Cleaner Production (CP) as one major field of international co-operation of the Swiss Government is an output of the Rio Conference on Development and Environment 1992. Equal to other international environmental conventions the Rio Declaration called for a vigorous transfer of environmentally sound technologies and for effective technology transfer mechanisms. In response to this demand, the Secretariat for Economic Affairs (seco) on behalf of the Swiss Government decided to develop a coherent instrument to promote technology transfer working through Cleaner Production Centers (CPCs) or environmental technology centers. The core objectives are to assist the industrial sectors of developing countries to produce in a sustainable manner, thus improving their competitive position. CP is thereby an approach which reduces environmental pollution with positive financial benefits for the enterprise. The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) defines CP as the continuous application of an integrated preventive environmental strategy applied to processes, products, and services in order to increase eco-efficiency and reduce risks to humans and the environment.
For production processes: CP conserves raw materials and energy, eliminates toxic raw materials, and reduces the quantity and toxicity of all emissions and wastes.
For products: CP includes the reduction of negative impacts along the life cycle of a product, from raw material extraction to its ultimate disposal.
For services: CP incorporates environmental concerns into designing and delivering services.
CP is not simply a question of changing equipment: It is a matter of changing attitudes and behaviour in doing business, applying know-how, and improving production processes as well as the product itself. Under future market conditions, companies will have to deliver competitively priced products, which meet customer satisfaction and are produced in an environmental sound manner. CP helps to protect the environment by reducing pollution and waste at the source. This minimizes the environmental impact, improves production efficiency and reduces costs. CP is a proactive approach, “anticipate and prevent philosophy". Prevention is always better than cure.