Instituting cleaner production systems, usually in the process of increasing productivity.
Environmentally sound technologies are a key element for the protection of the environment, as they are less polluting, use resources in a more sustainable manner and recycle more of their by-products, residues and waste than the technologies they replace. The integration of environmental protection into the industrial production cycle aims at preventing pollution and innovating clean technical production processes which open up strategic opportunities to industry.
The success of cleaner production depends on the extent of stakeholders' involvement and proper use of the capacities currently being developed. Development strategy must focus on the economic principles of demand and self-sustainability to ensure good results.
Manufacturers need to know more about choice of materials for "environment-friendly" products that use less energy to manufacture and/or can be disposed of or recycled in profitable ways. Systems are needed to make optimum use of the stream of materials balanced between composites and efficient material recycling, and resources consumed in production methods.
Many companies are pioneering cleaner production systems under the rubric of 'industrial ecology', which aim to close substance loops and thereby reduce or eliminate toxic pollution and waste generation. Cleaner production has proved popular in industry, at least partly because the costs of this approach tend to diminish over time, while the costs of controlling pollution and cleaning up after the event become increasingly high as new regulations are introduced.
Over the last twenty-five years, there has been a gradual conceptual shift in the way the private sector approaches society's environmental concerns. From the reactive, end-of-pipe compliance approach of the 1970s, to a more public relations approach of the eighties, the private sector is increasingly orientated toward the preventive, cleaner production, eco-efficiency approach of the 1990s. A number of regulatory measures have been enacted to promote this shift to a "cradle-to cradle" or "life-cycle" economy. Additional economic instruments and institutional approaches have been adopted – and are still needed – to re-orient markets towards this economy and sustainability. Development of comprehensive liability and compensation regimes could be a key strategy to achieve environmental and sustainable development goals.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
In order to pursue socioeconomic development without destroying the environment, it is imperative that productivity improvement and environmental preservation are not treated as trade-offs for each other, but as a harmonious objectives which can be maximized together.