Edgar Hertwich's research focuses on understanding how economic production and consumption activity utilizes natural resources and gives rise to pollution and other impact. He studies the economy as a biophysical system which also needs to follow the laws of nature. Important research includes the Carbon Footprint of Nations and a similar analysis on land use, indicating that resource use and impacts increase with affluence. He also conducts work on environmental impacts of energy technologies and potential energy futures. He has served as a lead author of energy chapter of the IPCC 5th assessment report and a working group leader of the International Resource Panel. He founded the MSc program in industrial ecology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.