Sustainability Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise handprint methodological framework

Abstract

Purpose

The Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) project is dedicated to improving the scientific basis for transformative environmental, social, and economic positive changes called handprints. Organizations and individuals can create handprints relative to their business-as-usual (BAU) through voluntary reductions in their own footprint as well as in the footprints of others. The novel SHINE handprint framework expands thus the scope, retains accountability for the outcomes, and increases widespread pursuit of net-positive goals.

Methods

Handprints are quantified using the dynamic life cycle assessment (LCA)-based modeling and measured in footprint-related impact units. Like LCA, the SHINE handprint framework includes the goal and scope definition, inventory analysis, impact assessment, and interpretation. Existing life cycle inventory databases are adopted to promote widespread use of the method. However, in the SHINE handprint framework, the BAU footprint and the actor’s actions and positive changes (handprints) are defined. The scope of the handprint assessment includes changes caused by the action within the system boundary. The BAU footprint is then compared with actual footprint calculated with changes to assess the handprint. An additional element for making comparative claims about net positivity that are meant to be disclosed to the public is an attestation.

Results and discussion

The SHINE handprint framework is demonstrated through a case study collaboration with Interface, a global carpet tiles and flooring manufacturer. Historic handprints are estimated from Interface’s initiative to capture and flare nearby landfill gas and utilize a portion of the captured gas to produce heat in their facility and in a third actor’s facility. The handprints are calculated by dynamic LCA which included Interface’s BAU footprint during the years of landfill gas capture and the amount of natural gas displaced from landfill gas use in both facilities, and the amount flared at the landfill. Results are presented for the years of landfill gas capture and flaring (2003–2016). The results showed Interface could achieve net positive outcomes when all actions leading to positive changes are activated.

Conclusions

While actors’ efforts to reduce their own footprints are essential, this perspective alone may not be enough to encourage the scale of action necessary to face global challenges. The SHINE handprint framework quantifies positive actions and changes caused by an actor, both within and outside the scope of the actor’s footprint. This shift in accounting for change can promote innovation and collaboration by multiple actors, which ultimately creates widespread ripple effects of positive impacts.

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Acknowledgements

This research was part of a SHINE initiative. The authors would like to thank all SHINE members for the fruitful discussions and support within the SHINE initiative. The SHINE member significantly contributed to the development of the scientific basis supporting the SHINE handprint method. We would like to offer special thanks to SHINE members Christian Bauer (SIG), Avantika Shastri (EATON), Erin Mizen and Buddy Hay (Interface), and Russell Greenberg (Stickbulb), as well as Jason Jay from the Sloan School of Management for their invaluable feedback and support in the development of the SHINE handprint methodology and the creation of this paper.

Funding

This research was supported from the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) membership program offered by Materials System Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. SHINE members funded some of the research leading to development of the SHINE handprint method.

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Correspondence to Gregory A. Norris or Jasmina Burek.

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Norris, G., Burek, J., Moore, E.A. et al. Sustainability Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise handprint methodological framework. Int J Life Cycle Assess (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-021-01874-5

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Keywords

  • Handprint
  • Footprint
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Net positive
  • Environmental impacts
  • Impact of positive change
  • Voluntary action