Mapping business impacts on the UN SDGs

This project places each of the 169 targets of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into a comprehensive, quantified and operational impact pathway framework.

The client

Crowdfunded project

Our role

The SDG club is 2.-0 LCA consultants’ way to share and further develop tools and databases to support businesses in contributing most meaningfully and efficiently to the UN 2030 Agenda.

More about SDG impact pathways

The unique feature of the 2.-0 SDG framework is the use of sustainable wellbeing (utility) as a comprehensive summary indicator for all social, ecosystem and economic impacts. This indicator provides a single, quantitative endpoint for all causal impact pathways that have their starting point in the many different pressure (LCI) indicators, measurable at the level of specific production or consumption activities. Each pressure indicator is linked to the endpoint via the indicators for 169 targets of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The endpoint can be expressed in units of Quality-Adjusted person-Life-Years or in equity-weighted monetary units.

The comprehensive impact pathway framework can be applied to differentiate major from minor impact pathways, to identify impact pathways that are not explicitly covered by any of the 169 sustainability targets, and to point out trade-offs and synergies between the 169 targets and their indicators. Due to the use of a single endpoint, the framework allows to quantify such trade-offs and synergies, to compare business decisions, performance and improvement options across industry sectors. Thereby, the 2.-0 SDG framework contrasts with the “cherry-picking” approach to the SDGs in current business applications. Instead we support a rational choice of business development strategies through matching the sphere of influence of each specific business enterprise with the impact pathway framework. Because the results can be expressed in monetary values, they can be fully integrated with internal and supply-chain costing data.

The project provides estimated uncertainty ranges on each of the causal links of the impact pathways, using numerical data when possible and verbal scales when numerical data are insufficient. This also allows an identification of sustainability targets that are too vaguely formulated to allow a precise linking to the impact pathways.

The project builds on and extends impact assessment method developed by 2.-0 LCA consultants for social footprinting, which has been successfully tested for feasibility in global supply chain contexts, to support different business decisions, from single product purchases to larger policy changes, using a product life-cycle assessment approach to link specific company data to a global multi-regional input-output database with environmental and socio-economic extensions (see e.g. Schenker & Weidema 2017). The method has a low data requirement for screening purposes, and can be based exclusively on open data sources, with options for extending the level of detail when more data are available.

The project provides an actionable and rational method for businesses and governments to integrate the SDGs into decision making and monitoring, and will therefore contribute substantially to streamline and coordinate action and increase efficiency in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Deliverables

The project deliverables include:

  • A mapping of the 17 goals and 169 targets and their indicators to midpoint impact categories (classification)
  • Implementation of the indicators into a life cycle impact assessment method (Stepwise) for import and use in SimaPro (and other LCA software that allow import of foreign impact assessment methods)
  • Default (average) pressure indicators for each industry in each country in the EXIObase LCI database
  • A study report describing the impact pathway modelling from industry specific activities and product life cycles to the final endpoint of sustainable wellbeing
  • One or more scientific articles submitted to peer reviewed journal