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You are here: Home / Publications / Environmental Risk Assessment - Approaches, Experiences and Information Sources / Example: The Current Status of Concepts Relevant for Cleaner Technology Assessment at European Level

Example: The Current Status of Concepts Relevant for Cleaner Technology Assessment at European Level


3. The Current Status of Concepts Relevant for Cleaner Technology Assessment at European Level

Concepts and/or methods for assessment of cleaner technology (cleaner production, waste minimisation etc.) are very scarce, so other areas of relevance have been studied as well.

Two areas in particular are mentioned here;

Environmental Performance Indicators at corporate, national and international/EU levels and LCA developed as an internationally accepted methodology. Cleaner technology initiatives are mentioned and available data on evaluation are described.

Environmental Performance Indicators

'Green accounting' and development of Environmental Performance Indicators is being widely accepted as a means of keeping account of the development towards a more sustainable society. Integration of environmental issues into the accounts of companies or states has been debated and different models have appeared at national and corporate level.

3.1 International initiatives

International initiatives

The following initiatives have been identified:

UN and the World Bank have published a Handbook for a Satellite System for Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (SEEA) in 1993.

OECD has developed a 'Pressure-State-Response' system, which is gradually being accepted also by the EU7. In this concept 'pressures' are pressures on the environment from human activities, e.g. emissions of VOC, CO2 etc., 'state' refers to the state of the environment, i.e. the resulting quality of the environment and 'response' are the answers from society to solve the problems (e.g. energy-saving measures, development of pollution prevention concepts and options, cleaner technologies, etc.).

The Dobrís Assessment7 published by the EEA mentions that the Commission is taking initiatives to focus on chemicals and their fate and toxicity in the environment. In the assessment (Chapt.17) it is noted that: The general lack of toxicological information should be seen against the fact that almost 80 per cent of hazardous waste comes from the chemical industries. A number of chemical substances have attracted a great deal of attention over the past few decades and monitoring programmes are being carried out. The properties which are of concern are low degradability (persistence), carcinogenicity, possible infertility effects, neurotoxic effects, respiratory allergens and eutrophication effects (from nutrients). Recently the occurrence of pesticides and their residues in the groundwater has caused great concern (in Denmark and other countries).

The European Community sees chemicals as one of the prominent environmental problems. Council Regulation 93/793/EEC set up a long-term strategy to identify and control risks from some existing chemicals. This is to be reached through a three-step approach (Dobris Assessment7, Chapt. 38):

  • The initial phase (June 1993-June 1994) included the assessment of approximately 1800 chemicals produced or imported in amounts above 1000 tonnes per year (high volume chemicals). Fewer data are required for chemicals manufactured or imported in quantities between 100 and 1000 tonnes per year.
  • Phase two, which began in 1994, aims to publish at regular intervals a priority list of substances 'requiring immediate attention because of their potential effects on human health and the environment' involving a co-operative procedure among the Member States. Special attention will be given to substances having chronic effects, those toxic to reproduction and mutagens.
  • The third step includes risk assessment and the development of a control strategy. The priority chemicals have been divided between Member States in order to perform individual risk assessment. As part of the chemical risk control strategy the aim is to strengthen environmental research with the aim of improving, among other things: the understanding of processes whereby chemicals are distributed between the various compartments, their fate once there, how they affect the structure and functioning of ecosystems, the search for ways to prevent pollution effects and to restore damaged ecosystems, etc.

EU and Eurostat

EU has in the Fifth Environmental Action Programme taken several initiatives as regards environmental indicators. Some of those are in preparation but they are described because they are relevant in this context:

  • A common European framework and reference for accounting for all activities of the EU in the area of green accounting; a Handbook on a European System for Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (ESEA), which will be comparable to the UN handbook but will take into account European specificities and already existing activities8.
  • A system of integrating indices for economic performance and environmental pressure is being developed to form a European System of Integrated Economic and Environmental Indices (ESI), with the aim of providing comparable systems of integrated environmental and economic indices in the EU.
  • A European System of Environmental Pressure Indices (ESEPI)9 is being developed. Eurostat is responsible for this programme and the intention is to collect indicators, set priorities and establish sets of European Weighting Coefficients for the aggregation of such indicators into environmental pressure indices. The process is carried out in two steps: 1) collecting suggestions for indicators and selection of indicators and 2) weighting the indicators.

