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108 The resource reduction index – evaluating product design's contribution to a sustainable circular economy

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Proceedings (peer-reviewed)
Author Desing Harald, Gregor Braun, Hischier Roland,
Project Laboratory for Applied Circular Economy (LACE)
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Proceedings (peer-reviewed)

Title of proceedings Proceedings of the 20th European Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production
DOI 10.3217/978-3-85125-842-4-02

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Primary resource consumption is a main driver for global environmental change, including the climate crisis. Hence, reaching climate targets requires material production to change significantly. For the global scale, we have developed the Ecological Resource Availability (ERA) method quantifying primary resource budgets. If those budgets are respected, major Earth system boundaries are not transgressed with high confidence. Product design and the implementation of circular strategies have the potential to reduce the pressure on these limited resources significantly. Nevertheless, the question, how much a product needs to reduce its environmental impacts to reach a sustainable level and respect planetary boundaries remains open. In the present contribution, we define and introduce the resource reduction index (RRI) to answer this question. RRI quantifies and evaluates the degree to which a specific product design respects planetary boundaries. RRI is designed as an absolute and generally applicable indicator, which is able to show the achievements of resource reduction targets on different levels (products, companies, sectors, countries). It is therefore relevant also beyond product and service design. Its applicability is shown here with a case study of a circular jacket, which is designed for an almost perfectly closed material loop. Different scenarios – from a prototype to an industrial scale utilizing the full circular potential – show that circular strategies effectively reduce the pressure on limited resources and the environment. However, only the most advanced scenario, combining multiple and fully implemented circular strategies, can achieve absolute sustainability respecting planetary boundaries.