Aggregated material flow-based indicators are particularly useful for the monitoring of broad, overarching policy goals and targets, such as those defined in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Most notably, aggregated indicators allow measuring the overall physical size of an economy and identifying its main constituents in material groups. Further, aggregated indicators can be set in relation to economic indicators, allowing assessments of the overall material productivity and decoupling performance of an economy.

Another strength of aggregated measures of material flows is their potential to simplify the public communication process and to reach audiences that usually receive little information about complex economy-environment interactions. This is useful for policymakers and the public at large who need synthesized information without being provided too much detail. The indicators listed in the Accounting Section allow different policy questions to be addressed. These are summarized in the following Table.

 

IndicatorMain policy question
DE
  • What quantities of raw materials are extracted on the domestic territory to sustain economic activities?
  • What is the composition of domestically extracted raw materials and how has this composition changed over time?
DMI
  • Which raw materials form the material basis of the domestic economic system, i.e. production for domestic demand and for exports?
  • What is the relation of domestically extracted versus imported materials, i.e. how dependent is the productive sector of an economy on raw material imports?
DMC (as DMC/cap relevant for SDG 12.2)
  • Which raw materials serve the apparent consumption of a country, i.e. excluding materials and products that are exported abroad?
  • Which environmental pressures occur within the territory due to materials used in an economic system (which either end up as increases in physical stock or as waste and emissions back to the environment)?
  • Which are the (policy) hot-spots for resource management measures related to the domestic consumption of materials?
PTB
  • Is the country a physical net-importer or a physical net-exporter of raw materials?
  • Which raw material groups feature high net-imports, pointing to a potential hot-spot of import dependency?
DPO
  • Which material outflows are related to production and consumption activities of a given country?
  • What quantities of air emissions are being emitted on the national territory? How have climate-related emissions changed over time?
  • Are streams of waste flows back to the environment decreasing or increasing?
GDP/DMC (relevant for SDG 8.4)
  • How much economic value is generated by a unit of material consumed by the domestic economy?
  • Has the economy achieved decoupling between economic growth and direct resource use?
RMI
  • What are the raw material requirements along the supply chains of the domestic economic system?
  • To what extent are resource extraction and related impacts outsourced to other countries?
  • What is the level of dependence on direct and indirect imports?
RMC (as RMC/cap relevant for SDG 12.2)
  • What are the raw material requirements along the supply chains of goods and services which satisfy the apparent consumption of a country?
  • Which environmental pressures occur within and outside the territory due to materials used in an economic system?
  • Which are the (inter)national (policy) hot-spots for resource management measures related to the domestic consumption of materials?
RTB
  • Is the country a physical net-importer or a physical net-exporter of raw materials, including raw material equivalents of imports and exports?
  • Which raw material groups feature high net-imports, pointing to a potential hot-spot of import dependency?
GDP/RMC (relevant for SDG 8.4)
  • How much economic value is generated by a unit of material consumed directly and along supply chains by the domestic economy?
  • Has the economy achieved decoupling between economic growth and direct and indirect material use?

 

DE ... Domestic Extraction

DMI ... Direct Material Input

DMC ... Domestic Material Consumption

PTB ... Physical Trade Balance

DPO ... Domestic Processed Output

RMI ... Raw Material Input

RMC ... Raw Material Consumption

RTB ... Raw Material trade Balance

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