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Sustainability 2017, 9(2), 279; doi:10.3390/su9020279

The Challenges of Applying Planetary Boundaries as a Basis for Strategic Decision-Making in Companies with Global Supply Chains

1
Centre for Environment and Sustainability, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK
2
Unilever Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre, Unilever R&D, Colworth Science Park, Sharnbrook MK44 1LQ, UK
3
Department of Environmental Science, Institute for Water and Wetland Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, Heyendaalseweg 135, 6525 AJ Nijmegen, The Netherlands
4
Centre for Sustainability, Environment and Health (DMG), National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), P.O. Box 1, NL-3720 BA Bilthoven, The Netherlands
5
CIRAIG, Polytechnique Montreal, Department of Chemical Engineering, P.O. Box 6079, Montreal, QC H3C 3A7, Canada
6
Natural Capital Project, Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, 371 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
7
The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA
8
Agrobiodiversity and Ecosystem Services Programme, Bioversity International, Parc Scientifique Agropolis, 34397 Montpellier, France
9
Research Domain of Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
10
Geography Department, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
11
PRé Consultants bv, Stationsplein 121, 3818 LE Amersfoort, The Netherlands
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Department of Management Engineering, Technical University of Denmark, DK-2800 Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark
13
PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Bezuidenhoutseweg 30, 2594 AV The Hague, The Netherlands
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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Geosciences, BayCEER, University of Bayreuth, Universitätsstr. 30, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany
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Georges Lemaître Earth and Climate Research Centre, Earth and Life Institute, Université catholique de Louvain, 3 place Pasteur, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
16
School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and Woods Institute for the Environment, 473 via Ortega, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
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Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry (ACES), Stockholm University, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden
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Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, UNEP, 1 Rue de Miollis, 75015 Paris, France
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Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology of Sydney, P.O. Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia
20
Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2b, 10691 Stockholm, Sweden
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marc A. Rosen
Received: 22 December 2016 / Revised: 26 January 2017 / Accepted: 8 February 2017 / Published: 15 February 2017
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [282 KB, uploaded 15 February 2017]

Abstract

The Planetary Boundaries (PB) framework represents a significant advance in specifying the ecological constraints on human development. However, to enable decision-makers in business and public policy to respect these constraints in strategic planning, the PB framework needs to be developed to generate practical tools. With this objective in mind, we analyse the recent literature and highlight three major scientific and technical challenges in operationalizing the PB approach in decision-making: first, identification of thresholds or boundaries with associated metrics for different geographical scales; second, the need to frame approaches to allocate fair shares in the ‘safe operating space’ bounded by the PBs across the value chain and; third, the need for international bodies to co-ordinate the implementation of the measures needed to respect the Planetary Boundaries. For the first two of these challenges, we consider how they might be addressed for four PBs: climate change, freshwater use, biosphere integrity and chemical pollution and other novel entities. Four key opportunities are identified: (1) development of a common system of metrics that can be applied consistently at and across different scales; (2) setting ‘distance from boundary’ measures that can be applied at different scales; (3) development of global, preferably open-source, databases and models; and (4) advancing understanding of the interactions between the different PBs. Addressing the scientific and technical challenges in operationalizing the planetary boundaries needs be complemented with progress in addressing the equity and ethical issues in allocating the safe operating space between companies and sectors. View Full-Text
Keywords: planetary boundaries; biodiversity; climate change; chemical pollution; water use; business planetary boundaries; biodiversity; climate change; chemical pollution; water use; business
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Clift, R.; Sim, S.; King, H.; Chenoweth, J.L.; Christie, I.; Clavreul, J.; Mueller, C.; Posthuma, L.; Boulay, A.-M.; Chaplin-Kramer, R.; Chatterton, J.; DeClerck, F.; Druckman, A.; France, C.; Franco, A.; Gerten, D.; Goedkoop, M.; Hauschild, M.Z.; Huijbregts, M.A.J.; Koellner, T.; Lambin, E.F.; Lee, J.; Mair, S.; Marshall, S.; McLachlan, M.S.; Milà i Canals, L.; Mitchell, C.; Price, E.; Rockström, J.; Suckling, J.; Murphy, R. The Challenges of Applying Planetary Boundaries as a Basis for Strategic Decision-Making in Companies with Global Supply Chains. Sustainability 2017, 9, 279.

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