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Special Issue "Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment"

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A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 December 2010)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Matthias Finkbeiner (Website)

Chair of Sustainable Engineering, Department of Environmental Technology, Technische Universität Berlin, Office Z1, Strasse des 17, Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, Germany
Interests: assessment and management tools for environmental and sustainability performance; carbon footprint; water footprint; life cycle assessment; social LCA; life cycle costing; resource efficiency; eco-efficiency; life cycle sustainability assessment

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Sustainability is nowadays accepted by all stakeholders as a guiding principle for both public policy making and corporate strategies. However, the biggest challenge for most organisations remains in the real and substantial implementation of the sustainabilty concept. At the core of the implementation challenge is the question, how sustainability can be measured, especially for products and processes. As long as these questions are not answered, there will be no consistent development towards sustainability and the use of the term remains arbitrary.

My hypothesis is, that the systems or life cycle approach has to be applied for all sustainability dimensions (environmental, economical, social) in order to achieve reliable and robust results. This can be put in the conceptual formula based on Klöpffer:

LCSA = LCA + LCC + SLCA

LCSA -= Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment
LCA -= Environmental Life Cycle Assessment
LCC -= LCA-type Life Cycle Costing
SLCA -= Social Life Cycle Assessment

This special issue seeks to demonstrate the important role that life cycle approaches can play for measuring sustainability. It is intended to provide a forum for scientific progress on both the overall concept of life cycle sustainability assessment as well as the individual tools supporting it.

Matthias Finkbeiner
Guest Editor

Keywords

  • life cycle sustainability assessment
  • life cycle assessment
  • life cycle costing
  • social lca

