12. May 2016

Design of Quality – Eco-Effectiveness versus Eco-Efficiency

Starting point

Waste is a thing of the past. From now on, there only are nutrients. All products remain in a steady circle. It only is healthy and unrisky materials that are used. What sounds like a version from remote future already is reality on many places. And this concept has a name: Cradle to Cradle. Ecologically compatible product design is increasingly becoming an issue of quality. In this respect, it is, once again, important to make a distinction between effectiveness and efficiency.

Let’s just quote what Johannes Schmidl writes in his book “Energie und Utopie” (“Energy and utopia”): “The term of efficiency (‘doing the things right’) needs to be extended to that of effectiveness (‘doing the right thing’) so that we do not remain stuck in doing the wrong things right.”


Lessons learned

  • Eco-effectiveness is a concept for circular economy.
  • As a term in environmental and economic sciences, eco-effectiveness is opposed to eco-efficiency.
  • Eco-effectiveness applies to a certain sustainable production process.The term of eco-effectiveness was coined by the German chemist Michael Braungart and the American architect William McDonough in their book “Cradle to Cradle”. In this book, they contrast eco-effectiveness to the economic indicator of eco-efficiency and/or eco-balance, which analyzes the material circle and its environmental impacts from the cradle to the grave.
  • According to Braungart and McDonough, products that can either be re-circulated to biological circles as biological nutrients or are continually being kept in technical circles as “technical nutrients” are eco-effective.
  • Since the early 1990’s, eco-efficiency has increasingly been established in industry: A lower resource input is to help to achieve higher outputswhile reducing environmental impacts by decreasing pollutants. As the time was progressing, however, it became quite obvious that eco-efficiency could slow down the process of pollution and an increasing scarcity of raw materials but could not stop it.
  • The principle of an eco-effective approach runs as follows: Waste equals food. At many natural processes, energy will be wasted just as much as material. Plants and animals will produce large amounts of “waste”. They are not eco-efficient. Still they are eco-effective in spite of this because they are part of a sustainable system that reuses each piece of waste, for example as a fertilizer.



Interdisciplinary Foundation for Integrated Quality Design

Quality is winning through - but what is quality, and how can it be designed? It is with these questions that Univ.-Prof. Erik G. Hansen of IQD (“Institut für Integrierte Qualitätsgestaltung” - Institute for Integrated Quality Design) of JKU (Johannes Kepler University Linz) deals. On April 25, 2016, he held his introductory lecture at JKU.

The professorship was endowed by Quality Austria as main funding body and the Province of Upper Austria. In concrete terms, Univ.-Prof. Erik G. Hansen and his team devote themselves to the questions of innovation management as well as to the effects of new technologies on the environment, energy and sustainability. For more information: https://www.jku.at/en/institute-for-integrated-quality-design/


Network partner

Mr. Wolfgang Hackenauer, MSc

Network partner, Product Expert Environment and Energy

Contact Persons


Mr. Axel Dick, MSc

Executive Vice President Business Development Environment and Energy, CSR

Network partner

Mr. Wolfgang Hackenauer, MSc

Network partner, Product Expert Environment and Energy

Network partner

Mr. Peter Sattler, MAS

Network partner, Product Expert FSC CoC, PEFC CoC and ISO 38200

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