WE.1.C || Methodological Approaches to Assess Life Cycle Consequences

Oosterhoff, Hendrik; Golsteijn, Laura; Ryberg, Morten Walbech; Laurent, Alexis

Absolute Environmental Sustainability Assessment (AESA) is a novel methodology that applies life-cycle based assessments, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), for quantifying and linking environmental impacts to absolute environmental boundaries for the Earth’s life support systems. So far, AESA failed to be effectively applicable for companies in a business-to-business context. The methodology is based on traditional LCA and includes two additional step. First, the final environmental impacts are expressed as a share of the environmental boundary occupied. Second, the assessment is expanded with an evaluation of the assigned share of the environmental budget. This assigned share is the portion of the budget that could reasonably be assigned to the object of study, be it a product, company or sector. Ultimately, the two shares, the occupied and the assigned, are compared. The final comparison determines whether a larger share is occupied than assigned, i.e. absolute unsustainable, or vice-versa, i.e. absolute sustainable. A new framework is proposed that allows AESAs for any company, regardless of the relationship with their clients, which was not able as such before. The occupied share is determined with an organizational LCA. For the assigned share, a three-step procedure is proposed. In the procedure, input-output tables are used to translate the needs of individuals throughout the global economy, which is the basis for the share of the planetary budgets each company gets. The proposed framework is tested in a real-life case study for a global construction material company. The company was found to occupy a significantly larger share of the planetary budgets, than they got assigned, in some scenarios even a factor 100. The case study proofed the proposed framework to be effective in determining the absolute sustainable performance of the company, i.e. whether it exceeds the carrying capacity of planet Earth.