The primary interest may lie in the metabolic performance of a firm or household, a sector or a region. In this case, there may be no or insufficient information about specific envi-
ronmental problems. Often the main task is to evaluate the throughput of those entities in order to find the major problems, support priority setting, check the possibilities for improvement measures and provide tools for monitoring their effectiveness.
Accounting for the physical throughput of a firm is becoming more and more commonplace, at least for bigger companies. It is found in corporate environmental reporting. Materials accounts are used for environmental management (see Orbach and Liedtke 1998 for a review for Germany). Eco-efficiency at the firm level has been indicated in reports (for example, WBCSD 1998, 1999 - method overview and pilot study results; Verfaillie and Bidwell 2000 - program activities). Flow analyses of materials have been applied for optimization within companies (Spengler 1998). However, the limited scope of firm accounts calls for complementary analyses with a wider systems perspective, either through LCA-type analyses for infrastructures (Bringezu et al. 1996) and main products (for example, Liedtke et al. 1998) or by analyses of higher aggregates of production and consumption, that is analyses of total production sectors or whole economies.
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