Policy has so far not taken full advantage of the tools offered by the “material flows” school of thought. Resource Productivity (RP) is amongst the normative concepts currently popular among policy makers the nearest one to Material Input Per Service unit (MIPS). However, the RP concept falls substantially short of the MIPS idea, as it puts resource use in relation to the monetary value of production, while MIPS makes reference to services actually delivered by the products. Moreover, the indicator currently used by the European Commission for monitoring RP lacks in life-cycle perspective, which is essential in the MIPS concept. The present paper illustrates, by using Italian case evidence, some of the current RP indicator shortcomings and it discusses a possible alternative, by introducing the life-cycle perspective. In Italy, RP has grown faster than both energy and labour productivity since 1980. This apparently shows that Italy is moving in the right direction. However, a deeper and more extensive analysis regarding the country’s natural resource requirements is necessary before a conclusion can be drawn about the sustainability of the Italian socio-economic process. Therefore, on the one hand we disaggregate material consumption (i.e.
, the denominator of RP) into its components; on the other hand we extend the analysis to overall material requirements, including indirect material flows associated with international trade. These analyses, although limited to used materials (i.e.
, to resource requirements in Raw Material Equivalents), demonstrate that the Italian success in increasing RP is largely due to the transferring abroad of material flows and ecological burden.