Research Project “Holistic management of energy- and resource efficiency in companies” (MERU)

We are nearing the planet’s ecological limits, in large part due to current consumption and production patterns. Although energy and resource efficiency have improved considerably in recent years as a result of innovation, absolute consumption of energy and raw materials has not sufficiently decreased. One reason for this is the so-called “rebound effect”.

Rebound refers to an increase in the consumption of energy or resources, which can occur as a side effect of increased efficiency – for example, when savings from reduced consumption costs due to efficiency gains are subsequently spent on new goods or investments. These in turn consume energy and materials. The rebound effect can thus partially or completely negate efficiency-related reductions in consumption.

While important insight on rebound effects in consumption has been gained in the past few years, there is still much to be learned about these effects in production or within companies.

Against this background, the aim of MERU is to investigate rebound effects in companies both conceptually and empirically and to develop recommendations for businesses and policies.

First, a conceptual basis will be developed. Then practical insight will be gained through:

  • comparative case studies in ten companies
  • a comprehensive survey of SMEs and large enterprises
  • dialogue with companies

The project team will use this insight to develop strategies and methods for identifying, holistically managing and reducing rebound effects in companies. At the end of the project, practical recommendations will be presented for companies, the public sector and science.

This project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research within the funding priority of “Social-Ecological Research”. The project team is led by the Oeko-Institut and includes the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), the Centre for Sustainability Management (CSM) at Leuphana University in Lüneburg, the Data Center Group and the business association B.A.U.M.. The German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency (DENEFF), Baden Wuerttemberg Agency for Environmental Technology and Resource Efficiency (Umwelttechnik BW) and ten companies from various sectors are also involved as practice partners in the project.