Identify significant sustainability aspects for the product

By Sofia Petersson, Johan Widheden

In identifying the significant sustainability aspects of a product or process it is vital to have a supply chain approach in order to avoid suboptimizations. Questions that may need to be asked are: Are the products dependent on natural raw materials that may become scarce and therefore more expensive? Are the production technology more energy intensive than more recently developed technologies? Is there a more efficienct way of supplying the same function to the customer? Can the product be made more recyclabe? Assessing the importance of the different aspects can be acheived by using a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology or tools based on a life cycle approach. Some useful tools are presented in a report called Survey of Methods & Tools.

LCA generally does not include inherent properties of products, such as toxicity, persistence or bioaccumulation. These type of aspects can be added by developing a tool where these aspects are considered in combination with LCA aspects, such as the Eco-efficiency assessment method.

Societal concerns are harder to include in a quantitative approach, but can none the less be very important for the future of a product. These concerns may include child labour, working conditions or harmful substances in products.