International Environmental Technology Centre 



Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs)

Environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) encompass technologies that have the potential for significantly improved environmental performance relative to other technologies.

Broadly speaking, these technologies:

  • protect the environment

  • are less polluting

  • use resources in a sustainable manner

  • recycle more of their wastes and products

  • handle all residual wastes in a more environmentally acceptable way than the technologies for which they are substitutes 

Furthermore, environmentally sound technologies are not just "individual technologies", but total systems which include know-how, procedures, goods and services, equipments as well as organizational and managerial procedures. This requires both the human resource development (including gender relevant issues) and local capacity building aspects of technology choices. There is also the need to ensure that ESTs are compatible with nationally determined socio-economic, cultural and environmental priorities and development goals.

In the complex relationship between development and the environment, technology provides a link between human action and the natural resource base. Faced with limited global natural resources, the people of the world must seek to achieve more sustainable forms of development. As a result, the application of new, resource efficient ESTs has become crucial for both development and the environment. Technology cannot compensate for or mitigate the deep-rooted social causes of environmental problems or the short-comings of political and social policies, but the need for sustainable development in the world today is real. The availability of ESTs via cooperative technology transfer depends largely on political willingness at the international level to pursue an innovative environmental agenda.

The dynamics of technological change will not be limited to one technology for developed countries and another for developing countries. Instead, cutting-edge and traditional technologies will coexist across the globe. In order for developing countries to make the best use of ESTs, however, they must increase their ability to assess, analyze and choose technologies based on their own needs and development priorities, and then adapt these technologies to specific local conditions. Technology in its new role, will be an essential factor on the path towards sustainability.