How to bring absolute sustainability into decision-making: An industry case study using a Planetary Boundary-based methodology

Morten W. Ryberg*, Mikołaj Owsianiak, Julie Clavreul, Carina Mueller, Sarah Sim, Henry King, Michael Zwicky Hauschild

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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    Abstract

    The Planetary Boundaries concept has emerged as a framework for articulating environmental limits, gaining traction as a basis for considering sustainability in business settings, government policy and international guidelines. There is emerging interest in using the Planetary Boundaries concept as part of life cycle assessment (LCA) for gauging absolute environmental sustainability. We tested the applicability of a novel Planetary Boundaries-based life cycle impact assessment methodology on a hypothetical laundry washing case study at the EU level. We express the impacts corresponding to the control variables of the individual Planetary Boundaries together with a measure of their respective uncertainties. We tested four sharing principles for assigning a share of the safe operating space (SoSOS) to laundry washing and assessed if the impacts were within the assigned SoSOS. The choice of sharing principle had the greatest influence on the outcome. We therefore highlight the need for more research on the development and choice of sharing principles. Although further work is required to operationalize Planetary Boundaries in LCA, this study shows the potential to relate impacts of human activities to environmental boundaries using LCA, offering company and policy decision-makers information needed to promote environmental sustainability.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Volume634
    Pages (from-to)1406-1416
    Number of pages11
    ISSN0048-9697
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Keywords

    • Life cycle assessment
    • Life cycle impact assessment
    • Safe operating space

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