protection agreements aim to promote the harmonization of such standards based on the best available techniques (BATs), with the aim of substantially raising the bar in this domain. Such efforts help to avoid situations where environmental pollution is simply “relocated” to states with relatively lax environmental standards. BATs are enshrined in German law as the gold standard. It is essential that both resource use and emissions be permanently reduced to environmentally sustainable levels in the industrial sector . Key to such efforts is the development of innovative eco-friendly manufacturing processes. Energy and environmental management systems are also one of the main drivers of business process optimization. There is also considerable room for improvement in the areas of industrial-accident prevention and plant safety.

But eco-friendly manufacturing processes aren’t enough, for products themselves need to be safer from both an ecological and health standpoint. Key to accomplishing this are product specific environmental standards, which are instrumental when it comes to keeping products contaminant free. Broad-based enshrining of eco-design criteria in industrial products can help to make them safer from an environmental standpoint and more readily recyclable across their entire lifecycles. Measures such as eco-labels and product energy-consumption information enable consumers to separate the wheat from the chaff in the realm of environmental pollution. UBA consumer advice provides consumers with information on how they can live more eco-friendly lives. But of course eco-friendly procurement is also a key factor when it comes to promoting the use of more eco-friendly products.

The Umweltbundesamt

For our environment