“With the exception of some high-flying migrant species, nature doesn't commute to work.” - Janine Benyus, Biomimicry

Aquinas College

Efficiency and Effectiveness


“Modern industrial workers now produce in a week what took their 18th century counterparts four years” (The Worldwatch Institute). Much of this increase in productivity is directly related to an improvement in efficiency. GreenBlue defines eco-efficiency as “the strategy for sustainability of minimizing harm to natural systems by reducing the amount of waste and pollution human activities generate.” Efficiency measures can decrease the amount of energy, labor, and materials used in a system and in turn, benefit the environment and the bottom line of business (as well as our checkbooks). With efficiency, more work is done with fewer inputs.

However, if sustainability is our goal, increasing the efficiency of isolated, individual parts will not be sufficient. A systems approach is needed in order to redesign and create the desired effects of the triple bottom line (environmental, social, and financial capital). This approach to sustainability is often called “eco-effectiveness”. While efficiency has an important role in the transformation to a sustainable society, long term effectiveness needs to be our focus.


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