Industrial Resource Efficiency

Decarbonization Avenue : Industrial Resource Efficiency

Natural resource extraction, processing and manufacturing sectors are responsible for about 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. Not surprisingly hence, for most industries with large greenhouse gas emissions, a large portion of their carbon footprint is upstream. 

Improving resource efficiencies in these upstream industrial sectors can have a cascading positive impact on decarbonization. Consider a car that has been designed and manufactured with resource efficiencies in mind so that it weighs 10% less than usual. Not only does this mean fewer CO2 emissions per vehicle during mining of the raw materials and manufacturing operations, it also means less fuel consumption for the car for the long period (10 years or more) that it is used.

Industrial resource efficiency is one of the least discussed of decarbonization avenues, but it could also be one of the most attractive for many businesses to strive for. As with energy efficiency, resource efficiency can result in benefits that businesses understand - excellent financial returns.

Many avenues are available for resource efficiencies, and some of them had already been implemented over the past many decades, across many industries. But with the increased emphasis on a product’s carbon footprint, focus on waste management, and advent of Industry 4.0, industrial resource efficiencies can reach newer heights, to the benefit of all stakeholders.

Improvements are possible through changes in inputs, better process controls, equipment modification, changes in technologies used, onsite reuse and recycling, value recovery from side streams, and improved product design and production.

Decarbonization potential

Materials are an important source of greenhouse gases.

Emissions from the production of materials (all materials inclusive - from metals to wood and plastics) increased from 5 billion tons of CO2-equivalent in 1995 to 11 billion tons in 2015, with their share of global emissions rising from 15% to 23%. This is a substantial proportion that puts material production greenhouse emissions in the same league as those from agriculture, forestry and land-use change. Interestingly, the materials production sector has received much less attention in the context of decarbonization.

Given the large share of CO2 emissions from materials industrial resource efficiency when implemented comprehensively can have a significant bearing on the total global CO2 emissions.

Industries impacted

  • Aerospace & defense
  • Automobiles & auto components
  • Chemicals & petrochemicals
  • Construction & real estate
  • Consumer durables
  • Electrical
  • Engineering goods & machinery
  • Fertilizers
  • Food & beverages
  • Mining & metals
  • Oil & gas
  • Packaging & plastics
  • Printing & publishing
  • Paper & forest products
  • Textile & apparel
  • Waste management
  • Water

Latest News on Industrial Resource Efficiency

Themes & Topics

  • Approaches & principles

    • Design

    • Process optimization

    • Waste minimization

    • Waste utilization

  • Use of digital & IT tools

    • IoT

    • Artificial intelligence/Big Data

    • Cloud

    • Wireless

  • Industry 4.0

    • Additive manufacturing

  • Recycling

  • Value recovery from industrial side streams

  • Capacity building

  • Collaboration

    • Within industry

    • Between industries 



  • Production processes

    • New processes

    • Modifications to current processes

    • New equipment

  • Resource utilization

    • Utilization of production side streams

    • Resource sharing for better utilization

      • Resource exchanges

  • Case studies by industry

    • Agriculture

    • Automotive

    • Construction

    • Engineering goods & machinery

    • Food & beverages

    • Pharmaceuticals

    • Paper & forest products

    • Textiles & fashion

    • Metals

    • Chemicals & fertilizers

    • Oil & gas


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