Advertisement

Contributions to the sustainable development goals in life cycle sustainability assessment: Insights from the Handprint research project

  • Michael Kühnen
  • Samanthi SilvaEmail author
  • Janpeter Beckmann
  • Ulrike Eberle
  • Rüdiger Hahn
  • Christoph Hermann
  • Stefan Schaltegger
  • Marianne Schmid
Originalbeitrag / Original article

Abstract

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent consensual, global scale targets, encouraging not only the fight against unsustainable aspects in society (e. g., poverty or hunger) but also positive contributions to sustainable development (e. g., renewable energy use or human well-being). The SDGs are, however, not per se designed as a performance measurement system for businesses and products. Consequently, research is challenged to develop convincing approaches and indicator systems that capture how businesses contribute to the SDGs.

Against this background, the Handprint approach was developed. This paper documents methodological developments of a respective research project and extends the focus from reducing unsustainable, negative business practices toward striving for positive contributions to sustainable development in sustainability assessment and management. We first summarize the status quo of assessing positive contributions to sustainable development in research and practice. While a “Footprint” approach primarily measures negative environmental and/or social impacts, the “Handprint” approach focuses on positive contributions to sustainable development. Second, we illustrate and prioritize core assessment categories and indicators. Third, we describe how a sustainability assessment approach to evaluate positive contributions to sustainable development at the product level was developed and demonstrate its feasibility in a pilot case study.

Keywords

Handprint Life cycle sustainability assessment Sustainable development goals Product sustainability assessment Multi-method approach Fuzzy set theory 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (grant number: 01UT1422C), for which the authors and project team are very grateful.

