Cleaner production is a preventive, company-specific environmental protection initiative. It is intended to minimize waste and emissions and maximize product output. By analysing the flow of materials and energy in a company, one tries to identify options to minimize waste and emissions out of industrial processes through source reduction strategies. Improvements of organisation and technology help to reduce or suggest better choices in use of materials and energy, and to avoid waste, waste water generation, and gaseous emissions, and also waste heat and noise.
The concept was developed during the preparation of the Rio Summit as a programme of UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) and UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) under the leadership of Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel, the former Assistant Executive Director of UNEP. The programme was meant to reduce the environmental impact of industry. It built on ideas used by 3M in its 3P programme (pollution prevention pays). It has found more international support than all other comparable programmes. The programme idea was described "...to assist developing nations in leapfrogging from pollution to less pollution, using available technologies". Starting from the simple idea to produce with less waste Cleaner Production was developed into a concept to increase the resource efficiency of production in general. UNIDO has been operating National Cleaner Production Centers and Programmes (NCPCs/NCPPs) with centres in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe.
In the US, the term pollution prevention is more commonly used for cleaner production.
Examples for cleaner production options are:
One of the first European initiatives in cleaner production was started in Austria in 1992 by the BMVIT (Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie). This resulted in two initiatives: "Prepare" and EcoProfit.
The "PIUS" initiative was founded in Germany in 1999. Since 1994, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization operates the National Cleaner Production Centre Programme with centres in Central America, South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe.