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 was administered by One Planet and performed by 2.-0 LCA consultants and PRé consultants Project completed December 2021.

Life Cycle SDG Screening and Assessment

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 accompanying targets, with so far 230 indicators.

However, 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, as 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].

This project provided two different tools, each with their use case:

  • A Life Cycle SDG Screening (LCSS) that allows organisations to reuse their existing LCA results to understand which products and impact categories generally contribute to which SDGs. The LCSS links existing LCA results to the SDG targets in a qualitative way.
  • A life cycle SDG assessment (LCSA) for organisations that desire to go beyond existing LCA indicators and toward a more comprehensive integration of SDG indicators. Such an assessment seeks to quantify the impact pathways and makes the contributions to the SDGs comparable by expressing all impacts in the same unit of Quality-Adjusted person-Life-Years (QALY). This allows organizations to calculate how much their product contributes to each SDG, target, and indicator, as well as to overall sustainable wellbeing.

There is a linkage between this project and the work done in our SDG club.

Available publications from the project:
Relative importance of sustainability impact pathways – A first rough assessment
Data collection guideline for pressure indicators for LCSA
Data files for Life Cycle SDG Assessment

References

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