At this stage Eurostat operates with directly expressed indicators within the following ten policy areas:

  • Resource depletion
  • Water pollution and water resources
  • Waste (which includes life cycle assessment)
  • Climate Change
  • Air pollution and acidification
  • Ozone layer depletion (was omitted in the first round since it is heavily regulated)
  • Dispersion of toxins
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Marine environment and coastal zones
  • Urban problems, noise and odours

Water pollution is placed in a specific group and care should be taken to avoid calculation of the same effects here and as regards the marine environment, acidification and dispersion of toxins. Distribution of the effects between the themes air pollution and dispersion of toxins should also be considered carefully. How intra-theme weighting is taken care of is not yet published.

The ISO/CD 14031 draft standard on Environmental Performance Evaluation includes suggestions for Environmental Performance Indicators. The standards include suggestions for deciding when it will be appropriate to select indicators that are: absolute, relative, normalised/indexed, qualitative, aggregated or weighted. It is recommended to use care when aggregating and weighting data to ensure verifiability, consistency, comparability and understanding.

Examples of different types of indicators are shown, corresponding to identified significant environmental aspects of a particular industry.

3.2 National initiatives

Environmental Policy Performance Indicators

The Netherlands has a system of Environmental Policy Performance Indicators within 7 themes and goals set for each of these. The themes are:

  • climate change
  • stratospheric ozone depletion
  • acidification
  • eutrophication
  • dispersion of toxic substances
  • disposal of solid waste
  • disturbance of local environments

From these themes, seven target groups are singled out and within each target group the main polluting agents responsible for environmental damage are identified. The target groups are: agriculture, traffic and transport, industry, the energy sector, refineries, building and construction, and consumers. Several agents belong to more than one theme, so intra-theme weighting factors are set. The EPI is then expressed as closeness to goal, i.e. theme equivalent/goal for theme equivalent.

A relatively new system in the Netherlands is NAMEA, which aims at integrating indicators into the National Accounting Matrix including Environmental Accounts.

This system does only to a limited degree take the state of the environment into account.

France has a system of National Patrimony Accounts which includes economic, ecological and social environments in a multi-level data system. In this system raw statistics and data summaries are used on lower levels and aggregated indices of welfare are used on the highest level.

Environmental-Economic Accounting

Germany has started a system of Environmental-Economic Accounting, for which the German Statistical Office in Wiesbaden is responsible. In this system the environmental themes included are:

  • material and energy flow accounts, raw materials, consumption and polluter structure
  • use of land and space
  • state of the environment - indicators
  • environmental protection measures
  • avoidance/prevention costs for attaining a (sustainable) standard

The German system includes provision for the UN system SEEA.

State-of-the-environment indicators

In Denmark the Ministry of the Environment and Energy each year since 1994 has published a booklet on environmental indicators for the country (in Danish).The booklet covers the following areas (1995)10:

  • Climate change
  • The ozone layer
  • Acidification
  • Urban problems
  • Landscape
  • Drinking water/groundwater
  • The Sea

The policy areas used correspond with the ones chosen by Eurostat, but a slightly different angle is chosen since the aim is to protect the state of the environment. The following indicators are used:

  • For the first three policy areas the indicators used are total emitted tonnes per year of the relevant substances and for some of the effects also deposition per hectare.
  • Urban problems are evaluated for a variety of areas. The percentage of green areas in the cities is stated, amounts of municipal waste as tonnes per year and wastewater as the percentage treated (by different methods). Traffic is shown as indexed development and air pollution as measured concentrations of relevant agents.
  • Landscape is evaluated in terms of areas allocated for different purposes. For each type of area environmental effects on species are expressed as a decrease in the number of hunted animals or counts of indicator species.
  • Groundwater is evaluated in terms of total amounts used and pollution of groundwater is compared with standards.
  • Indicators for the sea are expressed as total emitted amounts of eutrophicating substances to the sea and coastal areas, effects are expressed as oxygen contents, etc. compared with goals. The effects on fished species or counts of indicator species are used.

3.3 Industry initiatives

Environmental Performance Indicators

Environmental Performance Indicators (EPIs) are used for environmental reporting and several examples can be seen from the large industries' environmental reports11. Up till now the environmental reports seen have been mainly from large international groups and from industries, with a verified environmental management system, mainly the Environmental Management and Auditing Scheme, which requires published environmental reports.

In Denmark the law on 'green accounting' requires a number of listed industries to produce an environmental report each year. When presenting the environmental pressures from the industry it is allowed to use EPIs instead of actual physical emissions. No specific method of presentation is required but the major amounts of pollutants must be stated as far as they are a part of production processes, are emitted to air, water and soil, are part of the products or part of the waste. Information on chemicals/pollutants can be collected into groups determined e.g. by risk - this could be done according to classification for labelling.

Environmental Indicators for consumption of raw materials

The EU project 'Environmental Indicators for the Sustainable Utilisation of Raw Materials'12 includes a discussion of development of indicators at company level. The background is that materials are becoming more scarce. The project attempts to define what is 'sustainable use of materials'. It evaluates which indicators could be useful to describe interactions between the company, the economy and the environment. It attempts to make the most of data companies already have (or can easily collect) and to ensure consistency between internal and external reporting.

Three elements of sustainability in the use of materials are identified:

  • Minimising environmental impacts that are associated with the use of materials, at all stages in their lifecycles, especially long-term, local and irreversible impacts.
  • Developing less material-intensive products and services - 'doing more with less'.
  • Closing material loops - moving from a linear flow of materials from cradle to grave to a system in which they circulate with less dissipation and losses. Indicators are suggested for each of these elements, but the indicators suggested are not grouped according to any overall idea of areas important to ensure a sustainable development (except the elements mentioned above), which are relevant for sustainable production.

3.4 Tools for lifecycle assessments

LCA tools

The Danish EDIP method used in the present project is supported by the Danish EPA, the Ministry of Energy and Environment and the Association of Danish Industries. EDIP is an acronym for Environmental Design of Industrial Products. The EDIP method is a handbook and a computer programme/package aimed at product development with the use of LCA. One of the possible applications of EDIP is environmental evaluation of product and production concepts and one of these could be cleaner technology evaluation. The method is not explicit in explaining how this can be done and the concept developed in the CEIDOCT project is an illustration of this application as well as a further development of the method.

The EDIP method is in agreement with the guidelines outlined by SETAC13. The method is made operational with the aim of having professionals making conscious choices along the way and leaving any weighting to the last step in order to keep results as transparent as possible.

Priority areas in the EDIP method are divided into groups of environmental effects and resources consumption:

Environmental Effects

  • Global warming
  • Acidification
  • Photochemical ozone formation
  • Human toxicity
  • Ecotoxicity
  • Persistent toxicity
  • Nutrient enrichment (eutrophication)
  • Nuclear waste
  • Slag and ashes
  • Bulk waste

Resources Consumption

  • Crude oil
  • Coal
  • Natural gas
  • Brown coal
  • Water
  • Single minerals (Fe, Mn,...)

For specific purposes in EDIP the indicators above are divided into four groups as shown in the Figure 3.1:

Figure 3.1 Assessment parameters in LCA, covered by M, E, C and O


Environmental Impacts

Resource consumption

Impacts on the working environment


Bulk waste
Slag and ashes

Resources used in materials
Mainly reversible consumption



Global warming
Photochemical ozone formation
Nutrient enrichment
Bulk waste
Slag and ashes
Nuclear waste

Energy carriers, especially fossil resources and wood.
Mainly irreversible consumption.



Ozone depletion
Photochemical ozone formation
Persistent toxicity
Human toxicity
Hazardous waste

Resources used in the production of chemicals

Impacts related to chemical exposure: cancer, damage to the reproductive system, allergy and damage to the nervous system



Monotonous repetitive work, noise, work accidents

The Dutch Eco-design manual uses the concept of a MET Matrix as a way of structuring the environmental analysis of a product. The letters MET stand for Material cycle, Energy use and Toxic emissions. The power of the matrix is that it can be used as an aid to a project team to focus on all stages of the project lifecycle and on the simplified environmental aspects linked to the lifecycle stages for the particular product. This is also referred to in the PROMISE manual.

In the Dutch application the materials are input and output of materials that are exhaustible or create a lot of emission during production (examples are copper, lead and zinc), incompatible materials and inefficient use or non-reuse of material in all stages of the product lifecycle.

Input and output of energy not only include energy from production itself, but also from transport, operation and maintenance as well. No division is made between the energy sources used.

Toxic emissions cover identified toxic emissions in all stages of the lifecycle, emitted to land, water and air. Identification of toxics is done for chemicals used at all stages of the lifecycle.

Another guideline is the Nordic Guidelines on Life-Cycle Assessment14 which also is in accordance with the SETAC principles. This guideline aims to develop a Code of Practice for LCA built on Nordic Consensus and to provide industry and other practitioners with a set of guidelines for LCA, mainly 'key issue identification' LCAs, which might be used when results are to be communicated to authorities. The conclusions of technical reports in general are that shortcuts are rarely possible without a change in results. This means that one should be careful if simplifying data in an LCA (use of average data, leaving out data etc.), but it is allowed, provided the data are transparent and the consequence of shortcuts are analysed.