Conflict of interest

M. Kühnen, S. Silva, J. Beckmann, U. Eberle, R. Hahn, C. Hermann, S. Schaltegger and M. Schmid declare that there is no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Arcese G, Lucchetti MC, Massa I, Valente C (2016) State of the art in S‑LCA: Integrating literature review and automatic text analysis. Int J Life Cycle Assess.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-016-1082-0 Google Scholar
  2. Bansal P (2005) Evolving sustainably: a longitudinal study of corporate sustainable development. Strateg Manage J 26(3):197–218.  https://doi.org/10.1002/smj.441 Google Scholar
  3. Baumann H, Arvidsson R, Tong H, Wang Y (2013) Does the production of an airbag injure more people than the airbag saves in traffic? J Ind Ecol 17(4):517–527.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12016 Google Scholar
  4. Baumgartner RJ, Ebner D (2010) Corporate sustainability strategies: sustainability profiles and maturity levels. Sust Dev 18(2):76–89.  https://doi.org/10.1002/sd.447 Google Scholar
  5. Benoît C, Norris GA, Valdivia S, Ciroth A, Moberg A, Bos U, Prakash S, Ugaya C, Beck T (2010) The guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products: Just in time! Int J Life Cycle Assess 15(2):156–163.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-009-0147-8 Google Scholar
  6. Beske-Janssen P, Johnson MP, Schaltegger S (2015) 20 years of performance measurement in sustainable supply chain management: what has been achieved? Supply Chain Manag 20(6):664–680.  https://doi.org/10.1108/SCM-06-2015-0216 Google Scholar
  7. Blass V, Corbett CJ (2018) Same supply chain, different models: Integrating perspectives from life cycle assessment and supply chain management. J Ind Ecol 22(1):18–30.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12550 Google Scholar
  8. Burks SV, Krupka EL (2012) A multimethod approach to identifying norms and normative expectations within a corporate hierarchy: evidence from the financial services industry. Manage Sci 58(1):203–217.  https://doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1110.1478 Google Scholar
  9. Burritt R, Schaltegger S (2014) Accounting towards sustainability in production and supply chains. Br Account Rev 46(4):327–343.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bar.2014.10.001 Google Scholar
  10. Corona B, Bozhilova-Kisheva KP, Olsen SI, San Miguel G (2017) Social life cycle assessment of a concentrated solar power plant in Spain: a methodological proposal. J Ind Ecol 21(5):1566–1577.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12541 Google Scholar
  11. Curran MA (2013) Life cycle assessment: a review of the methodology and its application to sustainability. Curr Opin Chem Eng 2(3):273–277.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.coche.2013.02.002 Google Scholar
  12. Denyer D, Tranfield D (2009) Producing a systematic review. In: Buchanan DA, Bryman A (eds) The sage handbook of organizational research methods. SAGE, London, pp 671–689Google Scholar
  13. Di Cesare S, Silveri F, Sala S, Petti L (2018) Positive impacts in social life cycle assessment: State of the art and the way forward. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23(3):406–421.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-016-1169-7 Google Scholar
  14. Dhingra AK, Rao SS, Kumar V (1992) Nonlinear membership functions in multiobjective fuzzy optimization of mechanical and structural systems. AIAA J 30(1):251–260.  https://doi.org/10.2514/3.10906 Google Scholar
  15. Doran GT (1981) There’s a SMART way to write management’s goals and objectives. Manage Rev 70(11):35–36Google Scholar
  16. Dreyer L, Hauschild M, Schierbeck J (2006) A framework for social life cycle impact assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(2):88–97.  https://doi.org/10.1065/lca2005.08.223 Google Scholar
  17. Eberle U, Schmid M (2016) A preliminary methodological framework to assess potential contributions of food to sustainable transformation. In: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food 2016, pp 328–333Google Scholar
  18. Ekener E, Hansson J, Gustavsson M (2018) Addressing positive impacts in social LCA: Discussing current and new approaches exemplified by the case of vehicle fuels. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23(3):556–568.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-016-1058-0 Google Scholar
  19. Ekener-Petersen E, Moberg Å (2013) Potential hotspots identified by social LCA: part 2 - reflections on a study of a complex product. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(1):144–154.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-012-0443-6 Google Scholar
  20. Finkbeiner M, Schau EM, Lehmann A, Traverso M (2010) Towards life cycle sustainability assessment. Sustainability 2(10):3309–3322.  https://doi.org/10.3390/su2103309 Google Scholar
  21. Fontes J, Tarne P, Traverso M, Bernstein P (2018) Product social impact assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23(3):547–555.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-016-1125-6 Google Scholar
  22. Freidberg S (2018) From behind the curtain: talking about values in LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23(7):1410–1414.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-015-0879-6 Google Scholar
  23. George C (2001) Sustainability appraisal for sustainable development: Integrating everything from jobs to climate change. Impact Assess Proj Apprais 19(2):95–106.  https://doi.org/10.3152/147154601781767104 Google Scholar
  24. Gibson RB (2013) Avoiding sustainability trade-offs in environmental assessment. Impact Assess Proj Apprais 31(1):2–12.  https://doi.org/10.1080/14615517.2013.764633 Google Scholar
