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Eco-efficient producer services What are they, how do they benefit customers and the environment and how likely are they to develop and be extensively utilised?

There is a growing literature on the potential environmental benefits of moving from a product-based to a ‘functional’ economy, in which there is extensive use of services to meet customer’s needs. However, these arguments raise questions which have not yet been answered. Do all shifts from products to services create environmental benefit? If not, which ones do and which ones don’t? And, for those which do, will market forces stimulate their development or is there a case for greater policy support?

These and other questions were addressed by a six-country European Union research project on business-to-business (B2B) services between 1997 and 2001. The study involved 40 short case studies, and 10 more detailed ones, of new services which, on the basis of a broadbrush environmental assessment, appeared to create environmental benefit compared with alternatives. The paper describes the typology of these ‘eco-efficient producer services’ (EEPS) which emerged from the project and discusses the environmental benefits observed and some of the factors which influenced their success or failure in the market place.