Towards a fair allocation of raw material use for indicators of resource efficiency
Dominique Guyonnet1, Jean-Louis Pasquier2
1BRGM (French Geological Survey), France; 2CGDD (French Ministry of the Environment), France
This paper examines the metrics used to assess the degree of efficiency of raw material utilization. Indicators of resource productivity used by various policy bodies typically divide gross domestic product (GDP) for, e.g., a country or a region, by an estimate of the amount of raw materials consumed by that country or region. But this estimate may be based on a variety of metrics defined using different system boundaries. We compare estimates of resource productivity calculated using three different metrics for raw material consumption: domestic material consumption (DMC), raw material consumption (RMC, i.e., “material footprint”) and raw material input (RMI). Comparison is made using datasets published by UNEP and based on the EORA environmentally-extended multiple-region input-output model. Results illustrate how DMC tends to favour countries that are net importers of raw materials, because raw material flows embedded in these imports are only accounted for in the domestic extraction of the exporting countries. Raw material consumption (RMC) is a far superior metric for estimating resource productivity, but tends however to favour countries that are net exporters of raw materials because embedded raw materials in exported products are retrieved from the metric. As an alternative we suggest using raw material input (RMI) for estimating resource productivity. RMI is a measure of the quantities of raw materials used directly or indirectly by a country in order to create value, as reflected in GDP. It is expressed in raw material equivalents and provides a coherent basis for comparison with the economic wealth generated by a country. The fact that exports are not retrieved from the metric would seem more “fair” in terms of a shared responsibility for environmental burdens. Raw material flows embedded in exports participate in the creation of wealth reflected in GDP and therefore should not be retrieved from the indicator.