Rising energy, water and raw material costs are putting more and more pressures on companies to reduce their environmental footprint. ÖKOPROFIT® helps to address these challenges while closing information gaps connected to resource efficiency and a circular economy in the business sector.
Initiated by the Environmental Office of the Austrian city of Graz in 1991, the aim of ÖKOPROFIT® is to provide an analytical tool that supports local firms with the implementation of clean technologies. This support to the innovation competences of firms leads to reductions in water, waste and CO2 emissions, energy efficiency in industry and as a consequence to economic profits in the long run. A further objective is to foster networking among local authorities and participating firms while supporting the local economy. The concept is a registered trademark and can be licensed through the Austrian Cleaner Production Center (CPC).
The certifying process includes a number of steps:
- Preparatory phase – Local authorities create a partnership with local firms, develop network structures, project planning and structuring.
- Providing tailored training to each company – 8-10 workshops focus on specific resources, but also employee motivation and legal aspects. They are organized within a year by ÖKOPROFIT® consultants together with the public authorities.
- Implementation and evaluation phase – After an assessment of potential changes by ÖKOPROFIT® consultants, these are implemented and in a further step evaluated. If positive, the firm’s environmental management system is certified according to ISO 14001.
- Certifying – the ÖKOPROFIT® label is awarded following the successful evaluation of sustainability criteria.
In several regions, the participating firms have established a club providing support by organising regular workshops that inform about new developments and sharing good practice examples. The individual firms report a variety of resource or emission reductions such as energy, water, carbon footprint etc. The 62 companies participating in the Munich region in 2011, for instance, saved €3.75m and reduced 12.110t CO2. For North Rhine-Westfalia, a survey calculated the cost of the implemented changes at an average €125.000 per firm, with an average amortization being achieved within three years.
ÖKOPROFIT® has won several prizes and has been licensed predominantly in Austria and Germany with several thousand firms participating. There are also cases in Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and at international level. According to some firms, the series of detailed workshops and providing consultancy on-site allows participants to learn about clean production principles and create a better knowledge base. The involvement of a larger number of firms within one region is desirable to facilitate local authorities’ efforts. ÖKOPROFIT® creates a win-win situation through setting up a public-private partnership for local authorities, the private sector and the environment.
ÖKOPROFIT® is estimated to be beyond 9 on the GML scale. The concept has been successfully deployed beyond the initiating region. It is flexible enough to adopt new aspects (e.g. organisational innovations) if desired.