3.5 Cleaner Technology initiatives

Cleaner Technology in the Member States

Cleaner Technology Strategies in EU Member States have been described in a report to the Commission DG XI15. Cleaner Technology principles are included in command and control legislative measures still in only a few countries. The cleaner technology concept is included in several policy documents in the EU Member States, but actual enforcement is very weak.

The promotion of the cleaner technology concept in general seemed to be executed by voluntary incentives, like grant schemes, subsidies and information activities rather than compulsory incentives like approval schemes and financial instruments, e.g. taxes.

Education, training programmes and information on the topic is widespread. In countries like Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Belgium demonstration projects have been carried out, with possibilities to get consultancy assistance. More countries are starting up demonstration programmes, e.g. the Irish EPA is launching a programme for 1997-1998. Of the above mentioned, Denmark was the first to actually carry out an evaluation of the cleaner technology programme16.

Evaluation of the Danish programme

The evaluation of the Danish programme included conclusions, which to some degree resulted in the present project. Some of the conclusions of interest for this project were that the environmental effects of cleaner technologies have been estimated relatively as well as absolutely. It was found that pollution reductions per unit produced were substantial, while the absolute outcome varied from sector to sector. One result was that the effects obtained in certain sectors with the introduction of cleaner technologies were of a size to ensure quick compliance with the voluntary agreements on VOCs.

It was found necessary, in order to better verify the effects of cleaner technologies, to get better and more systematic environmental data. The documentation of achieved environmental results need improvement. It was concluded: 'that the increased interest for environmental performance reviews underline the necessity to develop key environmental parameters, which can be used also in a broader context.'

In the report on Cleaner Technology Strategies a definition of cleaner technology has been suggested to the Commission:

'Cleaner technology is the conceptual and procedural approach to the development, purchase and use of processes and products preventing and reducing internal and external environmental problems throughout the product life cycle by integrating options to:

  • minimise amounts and hazards of gaseous, liquid and solid wastes,
  • minimise accidental risks from chemicals and processes,
  • minimise consumption of raw materials, water and energy, and
  • substitute chemicals and processes less hazardous to human and ecological health.'

This definition conforms with the ideas behind the CEIDOCT project and largely with the definition by the Danish EPA.

Conclusions of relevance for the CEIDOCT concept

It can be concluded that cleaner technology assessment tools have not yet been developed. It would in particular be of interest to have tools which could also be used in a broader context. Attempts have been made at EU level to define cleaner technology in a lifecycle perspective, and to define sustainable use of materials in a way which involves the use of cleaner technologies.

Assessment tools and indicators have been developed within areas in close connection with the concept of cleaner technologies, e.g. LCAs and EIAs. Indicators are being developed at national and international level for control and presentation of the pressures on and the state of the environment.

From the indicators listed in this Chapter it can be seen that there is considerable international consensus on the indicators used as regards global and regional problems. More discrepancy is seen with indicators for local effects.

The international priority areas, the growing tendency to look at cleaner technologies in a lifecycle perspective and the recognised need 'to do more with less' using materials in a sustainable way are used as basis for the development of the CEIDOCT indicators suggested in this project.

7: Stanners, D. and Bourdeau, P. (ed.): 'Europe’s Environment', The Dobrís Assessment, European Environmental Agency, 1995
8: 'Sustainable Accounting' - support document for preparation of the conference 'Taking Nature into Account' Brussels 31 May - 1 June 1995.
9: Eurostat "Pressure Indices Project", second expert survey. Long lists of indices within policy areas.
10: Environmental Indicators,"Miljøindikatorer" Miljøministeriet, 1995, in Danish
11: "Environmental Performance Indicators in Industry" , European Green Table, August 1993.
12: Environmental Resources Management:'Establishing Environmental Indicators for the Sustainable Utilisation of Raw Materials' for European Commission Directorate-General for Industry, June 1996
13: SETAC-Europe (1992): Life-Cycle Assessment. SETAC-Europe, Brussels, Belgium
14: 'Nordic Guidelines on Life-Cycle Assessment', Nordic Council of Ministers, Nord 1995:20.
15:RENDAN, Krüger and tme, 'Cleaner Technology Strategies in EU-Member States', European Commission, DG XI, 1994.
16: Information from the Danish EPA no. 5/1995, 'Evaluation of the achievements reached with cleaner technology, 1987-1992', In Danish, with English summary.

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