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There are three critical places to look for hidden resource productivity gains:

1. Within the Firm. A company can improve its resource productivity by identifying and eliminating waste, thereby lowering the costs of production. By merging the concepts of conserving mass and energy with the teachings of economics about efficiency, industrial ecology can go even further in helping a firm obtain maximum returns from a given set of inputs, that is, to optimize resource productivity. At the firm level, industrial ecology also spurs attention to opportunities for cost savings that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. In other cases, it has sparked creativity and innovation that has led to unanticipated benefits that go beyond waste minimization. Thinking in industrial ecology terms may also help improve resource productivity by enabling a firm to redefine a product and increase its value to customers.

2. Within the Value Chain. A firm can unearth hidden sources of opportunities by reducing costs up or down the chain of production. By looking at the interdependence between the production and distribution processes and their potential synergies, industrial ecology can help overcome obstacles to more efficient resource use.

3. Beyond the Chain of Production. Industrial ecology offers an opportunity to raise resource productivity. This is by closing loops in conjunction with other industrial facilities in close physical proximity but outside of one’s own production chain. "District heating" where one company’s waste stream is diverted as a source of heat to nearby businesses or residences, offers a well-known example of the sort of symbiosis that is possible.