Linking the UN SDGs to life cycle impact pathway frameworks

In line with the vision of the UN Environment Life Cycle Initiative, the project brings the qualitative and quantitative impact pathway thinking from Life Cycle Impact Assessment to bear on the 17 SDGs. The scope includes a range of options ranging from qualitative to screening approaches to fully quantified end-point metrics solutions.

The client

UN Environment (formerly UN Environment Programme – UNEP) – Intergovernmental

Our role

Project is administered by BONSAI and performed by 2.-0 LCA consultants and PRé consultants

Brief background and summary of needs for this project

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 accompanying targets, with so far 230 indicators. Two years after their publication, they are still not widely implemented into business practice, and the sheer number of targets and indicators implies an obvious risk of cherry-picking and sub-optimised decision-making.

One of the problems is that the 169 indicators were developed for Governments and NGO’s and not for business. For instance, none of the indicators underlying the Climate goal have business relevance, they are focussing on policies, subsidies etc. This means a first hurdle that needs to be taken is the re-interpretation of the indicators to link them to business and especially to decisions around product strategy and development[1].

In contrast with this top-down goalsetting processes, the Life Cycle Community has developed much knowledge, data and experience to assess products and systems in a bottom-up mode. The community has developed as something unique a large repository of data that describes all major relevant supply chains throughout the world, and it has combined this with a number of methodologies to translate this data into a number of social and environmental category indicators, in different levels of aggregation.

The objective of this project is to develop a clear linkage between the top down process that led to the creation of the SDG’s and all the bottom-up knowledge, data and methodology in the Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment area. With this link specific decisions can be related to the goals. There is a linkage between this project and the work done in our SDG club. Read more about the project on UN page.

[1] Business and Sustainable Development Commission (2017). Better Business Better World. London, January 2017.