Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy

, Volume 21, Issue 10, pp 1993–2004 | Cite as

An integrated full cost model based on extended exergy accounting toward sustainability assessment of industrial production processes

  • Weiqing Meng
  • Beibei HuEmail author
  • Nan Sun
  • Xunqiang Mo
  • Mengxuan He
  • Hongyuan Li
Original Paper


Existing methods for the sustainability assessment of industrial production processes have considered the values of natural resource use and ecosystem services. However, these methods mainly focus on monetary measures of natural capital cost and ignore some other costs, including human health effects, biodiversity loss and indirect exergy consumption in labor employment. The integrated ecological cumulative exergy consumption accounting method was proposed to improve the existing extended exergy model and provide a comprehensive perspective of the full cost of production including natural resources, human resources and environmental cost. The improved model is illustrated by its application for the steel-making process in China. Of the total cost of the steel-making process, the human resources cost (investment) accounts for only 9.7%. Contrary to the traditional cost evaluation, the result of this case study shows that classical economic assessment cannot reflect an overall ecological sustainable level of the steel-making process. The integrated method framework can be used to assess sustainability in a different spatial scale.

Graphic abstract


Exergy Resources exergy consumption Sustainability assessment Energy efficient 



This study was supported by the Grand Science and Technology Special Project of Tianjin (No. 18ZXSZSF00200). We thank Geoffrey Pearce for the English language review. The authors would like to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Weiqing Meng
    • 1
  • Beibei Hu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nan Sun
    • 2
  • Xunqiang Mo
    • 1
  • Mengxuan He
    • 1
  • Hongyuan Li
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Geography and Environmental ScienceTianjin Normal UniversityTianjinChina
  2. 2.Beijing Energy Conservation and Environmental Protection CenterBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Environmental Science and EngineeringNankai UniversityTianjinChina

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