  25. Govindan K, Khodaverdi R, Jafarian A (2013) A fuzzy multi criteria approach for measuring sustainability performance of a supplier based on triple bottom line approach. J Clean Prod 47:345–354.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2012.04.014 Google Scholar
  26. Grießhammer R, Buchert M, Gensch C-O, Hochfeld C, Manhart A, Rüdenauer I (2007) PROSA: Product Sustainability Assessment. Öko-Institut, FreiburgGoogle Scholar
  27. Guenther E, Schneidewind U (2017) Sustainability management: Integrating the multiple dimensions of an interdisciplinary research discipline. Umw Wirtsch Forum 25(1-2):1–4.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00550-017-0460-9 Google Scholar
  28. Hacking T, Guthrie P (2008) A framework for clarifying the meaning of triple bottom-line, integrated, and sustainability assessment. Environ Impact Assess Rev 28(2-3):73–89.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eiar.2007.03.002 Google Scholar
  29. Hart SL, Milstein MB (2003) Creating sustainable value. Acad Manage Exec 17(2):56–67.  https://doi.org/10.5465/AME.2003.10025194 Google Scholar
  30. Haupt M, Vadenbo C, Hellweg S (2017) Do we have the right performance indicators for the circular economy? Insight into the Swiss waste management system. J Ind Ecol 21(3):615–627.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12506 Google Scholar
  31. ISO (2006) ISO 14040: Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Principles and framework. ISO, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  32. Kloepffer W (2008) Life cycle sustainability assessment of products: with comments by Helias A. Udo de Haes. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(2):89–95.  https://doi.org/10.1065/lca2008.02.376 Google Scholar
  33. Kroeger A, Weber C (2015) Developing a conceptual framework for comparing social value creation. Acad Manage Rev 40(1):43–70.  https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2012.0344.test Google Scholar
  34. Kühnen M, Hahn R (2017) Indicators in social life cycle assessment: a review of frameworks, theories, and empirical experience. J Ind Ecol 21(6):1547–1565.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12663 Google Scholar
  35. Kühnen M, Hahn R (2018a) From SLCA to positive Sustainability performance measurement: a two-tier Delphi study. J Ind Ecol:1–20.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12762 Google Scholar
  36. Kühnen M, Hahn R (2018b) Systemic social performance measurement: systematic literature review and explanations on the academic status quo from a product life-cycle perspective. J Clean Prod 205:690–705.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.08.201 Google Scholar
  37. Lindner JP (2015) Quantitative Darstellung der Wirkungen landnutzender Prozesse auf die Biodiversität in Ökobilanzen. Universität Stuttgart, Stuttgart (Dissertation)Google Scholar
  38. Linstone HA, Turoff M, Helmer O (eds) (2002) The Delphi method: techniques and applications. Addison-Wesley, Reading (Online edition of the original published in 1975)Google Scholar
  39. Maas K, Schaltegger S, Crutzen N (2016) Integrating corporate sustainability assessment, management accounting, control, and reporting. J Clean Prod 136:237–248.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2016.05.008 Google Scholar
  40. Martínez-Blanco J, Lehmann A, Chang Y‑J, Finkbeiner M (2015) Social organizational LCA (SOLCA): A new approach for implementing social LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 20(11):1586–1599.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-015-0960-1 Google Scholar
  41. Mayring P (2010) Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse: Grundlagen und Techniken, 11th edn. Beltz Pädagogik. Beltz, WeinheimGoogle Scholar
  42. Neugebauer S, Traverso M, Scheumann R, Chang Y‑J, Wolf K, Finkbeiner M (2014) Impact pathways to address social well-being and social justice in SLCA: Fair wage and level of education. Sustainability 6(8):4839–4857.  https://doi.org/10.3390/su6084839 Google Scholar
  43. Norris GA (2006) Social impacts in product life cycles: towards life cycle attribute assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(S1):97–104.  https://doi.org/10.1065/lca2006.04.017 Google Scholar
  44. OECD (2017a) Better life index. http://www.oecdbetterlifeindex.org/de/#/11111111111. Accessed 9 Nov 2017Google Scholar
  45. OECD (2017b) Green growth. http://www.oecd.org/greengrowth/. Accessed 9 Nov 2017Google Scholar
  46. Pauw IC, Kandachar P, Karana E (2014) Assessing sustainability in nature-inspired design. Int J Sust Eng 8(1):5–13.  https://doi.org/10.1080/19397038.2014.977373 Google Scholar
  47. Pavláková Dočekalová M, Doubravský K, Dohnal M, Kocmanová A (2017) Evaluations of corporate sustainability indicators based on fuzzy similarity graphs. Ecol Indic 78:108–114.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2017.02.038 Google Scholar
  48. Reisch L, Eberle U, Lorek S (2013) Sustainable food consumption: an overview of contemporary issues and policies. Sustain Sci Pract Policy 9(2):7–25.  https://doi.org/10.1080/15487733.2013.11908111 Google Scholar
  49. Rieckhof R (2017) The life cycle metaphor: Its emergence, understanding, and conceptualisation in business research. Umw Wirtsch Forum 25(1-2):91–107.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00550-017-0455-6 Google Scholar
  50. Rost Z (2015) The increasing relevance of product responsibility. Umw Wirtsch Forum 23(4):299–305.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00550-015-0369-0 Google Scholar
  51. Sala S, Farioli F, Zamagni A (2013a) Life cycle sustainability assessment in the context of sustainability science progress: part 2. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(9):1686–1697.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-012-0509-5 Google Scholar
