Quantifying Sustainable Impact Pathways

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 LCSA (Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment) 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 sustainable 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 is expressed in units of Quality-Adjusted person-Life-Years.

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 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 LCSA 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.

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.

The project builds on and extends the 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.

Presentation of the project (9 min video on youtube): https://youtu.be/z8P6O5hP1rA


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  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 journals

Project members have early access to project deliverables. See below for deliverables that have already become open access.

Members of the LCSA Club

  • actively contribute to improve the impact pathway descriptions and to reduce the uncertainty on their quantification.
  • have early access to project deliverables and will receive support for applying the draft deliverables in case studies in your own organisation thereby gaining experience on the applicability of the deliverables.
  • have priority access to capacity-building webinars and webinar-based training.
  • will be able to exchange experiences and learn from other members tackling similar challenges.
  • can report your early experiences and thereby influence the specific detailed nature of the method and the final deliverables.
  • gain visibility as a LCSA front-runner. Presentations, reports and websites related to the project will include the names of business partners.

Current members

The early development work was partly funded by the UNEP Life Cycle Initiative as part of the project “Linking the UN Sustainable Development Goals to life cycle impact pathway frameworks” and the EU Horizon project HyperCOG under grant agreement No.869886.

For subscription (or questions), please contact us. To go to the club click here.

Already available open access deliverables

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