Screening of socio-economic indicators for sustainability assessment: a combined life cycle assessment and data envelopment analysis approach
- 689 Downloads
The combination of life cycle assessment (LCA) and data envelopment analysis (DEA) has recently been proposed to integrate operational, environmental and, to a lesser extent, socio-economic aspects when evaluating multiple similar entities known as decision-making units (DMUs). While labour has already been proven to be an appropriate parameter for implementation in LCA + DEA studies, this article aims to increase the current range of socio-economic indicators suitable for their integration into this novel framework.
A sustainability-oriented LCA + DEA method is presented in this article. Furthermore, according to the singular features of the methodological approach, a set of four criteria is defined in order to test the suitability of 40 relevant socio-economic indicators for LCA + DEA implementation. These criteria include quantifiability, DMU specificity, data availability and data quality. Based on the degree of fulfilment of these criteria, the implementability of the indicators is classified as straightforward, likely, unlikely or excluded.
Results and discussion
According to the proposed criteria, 12 out of 40 socio-economic indicators are found to be suitable, i.e. their implementability in the LCA + DEA framework is considered either straightforward or likely. The difficulty in finding suitable LCA + DEA indicators is found to increase when considering stakeholders with a scope beyond the DMU level. Concerns about the suitability of socio-economic indicators for LCA + DEA as well as potentials and limitations of the approach as a sustainability assessment methodology are discussed.
A significant improvement in the socio-economic dimension of LCA + DEA studies for sustainability assessment is achieved. The method proposed is concluded to be a feasible approach for the sustainability assessment of multiple entities, but still with further potentials to be explored.
KeywordsBenchmarking Data envelopment analysis Efficiency Life cycle assessment Performance indicator Socio-economic Sustainability
Dr. Tadhg O’ Mahony would like to thank the Marie Curie Actions AMAROUT-II (PEOPLECOFUND).
- Cooper WW, Seiford LM, Tone K (2007) Data envelopment analysis: a comprehensive text with models, applications, references and DEA-solver software. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Heijungs R (2010) Ecodesign—carbon footprint—life cycle assessment—life cycle sustainability analysis—a flexible framework for a continuum of tools. Sci J Riga Tech Univ Environ Clim Technol 4:42–46Google Scholar
- Iribarren D (2010) Life cycle assessment of mussel and turbot aquaculture: application and insights. University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago de CompostelaGoogle Scholar
- Iribarren D, Martín-Gamboa M (2014) Enhancing the economic dimension of LCA + DEA studies for sustainability assessment. In: Proceedings of the 4th World Sustainability Forum. MDPI, BaselGoogle Scholar
- Iribarren D, Martín-Gamboa M, O’Mahony T, Dufour J (2014b) More than just a phrase: the benchmarking of sustainability performance for industry and policy-makers. In: Abstract book SETAC Europe 24th Annual Meeting. SETAC Europe, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
- Iribarren D, Marvuglia A, Hild P, Guiton M, Popovici E, Benetto E (2015) Life cycle assessment and data envelopment analysis approach for the selection of building components according to their environmental impact efficiency: a case study for external walls. J Clean Prod 87:707–716CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- ISO (2006a) ISO 14040:2006 environmental management—life cycle assessment—principles and framework. International Organization for Standardization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
- ISO (2006b) ISO 14044:2006 environmental management—life cycle assessment—requirements and guidelines. International Organization for Standardization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
- ISO (2012) ISO 14045:2012 environmental management—eco-efficiency assessment of product systems—principles, requirements and guidelines. International Organization for Standardization, GenevaGoogle Scholar
- Labuschagne L, Brent AC (2006) Social indicators for sustainable project and technology life cycle management in the process industry. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11:3–15Google Scholar
- Norris GA (2001) Integrating life cycle cost analysis and LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 6:118–120Google Scholar
- Pelletier N, Ustaoglu E, Benoit C, Norris G (2013) Social sustainability in trade and development policy. European Commission, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
- Schmidheiny S (1992) Changing course: a global business perspective on development and the environment. MIT Press, MassachusettsGoogle Scholar
- Schmidt I, Meurer M, Sailing P, Kicherer A, Reuter W, Gensch C (2004) SEEbalance—managing sustainability of products and processes with the socio-eco-efficiency analysis by BASF. Greener Manag Int 45:79–94Google Scholar
- UNEP/SETAC (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products. United Nations Environment Programme, ParisGoogle Scholar
- UNEP/SETAC (2011) Towards a life cycle sustainability assessment. UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, ParisGoogle Scholar
- United Nations (2007) Indicators of sustainable development: guidelines and methodologies. United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- WCED (1987) Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: our common future. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
- Yarime M, Trencher G, Mino T, Scholz RW, Olsson L, Ness B, Frantzeskaki N, Rotmans J (2012) Establishing sustainability science in higher education institutions: towards an integration of academic development, institutionalization, and stakeholder collaborations. Sustain Sci 7:101–113CrossRefGoogle Scholar