The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 21, Issue 12, pp 1719–1748 | Cite as

Eco-efficiency indicator framework implemented in the metallurgical industry: part 2—a case study from the copper industry

  • Ida Rönnlund
  • Markus Reuter
  • Susanna Horn
  • Jatta Aho
  • Maija Aho
  • Minna Päällysaho
  • Laura Ylimäki
  • Tiina Pursula



Sustainability differentiation has become an important issue for companies throughout the value chain. There is thus a need for detailed and credible analyses, which show the current status and point out where improvements can be done and how. The study describes how a comprehensive product-centric eco-efficiency indicator framework can be used to evaluate, benchmark, and communicate the sustainability of a copper production value chain. The indicator framework, together with the suggested data collection and simulation methods, aims at evaluating the whole system, while still enabling a focus on scopes of different width. The status of the environment, current production technologies, location-specific and process-specific issues all play a role in achieving sustainable development.


Copper cathode production from copper ore was chosen to exemplify the developed framework. Data sets from a simulation tool were used when available and LCI databases and LCA software were utilized for the remaining steps. The value chain is analyzed and the benchmark for each indicator built according to the new Gaia Refiner indicator framework. This method enables analysis of specific production steps with a higher degree of accuracy.

Results and discussion

The case study shows how some important environmental sustainability issues in copper production can be analyzed and benchmarked within a product group. Benchmark data is collected and used in the analysis for the selected system scope. Data availability is still an issue and the example shows which areas require more information in this context so that products and value chains can be benchmarked in the future on a more consistent basis. The energy mix, chemical use, and land use contribute to potential environmental sustainability risks within the product benchmarking group, while emissions control shows competitive environmental sustainability advantages for the case study.


The methodology is shown to work well in highlighting the sustainability advantages and risks of value chains in copper production with the selected system scope in a visual manner through the Sustainability Indicator “Flower.” The importance of a baseline is clear. The effect of the metal ore grade on the results shows that the scalability of the analysis system is very important. Scaling the system scope up will show the differences in varying value chains and scaling the system scope down will show efficiency differences between more similar value chains, thus visualizing where innovation has the biggest impact.


Benchmarking Circular economy Eco-efficiency Footprint Indicator Metallurgy Process and system simulation Resource efficiency Sustainability 


Compliance with ethical standards


This study was funded by Outotec Oyj and Gaia Consulting Oy. HSC Sim is a product of Outotec Oyj and Gaia Refiner is a product of Gaia Consulting Oy.

Supplementary material

11367_2016_1123_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 15 kb)
11367_2016_1123_MOESM2_ESM.docx (18 kb)
ESM 2 (DOCX 17 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ida Rönnlund
    • 1
  • Markus Reuter
    • 2
    • 3
  • Susanna Horn
    • 3
  • Jatta Aho
    • 1
  • Maija Aho
    • 1
  • Minna Päällysaho
    • 1
  • Laura Ylimäki
    • 1
  • Tiina Pursula
    • 1
  1. 1.Gaia Consulting LtdHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Helmholtz-Institute Freiberg for Resource TechnologyFreibergGermany
  3. 3.Outotec OyjEspooFinland

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