The two main forces affecting economic development are the ongoing technological revolution and the challenge of sustainability. Technological change is altering patterns of production, consumption and behaviour in societies; at the same time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ensure the sustainability of these new patterns because of the constraints resulting from the negative externalities generated by economic growth and, in many cases, by technical progress itself.
Reorienting innovation towards reducing or, if possible, reversing the effects of these externalities could create the conditions for synergies between the two processes. Views on the subject vary widely: while some maintain that these synergies can easily be created if growth follows an environmentally friendly model, summarized in the concept of green growth, others argue that production and consumption patterns are changing too slowly and that any technological fix will come too late. These considerations apply to hard technologies, essentially those used in production. The present document explores the opportunities being opened up by new ones, basically information and communication technologies, in terms of increasing the effectiveness (outcomes) and efficiency (relative costs) of soft technologies that can improve the way environmental issues are handled in business management and in public policy formulation and implementation.