Entropic economy & planetary borders

….we are measuring the wrong thing

The crossing of the planetary borders is the most critical and most existential human problem of our time.

  • With soils, rainforests and coral reefs, the most important CO2 sinks and their contribution to negative entropy (negentropy) disappear
  • Fossil energy sources, ecological overexploitation increase entropy, also due to the emergence of Climate gases → Imbalance in the Earth’s radiation budget Reduced infrared radiation prevents entropy degradation.

The further consequences of the rapid global entropy increase through economic activities are :

  • Acidification and eutrophication of aquatic ecosystems,
  • soil erosion
  • forest degradation
  • loss of biodiversity
After crossing the planetary boundaries, ecosystems are no longer able to maintain equilibrium and therefore meet the tipping points.

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Changing the Way We Measure Success

Distance to Tipping Points

  • Planetary boundaries mark the global boundaries of ecological carrying capacity or the boundaries of entropy receptivity.
  • If the limit is threatened to be exceeded, the budgets of all producers must be reduced → Consideration of regional and social aspects.
  • Whoever operates within his limit is rewarded.
  • Those who work regeneratively are rewarded even more.
  • Limit overruns = entropy overrun is punished exponentially.
  • The algorithm should take into account best practice, industry average and local carrying capacity limits, among other things.
  • Geodatabases and LCA databases serve as database.
The e³ rating  system measures the following in the categories of entropy and syntropy  contribution (negative entropy)

e³ Rating – The Way We Measure Success

Syntropy as operating system for economy of the 21st century

  • In order to survive, the organization of the economy in the 21st century must have a symmetrical effect to that of the 20th century. → Syntropy instead of entropy
  • Every economic design must be regenerative, i.e. it must positively promote the development of ecosystem functions. A “Do not Harm” is no longer an option.
  • e³ Rating = economic x ecologic x ethic. Distributive issues such as local share of value added, gender issues and “good laboratory” are taken into account. Sustainability limits and industry budgets correspond to the current state of knowledge
  • The e³ rating integrates ethical and environmental behaviour into the competition mechanism, companies no longer compete for the cheapest offer price but for the best price/sustainability ratio.
  • Investors and institutions are enabled to check the fulfilment of ethical and ecological requirements with the e³ Score. e³ also creates the basis for a fair tax system.
  • Financial investments or tenders: the contract is awarded to whoever achieves the highest sustainability effect with the lowest capital investment.

Project goals

  • Proof of concept: Project delivers application (DAPP) for Absolute Environmental Sustainability Indicator (AESI) based on Planetary Borders and SDG 30
  • Application of e³ ratings to at least 3 real projects. Simulation of changes in limit values and plausibility checks
  • Field testing and further development of the method
  • An aggregated key figure plus numerous scores in categories of the panetarian borders enable companies to compare best practice and state of the art and show improvement potentials for the company.
  • Involvement of experts to derive a scientifically based allocation approach for translating planetary boundaries to the company level, proposals for application for planning projects, settlements…
  • Effort for sustainability ratings is drastically reduced
  • e³ acts as an “invisible green hand” (see Adam Smith) sets the course for decoupling the increase in prosperity from entropic resource consumption.
The e³ rating system transforms ethical and environmentally responsible conduct into a competitive advantage for companies.

Advantages for the economy

  • World first: records absolute sustainability performance of companies, projects or products with one key figure
  • Reliable frame of reference: Planetary Borders and SDG 30
  • A reliable navigator for the restructuring of the economy
  • Everyone can join in
  • Fully automated → Simultaneous sustainability assessments for thousands of companies
  • Radical cost reduction through secondary use of data (geo, environment, sustainability, life cycle assessment)
  • Customers and investors have a wider choice of sustainable products/companies.
  • Enables simple specifications for public contracts
  • Simplifies project selection for impact investors

Advantages for SMEs

  • Products with sustainability ranking give SMEs a competitive advantage
  • Start-ups with e³ ratings in particular are preferred by investors
  • Fully automated service → low cost
  • Numerous key figures and recommendations for improving the score increase resource efficiency and cost structure



Carrying Capacity
The maximum sustained environmental intervention a natural system can withstand without experiencing negative changes in structure or functioning that are difficult or impossible to revert.

Negative entropy is also called syntropy.

is understood here as an irreversible devaluation of nature through economic processes. Energy and matter are transformed from available forms (usable resources) into no longer available forms (waste) by the economic processes.