  52. Sala S, Farioli F, Zamagni A (2013b) Progress in sustainability science: lessons learnt from current methodologies for sustainability assessment: part 1. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18(9):1653–1672.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-012-0508-6 Google Scholar
  53. Saling P (2017) Sustainability management in strategic decision-making processes. Umw Wirtsch Forum 11(1):1–8.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00550-017-0461-8 Google Scholar
  54. Schaltegger S, Burritt R (2005) Corporate sustainability. The International Yearbook of Environmental and Resource Economics, pp 185–222Google Scholar
  55. Schaltegger S, Burritt R (2006) Corporate sustainability accounting: a nightmare or a dream coming true? Bus Strategy Environ 15(5):293–295.  https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.537 Google Scholar
  56. Schaltegger S, Burritt R (2014) Measuring and managing sustainability performance of supply chains: review and sustainability supply chain management framework. J Supply Chain Manag 19(3):232–241.  https://doi.org/10.1108/SCM-02-2014-0061 Google Scholar
  57. Schaltegger S, Lüdeke-Freund F, Hansen EG (2016) Business models for sustainability. A co-evolutionary analysis of sustainable entrepreneurship, innovation and transformation. Organ Environ 29(3):264–289.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1086026616633272 Google Scholar
  58. Schaltegger S, Beckmann M, Hockerts K (2018) Collaborative entrepreneurship for sustainability. Creating solutions in light of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Int J Entrep Ventur 10(2):131–151Google Scholar
  59. Schaubroeck T, Rugani B (2017) A revision of what life cycle sustainability assessment should entail: towards modeling the net impact on human well-being. J Ind Ecol 21(6):1464–1477.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12653 Google Scholar
  60. Schmidt RC (1997) Managing Delphi Surveys using nonparametric statistical techniques. Decis Sci J 28(3):763–774.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-5915.1997.tb01330.x Google Scholar
  61. Seuring S, Gold S (2012) Conducting content-analysis based literature reviews in supply chain management. Supply Chain Manag 17(5):544–555.  https://doi.org/10.1108/13598541211258609 Google Scholar
  62. Silva S, Guenther E (2018) Setting the research agenda for measuring sustainability performance—systematic application of the world café method. Sustain Acc Manag Policy J 24(4):277.  https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-06-2017-0060 Google Scholar
  63. The Economics of Ecosystems of Biodiversity (2017) Home. http://www.teebweb.org/. Accessed 9 Nov 2017Google Scholar
  64. Timmermans S, Tavory I (2012) Theory construction in qualitative research: from grounded theory to abductive analysis. Sociol Theory 30(3):167–186.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0735275112457914 Google Scholar
  65. Toumi O, Le Gallo J, Rejeb BJ (2017) Assessment of Latin American sustainability. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 78:878–885.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2017.05.013 Google Scholar
  66. Tranfield D, Denyer D, Smart P (2003) Towards a methodology for developing evidence-informed management knowledge by means of systematic review. Br J Manag 14(3):207–222.  https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8551.00375 Google Scholar
  67. UN (2015) Sustainable development goals: 17 goals to transform our world. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/. Accessed 28 July 2017Google Scholar
  68. UNEP, SETAC (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products. UNEP, ParisGoogle Scholar
  69. UNEP, SETAC (2013) The methodological sheets for subcategories in social life cycle assessment (S-LCA). UNEP, ParisGoogle Scholar
  70. Verboven H, Vanherck L (2016) Sustainability management of SMes and the UN sustainable development goals. Umw Wirtsch Forum 24(2):165–178.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s00550-016-0407-6 Google Scholar
  71. Wackernagel M, Rees WE (1996) Our ecological footprint: reducing human impact on the earth. New Society Publishers, Gabriola IslandGoogle Scholar
  72. Wilhelm M, Hutchins M, Mars C, Benoit-Norris C (2015) An overview of social impacts and their corresponding improvement implications: A mobile phone case study. J Clean Prod 102:302–315.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.04.025 Google Scholar
  73. World Business Council for Sustainable Development (2010) Vision 2050. https://www.wbcsd.org/contentwbc/download/1746/21728. Accessed 9 November 2017
  74. World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) (1987) Our common future. WCED, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  75. World Resources Institute (2012) The corporate ecosystems services review. http://www.wri.org/sites/default/files/corporate_ecosystem_services_review_1.pdf. Accessed 9 November 2017
  76. Zadeh LA (1965) Fuzzy sets. Inf Control 8(3):338–353.  https://doi.org/10.1016/S0019-9958(65)90241-X Google Scholar
  77. Zellmer-Bruhn M, Gibson C (2006) Multinational organization context: Implications for team learning and performance. Acad Manage J 49(3):501–518Google Scholar
  78. Zimmermann H‑J (2010) Fuzzy set theory. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Comput Stat 2(3):317–332.  https://doi.org/10.1002/wics.82 Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Deutschland, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HohenheimStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Centre for Sustainability Management (CSM)Leuphana University LüneburgLüneburgGermany
  3. 3.Heinrich-Heine-Universität DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany
  4. 4.Center for Sustainable Leadership (ZNU)University of Witten/HerdeckeWittenGermany
  5. 5.Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP)WuppertalGermany

Personalised recommendations