Production, distribution and consumption are three phases of the product life cycle in conventional industrial economics. These have been criticized for failing to include extraction and disposal, and also the renewal of resource by nature's services.
The Global Resource Bank tries to remove consumption from economics and work exclusively in terms of ecological yield, i.e. production by nature's services, and ignore consumption in the economic equations. This is an extreme view that defies the supply and demand convention in typical economics.
When used in industrial context, production refers to the processing services and changes in the material inputs that lead to a packaged "product". In a service sector business, production and distribution are the same thing and consumption is immediate: the power grid is a good example of this. But a good many products are usually involved behind the scenes. Breaking all of the services involved down into a single service economy model is very difficult.
Accordingly a production process is usually described only in terms of its:
- energy input
- water input
- other material input
- waste output including heat
- labour (or individual capital which is used up in the process)
- infrastructural capital which is worn down in the process
- financial capital invested which must yield some profit in return (though energy economics recommends looking at total energy profit instead, it is probably more of an issue in sustainability than short term performance)
The output is part of some supply chain to some other business, or is just consumed by some user. Social capital which makes customers and workers and owners and suppliers all trust each other, instructional capital that tells them all what to do when, and the natural capital (damaged or converted in extraction and in disposal) are just ignored in typical economics.