The basis for the e³ rating is the Donught Model by Kate Raworth

Scientific Basis


  • Anders Bjørn et al. (2016) , Modifying life cycle assessment to measure absolute environmental sustainability, Ecological Indicators Volume 63, April 2016, Pages 1-13
  • Crutzen, P. J. (2002): Geology of mankind. Nature 415 (6867), p. 23.
  • Dearing, J.A., Bullock, S., Costanza, R., Dawson, T.P., Edwards, M.E., Poppy, G.M., Smith, G., 2012. Navigating the perfect storm: research strategies for social-ecological systems in a rapidly evolving world. Environ. Manag. 49 (4):767–775. http://dx.doi.org/10. 1007/s00267-012-9833-6.
  • Dearing, J.A., Wang, R., Zhang, K., et al., 2014. Safe and just operating spaces for regional social-ecological system. Glob. Environ. Chang. 28:227–238. http://dx.doi.or /10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.06.012.
  • Dearing, J.A., Acma, B., Bub, S., et al., 2015. Social–ecological systems in the Anthropocene:the need for integrating social and biophysical records at regional scales. Anthropol.Rev.:1–27 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/2053019615579128.
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, SUN (Stiftungsfonds für Umweltökonomie und Nachhaltigkeit) (2015): Growth within. A circular economy vision for a competitive Europe. London, Cowes, Bonn: Ellen MacArthur Foundation, McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, SUN.
  • EU JRC Report 2016: Global environmental impacts and planetary boundaries in LCA, ISBN 978-92-79-64667-6 ISSN 1831-9424 doi:10.2788/64552
  • EU JRC Report 2017: Global normalisation factors for the Environmental Footprint and Life Cycle Assessment PDF ISBN 978-92-79-77213-9 ISSN 1831-9424 doi:10.2760/88930
  • Fang, Kai,Reinout Heijungs, Geert R.De Snooa, 2015: Methodological and Ideological Options; Understanding the complementary linkages between environmental footprints and planetary boundaries in a footprint–boundary environmental sustainability assessment framework. Ecological Economics Volume 114, June 2015, Pages 218-226 Elsevier,
  • Hastings, A., Wysham, D.B., 2010. Regime shifts in ecological systems can occur with no warning. Ecol. Lett. 13:464–472. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01439.x.
  • Häyhä et al. (2016): Häyhä T., Lucas P.L., van Vuuren D.P., Cornell S.E., Hoff H.: From Planetary Boundaries to national fair shares of the global safe operating space — How can the scales be bridged? Global Environmental Change 40 (2016) S. 60-72.
  • Nordhaus, T., Shellenberger, Blomqvist, L., 2012. The Planetary Boundary Hypothesis: a Review of the Evidence. Breakthrough Institute, Oakland, CA.
  • Raworth, K., 2012. A safe and just space for humanity: can we live within the doughnut?Oxfam Discussion Paper. Oxfam, Oxford, UK
  • Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., et al., 2009a. A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 46, 472–475.
  • Rockström, J., Steffen, W., Noone, K., et al., 2009b. Planetary boundaries: exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecol. Soc. 14, 32.
  • Ryberg et al. (2016): Ryberg M.W., Owsianiak M., Richardson K., Hauschild M.Z.: Challenges in implementing a Planetary Boundaries based Life-Cycle Impact Assessment methodology. In Journal of Cleaner Production 139 (2016) S. 450-459.
  • Sanding et al. (2015): Sandin G., Peters G.M., Svanström M.: Using the planetary boundaries framework for setting impact – reduction targets in LCA contexts. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (2015) 20: 1684-1700..] und (Chanjief Chandrakumarab, Sarah J.McLarena, 2018):
  • Sietz, M.et al. (2012): Making sustainability tangible through entropy analysis – What can entropy that other indicators cannot do? pp. 19-34, In: Making sustainability tangible, entropy increase as a measure of sustainability. Jakl, T. und Sietz, M. (Ed.), Diplomatic Academy Vienna, Favorita Papers 01/2012
  • Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., Cornell, S.E., Fetzer, I., Bennett, E.M., Biggs, R.,Carpenter, S.R., de Vries, W., de Wit, C.A., Folke, C., Gerten, D., Heinke, J., Mace, G.M., Persson, L.M., Ramanathan, V., Reyers, B., Sörlin, S., 2015. Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet. Science 80:347. http://dx.doi.org/10. 1126/science.1259855 1259855.
  • Steffen, W., Broadgate, W., Deutsch, L., Gaffney, O., Ludwig, C. (2015a): The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration. The Anthropocene Review 2 (1), S. 81–89.
  • SRU (2012): Environmental report 2012: Responsibility in a limited world. Berlin: Erich Schmidt.
  • UBA TEXTE 87/2017, Discussion of ecological limits of the primary raw material extraction and development of a method for the evaluation of the ecological raw material availability for the further development of the criticality concept (ÖkoRess I) concept volume. Federal Environment Agency TEXTE 87/2017 Environmental Research Plan of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Construction and Nuclear Safety Research code 3713 93 302 UBA-FB 002560
  • WBGU (2014): German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU): Civilisational progress within planetary guard rails – A contribution to the SDG debate (Policy Paper No. 8). Berlin, 2014.

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