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Life Cycle Costing in Sustainability Assessment—A Case Study of Remanufactured Alternators
Sustainability 2011, 3(11), 2268-2288; doi:10.3390/su3112268
Received: 19 October 2011 / Revised: 8 November 2011 / Accepted: 9 November 2011 / Published: 18 November 2011
Cited by 22 | PDF Full-text (327 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Sustainability is on the international agenda, and is a driver for industry in international competition. Sustainability encompasses the three pillars: environment, society and economy. To prevent shifting of burden, the whole life cycle needs to be taken into account. For the environmental [...] Read more.
Sustainability is on the international agenda, and is a driver for industry in international competition. Sustainability encompasses the three pillars: environment, society and economy. To prevent shifting of burden, the whole life cycle needs to be taken into account. For the environmental dimension of sustainability, life cycle assessment (LCA) has been practiced for a while and is a standardized method. A life cycle approach for the social and economic pillars of sustainability needs to be further developed. This paper investigates the application of life cycle costing (LCC) as part of a wider sustainability assessment where also social life cycle assessment (SLCA) and LCA are combined. LCA-type LCC is applied on a case study of remanufactured alternators. Remanufacturing of automobile parts is a fast growing important business with large potential for cost and resource savings. Three design alternatives for the alternator and three locations for the remanufacturing plant are evaluated. The remanufacturer perspective and the user perspective are investigated. The results for the LCA-type LCC show that the largest cost for the remanufacturer is the new parts replacing old warn parts. However, the user cost, and therein especially, cost for fuel used for the alternator’s power production dominates and should be the focus for further improvement. In conducting the case study, it was revealed that the connection between the LCA-type LCC results and the economic dimension of sustainability needs to be further investigated and defined. For this purpose, areas of protection for life cycle sustainability assessment and LCA-type LCC in particular need further development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment)
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Open AccessArticle Proportioning of Steel Fibre Reinforced Concrete Mixes for Pavement Construction and Their Impact on Environment and Cost
Sustainability 2011, 3(7), 965-983; doi:10.3390/su3070965
Received: 22 May 2011 / Accepted: 16 June 2011 / Published: 8 July 2011
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (734 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Steel fibre reinforced concrete (SFRC) is a construction material investigated for more than 40 years including for pavement applications. A number of studies have demonstrated the technical merits of SFRC pavements over conventional concrete pavements; however little work has been carried out [...] Read more.
Steel fibre reinforced concrete (SFRC) is a construction material investigated for more than 40 years including for pavement applications. A number of studies have demonstrated the technical merits of SFRC pavements over conventional concrete pavements; however little work has been carried out on the environmental and economical impact of SFRC during the pavement’s life cycle. Therefore, extended research was undertaken within the framework of the EU funded project “EcoLanes” to estimate the environmental and economical loadings of SFRC pavements. The innovative concept of the project is the use of recycled steel tyre-cord wire as concrete fibre reinforcement, which provides additional environmental benefits for tyre recycling over landfilling. Within the project framework a demonstration of a steel-fibre-reinforced roller-compacted concrete (SFR-RCC) pavement was constructed in a rural area in Cyprus. In order to assess the economical and environmental picture of the demonstration pavement, life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) and life cycle assessment (LCA) studies were undertaken, which also compared the under study pavement design with four conventional alternatives. The main output of the studies is that SFR-RCC is more environmentally and economically sustainable than others. In addition, various concrete mix designs were investigated by considering parameters such as fibre type and dosage, cement type, and transportation distances to the construction site. Fibre dosage has been highlighted as a crucial factor compared with economical and environmental loadings in SFR-RCC pavement construction. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment)
Open AccessArticle Integration of Social Aspects in Decision Support, Based on Life Cycle Thinking
Sustainability 2011, 3(4), 562-577; doi:10.3390/su3040562
Received: 17 January 2011 / Revised: 27 February 2011 / Accepted: 14 March 2011 / Published: 30 March 2011
Cited by 15 | PDF Full-text (266 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Recently increasing attention has been paid to complementing environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) with social aspects. The paper discusses the selection of social impacts and indicators from existing frameworks like Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA). Two ongoing [...] Read more.
Recently increasing attention has been paid to complementing environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) with social aspects. The paper discusses the selection of social impacts and indicators from existing frameworks like Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA). Two ongoing case studies, addressing sustainability assessment within decision support, were considered: (1) Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in Indonesia; and (2) Integrated Packaging Waste Management in Spain and Portugal (FENIX). The focus was put on social impacts occurring due to decisions within these systems, such as choice of technologies, practices or suppliers. Thus, decision makers—here understood as intended users of the studies’ results—are not consumers that buy (or do not buy) a product, such as in recent SLCA case-studies, but mainly institutions that decide about the design of the water or packaging waste management system. Therefore, in the FENIX project, a list of social impacts identified from literature was sent to the intended users to be ranked according to their priorities. Finally, the paper discusses to what extent the entire life cycle is reflected in SLCA impact categories and indicators, and explains how both life-cycle and on-site-related social impacts were chosen to be assessed. However, not all indicators in the two projects will assess all stages of the life cycle, because of their varying relevance in the different stages, data availability and practical interest of decision makers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment)
Open AccessArticle Sustainability Assessment of a Biorefinery Complex in Thailand
Sustainability 2011, 3(3), 518-530; doi:10.3390/su3030518
Received: 1 February 2011 / Revised: 16 February 2011 / Accepted: 28 February 2011 / Published: 21 March 2011
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (212 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In this paper, a biorefinery complex in Thailand was assessed vis-à-vis sustainability. The complex studied includes plantations of sugarcane and a biorefinery system composed of several units including, a sugar mill, power plant, ethanol factory and fertilizer plant. The assessment aimed at [...] Read more.
In this paper, a biorefinery complex in Thailand was assessed vis-à-vis sustainability. The complex studied includes plantations of sugarcane and a biorefinery system composed of several units including, a sugar mill, power plant, ethanol factory and fertilizer plant. The assessment aimed at evaluating the environmental and socio-economic implications relating to molasses-based ethanol production and use, and maximized utilization of the biomass materials produced as part of the biorefinery complex. Global warming potential, human development index and total value added are the three indicators that were selected to perform the assessment. The results obtained revealed that the maximization of biomass utilization at the level of the biorefinery complex provide greenhouse gases emissions reduction benefits, enhanced living conditions for sugarcane farmers and employees of the biorefinery, and economic benefits, particularly with regard to profit and income generation. These results could serve as a first step to further improve and design indicators for sustainability assessment of biomass utilization. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment)
Open AccessArticle Advancing Integrated Systems Modelling Framework for Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment
Sustainability 2011, 3(2), 469-499; doi:10.3390/su3020469
Received: 18 January 2011 / Revised: 17 February 2011 / Accepted: 18 February 2011 / Published: 23 February 2011
Cited by 59 | PDF Full-text (698 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The need for integrated methodological framework for sustainability assessment has been widely discussed and is urgent due to increasingly complex environmental system problems. These problems have impacts on ecosystems and human well-being which represent a threat to economic performance of countries and [...] Read more.
The need for integrated methodological framework for sustainability assessment has been widely discussed and is urgent due to increasingly complex environmental system problems. These problems have impacts on ecosystems and human well-being which represent a threat to economic performance of countries and corporations. Integrated assessment crosses issues; spans spatial and temporal scales; looks forward and backward; and incorporates multi-stakeholder inputs. This study aims to develop an integrated methodology by capitalizing the complementary strengths of different methods used by industrial ecologists and biophysical economists. The computational methodology proposed here is systems perspective, integrative, and holistic approach for sustainability assessment which attempts to link basic science and technology to policy formulation. The framework adopts life cycle thinking methods—LCA, LCC, and SLCA; stakeholders analysis supported by multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA); and dynamic system modelling. Following Pareto principle, the critical sustainability criteria, indicators and metrics (i.e., hotspots) can be identified and further modelled using system dynamics or agent based modelling and improved by data envelopment analysis (DEA) and sustainability network theory (SNT). The framework is being applied to development of biofuel supply chain networks. The framework can provide new ways of integrating knowledge across the divides between social and natural sciences as well as between critical and problem-solving research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment)
Open AccessArticle A Life-Cycle Approach to Characterising Environmental and Economic Impacts of Multifunctional Land-Use Systems: An Integrated Assessment in the UK
Sustainability 2010, 2(12), 3747-3776; doi:10.3390/su2123747
Received: 8 November 2010 / Accepted: 30 November 2010 / Published: 15 December 2010
Cited by 10 | PDF Full-text (225 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
An integrated environmental and economic assessment of land use for food, energy and timber in the UK has been performed using environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and economic Life Cycle Costing (LCC), to explore complementary sustainability aspects of alternative land uses. The [...] Read more.
An integrated environmental and economic assessment of land use for food, energy and timber in the UK has been performed using environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and economic Life Cycle Costing (LCC), to explore complementary sustainability aspects of alternative land uses. The environmental assessment includes impacts on climate change, ecosystem services and biodiversity, all of which include soil carbon emissions. The systems explored include all processes from cradle to farm ‘gate’. The crops assessed were wheat and oilseed rape (under both organic and conventional farming systems), Scots Pine, and willow and Miscanthus. Food crops, particularly conventional food crops, are shown to have the highest climate-changing emissions per ha, whereas energy and forestry crops show negative net emissions. To a lesser extent, the same situation applies to impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity, with carbon storage in biomass playing a larger role than carbon in soils. The energy and forestry crops in this study show an overall beneficial environmental impact, in particular due to soil carbon sequestration, making these land uses the lowest contributors to climate change. Combining this with the non-renewable CO2 emissions displaced will mean that energy crops have an even lower impact. Economically, conventional food crops present the highest costs per ha, followed by organic food crops, energy and forestry crops. Integrating the results from LCA and LCC shows that the climate impacts per monetary unit of all land uses are dominated by soil management and, in the case of food production, also by fertilisation. Taxes or incentives such as “carbon charging” will encourage changes in practice in these areas to improve the sustainability of land management, mainly by building up Soil Organic Carbon (SOC). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment)
Open AccessArticle Towards Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment
Sustainability 2010, 2(10), 3309-3322; doi:10.3390/su2103309
Received: 31 August 2010 / Revised: 19 October 2010 / Accepted: 21 October 2010 / Published: 22 October 2010
Cited by 104 | PDF Full-text (174 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Sustainability is nowadays accepted by all stakeholders as a guiding principle for both public policy making and corporate strategies. However, the biggest challenge for most organizations remains in the real and substantial implementation of the sustainability concept. The core of the implementation [...] Read more.
Sustainability is nowadays accepted by all stakeholders as a guiding principle for both public policy making and corporate strategies. However, the biggest challenge for most organizations remains in the real and substantial implementation of the sustainability concept. The core of the implementation challenge is the question, how sustainability performance can be measured, especially for products and processes. This paper explores the current status of Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) for products and processes. For the environmental dimension well established tools like Life Cycle Assessment are available. For the economic and social dimension, there is still need for consistent and robust indicators and methods. In addition to measuring the individual sustainability dimensions, another challenge is a comprehensive, yet understandable presentation of the results. The “Life Cycle Sustainability Dashboard” and the “Life Cycle Sustainability Triangle” are presented as examples for communication tools for both experts and non expert stakeholders. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment)

Review

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Open AccessReview The Use of Reference Values in Indicator-Based Methods for the Environmental Assessment of Agricultural Systems
Sustainability 2011, 3(2), 424-442; doi:10.3390/su3020424
Received: 6 December 2010 / Revised: 27 January 2011 / Accepted: 31 January 2011 / Published: 16 February 2011
Cited by 10 | PDF Full-text (237 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Many indicator-based methods for the environmental assessment of farming systems have been developed. It is not the absolute values of the indicators that reveal whether the impact of a system is acceptable, but rather the distance between these values and some reference [...] Read more.
Many indicator-based methods for the environmental assessment of farming systems have been developed. It is not the absolute values of the indicators that reveal whether the impact of a system is acceptable, but rather the distance between these values and some reference values. We reviewed eight frameworks for the environmental assessment of agricultural systems that define reference values for their indicators. We analyzed the methods used to establish reference values and explored how to improve these methods to increase their usage and relevance. This analysis revealed a striking diversity of terminology, sources, and modes of expression of results. Normative reference values allow the assessment of a single system with a previously defined value; Relative reference values are based on indicator values for similar systems or a reference system. Normative reference values can be Science-based or Policy-based. A science-based normative reference value can be a Target value, which identifies desirable conditions, or an Environmental limit, which is the level beyond which conditions are unacceptable. The quantification of the uncertainty of reference values is a topic which is barely explored and warrants further research. Reference values present a means of introducing site specificity into methods for environmental assessment which seems, at present, largely under-exploited. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment)
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