The Resource Revolution Trainer

Coupling Sustainability with Excellence. An online self-training guide for business.

SESSION 3: Principles of Productivity


Session 3 introduces the five principles of the Resource Revolution as defined by Heck & Rogers in their book Resource Revolution. Some illustrative examples are provided, taken from the book and among others the reports of the International Resource Panel (IRP). The principles include that of circularity, substitution and zero waste. 3D printing holds the prospect of radical resource productivity improvements, mindful that its take-up at mass scale will still have to resolve issues of cost and quality control. Recommendations from the IRP are given on, from a dominant resource use and environmental impacts perspective, what materials first and foremost need better alternatives. Also begging for alternatives are unproductive, unsustainable business models, through alternatives such as new brands of product-service-systems.


Support Materials:

[wds id="3"] Click here to download the PowerPoint presentation


Click on the image to download the pdf


The technology provider ATMI took note of the fact that e-waste contains a 100 times as much gold as the best ore in the world found in South Africa. Not being extracted, some 35 percent of the gold that is produced for medical, electrics and industrial uses annually gets thrown away (in the form of e-waste). In response, ATMI developed a water-based solution, safe enough to drink, that dissolves the gold and extracts it from the e-waste. The machine used to do the extraction is the size of a shipping container. Their process contrasts with traditional highly toxic or energy intensive methods of extracting gold from e-waste through the use of acids or smelters.  This invention comes from a company traditionally supplying the semiconductor and life science industries.

Solar Cookers International

Solar thermal cookers have been improved to achieve more than factor five efficiencies and are cost effective, relying on sunlight instead of biomass to cook food. Solar Cookers International operates in Kenya, providing cookers made from cardboard and aluminium foil and costing $10 each. They cook slowly, much like a Crock-Pot and require less than two hours of sunshine to cook a complete meal. A related challenge for all households is the amount of energy used to heat water – which accounts for the bulk of energy use related to water.  Reducing the use of hot water or increasing the efficiency of hot water use can simultaneously reduce water and energy use.
Reflect on the following questions and discuss with colleagues in your company: 

  1. Weigh the principles of productivity in terms of applicability to your business, and consider what goals you can set yourself in applying these.
  1. Make an appointment and meet with your R&D department to discuss possibilities for substitution of resource or material inputs.
  1. Consider the rule of thumb in circularity, the tighter (narrower) the loop (circuit), the greater the value captured and the stronger the competitive differentiation. How does this apply to your business and its product range?
  1. Looking at optimization, what expensive assets of your business are used only a small part of the time or what resource-intensive equipment is active without performing a function? Who can you take this up with?
  1. Write a case for your CEO to commit your company to the goal of zero waste.
  • Business for Social Responsibility and CTIA – The Wireless Association. 2011. Wireless and the Environment. A Review of Opportunities and Challenges. San Francisco: BSR and CTIA – The Wireless Association.
  •  Liker, Jeffrey and Meier, David.  2006. The Toyota Way Fieldbook. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation - circular economy business programmes -
  • Frugal Innovation Hub -
  • UNEP SETAC Life Cycle Initiative -