The view that positive ecological, economic and social development need to be combined for sustainable development (SD) is a generally accepted concept. In practice, however, the focus is on achieving ecological advantages to support SD, e.g. through IPP (integrated product policy), ecolabelling etc.
This paper shows that integration of economic advantages – by using them sensibly – can achieve huge ecological savings, compared to ecological advantages alone. By way of example, the paper discusses a case in which part or all of the economic advantage of low-cost products is invested in better thermal home insulation, thus saving heating energy. This mainly yields savings of primary energy and various emissions resulting from the burning of non-renewable resources.
The paper formulates a proposal to better support and speed up SD, by using low-cost products and investing part or all of the resulting cost advantage in ecologically sensible optimisations. In all options investigated, this would lead to much greater ecological gain than could be achieved by just purchasing the ecologically most advantageous product. The cost advantage can of course also be invested in social optimisation, such as improving medical services.
The paper concludes that there is no clear relation between ecological and environmental performance. Low-cost products can have excellent results in quantitative life cycle analysis (LCA) and vice versa.