Life-Cycle Based Sustainability Assessment of Products
Sustainability was adopted by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Rio de Janiero as the main political goal for the future development of humankind. It should also be the ultimate aim of product development. According to the well-known interpretation of the original definition given in the Brundtland Report, sustainability comprises three components: environment, economy, and social aspects. These components or ‘pillars’ of sustainability have to be properly assessed and balanced if a new product is to be designed or an existing one be improved.
Depending on the systems to be improved, in the sense of better sustainability, and to the audience(s), i.e. actors or stakeholders, different scientific and practical approaches are being developed. There are notably two directions which can be distinguished: one based on accounting (Environmental Accounting and Environmental Management Accounting—EMA) and another one based on the Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) of products. In this article, the latter approach is described in the hope of improving the mutual understanding of the two communities and their assessment/accounting tools. The responsibility of the researchers involved in the assessment of sustainability is to provide appropriate, reliable, and up-to-date instruments. For the environmental part, there is already an internationally standardised tool: Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA). Life-Cycle Costing (LCC) is the logical counterpart of LCA for the economic assessment. LCC surpasses the purely economic accounting and cost calculation by taking into account the use- and end-of-life phases and hidden costs. For this component, a guideline is being developed by The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). It is a very important point that different life-cycle based methods (including Social Life-Cycle Assessment ‘SLCA’) for sustainability assessment use consistent system boundaries.
SLCA has been neglected in the past, mainly due to great methodological difficulties, but is now beginning to be developed. The central problems seem to be how to relate the social indicators (social impact assessment) quantitatively to the functional unit of the product-system, and how to restrict to a manageable number the many social indicators proposed. Furthermore, a better regional resolution of the Life-Cycle Inventory, compared to conventional LCA, has to be achieved since the social conditions vary geographically much more than, the core element of LCA industrial production.
KeywordsEurope Income Marketing Hunt Lution
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Baumann, H., & Tillman, A. M. (2004). The hitchhiker’s guide to LCA. An orientation in LCA methodology and application. Lund: Studentlitteratur.Google Scholar
- Bennett, M., Bouma, J. J., & Wolters, T. (2002). Environmental management accounting. Informational and institutional developments. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
- Brundtland, G. (Ed.). (1987). Our common future. Oxford: World commission on environment and development.Google Scholar
- Burritt, R. L., Hahn, T., & Schaltegger, S. (2003). Towards a comprehensive framework for environmental management accounting—Links between business actors and environmental management accounting tools. New York: International Federation of Accountants.Google Scholar
- Carlowitz, H. C. (1713). Sylvicultura oeconomica—Naturmäβige anweisung zur Wilden BaumZucht. Leipzig: TU, Bergakademie Freiberg, Akademische Buchhandlung Freiberg.Google Scholar
- Guinée, J. B. (2002). Handbook on life-cycle assessment: Operational guide to the ISO standards. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
- Heijungs, R. (2001). A theory of the environmental and economic systems: A unified framework for ecological economic analysis and decision support. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
- Hunkeler, D., & Rebitzer, G. (2001). Life-cycle costing—Paving the road to sustainable development? Gate to EHS: Life-cycle management. Retrieved April 18, 2001, from http://www.scientificjournals.com/ehs
- Hunkeler, D., Lichtenvort, K., & Rebitzer, G. (2007). Environmental life-cycle costing. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
- ISO (1997). Environmental management—Life-cycle assessment: Principles and framework. Geneva: International organisation for standardisation.Google Scholar
- ISO (1998). Environmental management—Life-cycle assessment: Goal and scope definition and inventory analysis. Geneva: International organisation for standardisation.Google Scholar
- ISO (2000a). Environmental management—Life-cycle assessment: Life-cycle impact assessment. Geneva: International organisation for standardisation.Google Scholar
- ISO (2000b). Environmental management—Life-cycle assessment: Interpretation. Geneva: International organisation for standardisation.Google Scholar
- ISO (2006a). Environmental management—Life-cycle assessment: Principles and framework. Geneva: International organisation for standardisation.Google Scholar
- ISO (2006b). Environmental management—Life cycle assessment: Requirements and guidelines. Geneva: International organisation for standardisation.Google Scholar
- Norris, G. A. (2001). Integrating life-cycle cost analysis and LCA. International Journal of LCA, 6(2), 118–120.Google Scholar
- Ökoinstitut (1987). Projektgruppe Ökologische Wirtschaft: Produktlinienanalyse. Köln: Kölner Volksblatt Verlag.Google Scholar
- Potting, J., & Hauschild, M. Z. (2006). Spatial differentiation in life cycle impact assessment: A decade of method development to increase the environmental realism of LCIA. International Journal of LCA, 11(1), 11–13.Google Scholar
- Rebitzer, G. (2002). Integrating life-cycle costing and life-cycle assessment for managing costs and environmental impacts in supply chains. In S. Seuring & M. Goldbach (Eds.), Cost management in supply chains (pp. 128–146). Heidelberg: Physica-Verlag.Google Scholar
- Shapiro, K. G. (2001). Incorporating costs in LCA. International Journal of LCA, 6(2), 121–123.Google Scholar
- SETAC (1993). Guidelines for life-cycle assessment: A code of practice. Society of environmental toxicology and chemistry, Portugal, Brussels and Pensacola, 31 March–3 April 1993.Google Scholar
- UNEP (1992). Agenda 21: Earth summit—The United Nations Programme of action from Rio. New York: United Nations Publications.Google Scholar
- UNEP/SETAC (2006). Retrieved November 2006, from http://lcinitiative.unep.fr/
- White, A. L., Savage, D., & Shapiro, K. (1996). Life-cycle costing: Concepts and application. In M. A. Curran (Ed.), Environmental life-cycle assessment (pp. 1–19). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar