Addressing environmental sustainability of biochemicals

Ólafur Ögmundarson, Markus J. Herrgård, Jochen Forster, Michael Zwicky Hauschild, Peter Fantke

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Producing biochemicals from renewable resources is a key driver for moving towards sustainable societies. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a standardized tool to measure related progress by quantifying environmental sustainability performance of chemical products along their life cycles. We analysed LCA studies applied to commercialized commodity biochemicals produced through microbial fermentation. The few available studies show inconsistencies in coverage of environmental impacts and life cycle stages, with varying conclusions. Claims of better sustainability performance of biochemicals over fossil-based chemicals are often based on comparing global warming impacts, while ignoring other impacts from bio-feedstock production. To boost sustainable biochemicals, we recommend that LCA practitioners include the broader range of impact indicators and entire life cycles, follow standards and guidance, and address missing data. The biochemical industry should systematically use LCA to direct research, identify impact hotspots, and develop methods to estimate full-scale process performance. This will promote biotechnology as important contributor to solving existing sustainability challenges.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Sustainability
ISSN2398-9629
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

Cite this

@article{c5443cd100bc460b80bbb3aced4e5b22,
title = "Addressing environmental sustainability of biochemicals",
abstract = "Producing biochemicals from renewable resources is a key driver for moving towards sustainable societies. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a standardized tool to measure related progress by quantifying environmental sustainability performance of chemical products along their life cycles. We analysed LCA studies applied to commercialized commodity biochemicals produced through microbial fermentation. The few available studies show inconsistencies in coverage of environmental impacts and life cycle stages, with varying conclusions. Claims of better sustainability performance of biochemicals over fossil-based chemicals are often based on comparing global warming impacts, while ignoring other impacts from bio-feedstock production. To boost sustainable biochemicals, we recommend that LCA practitioners include the broader range of impact indicators and entire life cycles, follow standards and guidance, and address missing data. The biochemical industry should systematically use LCA to direct research, identify impact hotspots, and develop methods to estimate full-scale process performance. This will promote biotechnology as important contributor to solving existing sustainability challenges.",
author = "{\'O}lafur {\"O}gmundarson and Herrg{\aa}rd, {Markus J.} and Jochen Forster and Hauschild, {Michael Zwicky} and Peter Fantke",
year = "2020",
doi = "10.1038/s41893-019-0442-8",
language = "English",
journal = "Nature Sustainability",
issn = "2398-9629",
publisher = "Nature Research",

}

Addressing environmental sustainability of biochemicals. / Ögmundarson, Ólafur; Herrgård, Markus J.; Forster, Jochen; Hauschild, Michael Zwicky; Fantke, Peter.

In: Nature Sustainability, 2020.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Addressing environmental sustainability of biochemicals

AU - Ögmundarson, Ólafur

AU - Herrgård, Markus J.

AU - Forster, Jochen

AU - Hauschild, Michael Zwicky

AU - Fantke, Peter

PY - 2020

Y1 - 2020

N2 - Producing biochemicals from renewable resources is a key driver for moving towards sustainable societies. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a standardized tool to measure related progress by quantifying environmental sustainability performance of chemical products along their life cycles. We analysed LCA studies applied to commercialized commodity biochemicals produced through microbial fermentation. The few available studies show inconsistencies in coverage of environmental impacts and life cycle stages, with varying conclusions. Claims of better sustainability performance of biochemicals over fossil-based chemicals are often based on comparing global warming impacts, while ignoring other impacts from bio-feedstock production. To boost sustainable biochemicals, we recommend that LCA practitioners include the broader range of impact indicators and entire life cycles, follow standards and guidance, and address missing data. The biochemical industry should systematically use LCA to direct research, identify impact hotspots, and develop methods to estimate full-scale process performance. This will promote biotechnology as important contributor to solving existing sustainability challenges.

AB - Producing biochemicals from renewable resources is a key driver for moving towards sustainable societies. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a standardized tool to measure related progress by quantifying environmental sustainability performance of chemical products along their life cycles. We analysed LCA studies applied to commercialized commodity biochemicals produced through microbial fermentation. The few available studies show inconsistencies in coverage of environmental impacts and life cycle stages, with varying conclusions. Claims of better sustainability performance of biochemicals over fossil-based chemicals are often based on comparing global warming impacts, while ignoring other impacts from bio-feedstock production. To boost sustainable biochemicals, we recommend that LCA practitioners include the broader range of impact indicators and entire life cycles, follow standards and guidance, and address missing data. The biochemical industry should systematically use LCA to direct research, identify impact hotspots, and develop methods to estimate full-scale process performance. This will promote biotechnology as important contributor to solving existing sustainability challenges.

U2 - 10.1038/s41893-019-0442-8

DO - 10.1038/s41893-019-0442-8

M3 - Journal article

JO - Nature Sustainability

JF - Nature Sustainability

SN - 2398-9629

ER -