New report: Notable progress on the SDG-LCA methodology

2030 is getting closer and closer. To reach the goals the United Nations (UN) set in its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the world needs an assessment methodology that allows businesses to take them into account in sustainability decisions. This methodology is now almost here. Read on for a development update and to join the project as business partner.

In 2015, all United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its heart. These goals provide a roadmap and blueprint for a better and more sustainable future for all. To reach these ambitious goals by 2030, governments, NGOs and businesses will have to work together. However, wide implementation of SDGs in businesses is still lagging.

The SDGs focus on governments, not businesses

One of the reasons why businesses are struggling to adopt the SDGs is that they were not developed with businesses in mind. The 17 SDGs come with 169 targets and more than 200 indicators, but these were put together as guidance for governments and NGOs. For example, the indicators for SDG 13 on Climate action do not provide a relevant link for companies. This leaves sustainability managers and reporting departments, even with the best intentions, guessing on how to transparently and consistently steer, monitor, and report on the SDGs.

New report linking the SDGs to business-level sustainability

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool widely used by businesses for measuring environmental and social impact of products. Therefore, combining the SDGs and LCA is the key to making the SDGs more applicable for businesses. This is the focus of the project “Linking the UN Sustainable Development Goals to life cycle impact pathway frameworks”, initiated by the Life Cycle Initiative and managed by 2.-0 LCA and PRé.

We are now releasing a new publication with the preliminary findings and details from our deep-dive into how LCA and the SDGs intersect. The document outlines two different applications:

  1. A life cycle SDG screening linking LCA results to the SDG targets in a qualitative way. This allows businesses to use their existing LCA procedures and results to determine whether they contribute to each of the SDGs. This approach also enables businesses to understand which impact categories generally contribute to which SDGs.
  2. A life cycle SDG assessment, which more comprehensively integrates the SDG indicators into an LCA impact pathway framework. This type of assessment quantifies the impact pathways and makes the contributions to the SDGs comparable by connecting all impacts to the ultimate endpoint, a score for sustainable wellbeing. This allows businesses to calculate how much their product contributes to each SDG, SDG target and SDG indicator, as well as to overall sustainable wellbeing.

Both the SDG screening and assessment allow companies to identify SDG hotspots along the life cycle of their products and determine how these SDG hotspots can be influenced. Furthermore, both applications give businesses information they can use to steer sustainability strategy.


The time to implement the SDGs in your business is now

Although there is increased awareness and adoption of the SDGs by governments, NGOs and companies, there is much work to be done to reach all SDGs by 2030. Organizations on every level can contribute to this, including yours, and understanding your contribution to the SDGs is the first step.

As the methodology is being developed further, the project is looking for more businesses to join us to test the methodology and apply the insights to their organizations. This will make you a frontrunner in this field and give you the opportunity to comment on and contribute to the methodology. Business partners also receive personal guidance and support throughout the implementation by the project team of 2.-0 LCA and PRé.

Business partners that join the project will receive:

  • An individual call to define the SDG impacts your business is interested in measuring, how you would like to report on that, and to identify a suitable case study.
  • Access to our SDG measurement program. In four workshops, you will learn to apply the methodology in your organization.
  • The chance to exchange experiences with and learn from other business partners with similar challenges during the workshops.
  • 40 hours of support from our consultants in measuring your company’s impact on the SDGs.
  • Visibility for your business as a SDG frontrunner. The names and logos of business partners will be included in the project presentations, reports and websites.

Contact Rosan Harmens if you are interested in participating and would like to discuss this further.

Companies that already joined the project, and are in the process of applying the method:

Find out more about the methodology and insights so far in the report “LCA-based assessment of the Sustainable Development Goals”.

Rosan Harmens

Analyst

I’m enthusiastic about working with life cycle assessment because it provides a structured solution for analyzing the impact of products. Thereby, it is an essential starting point for making improvements, coming up with innovative solutions, and driving change. And change is needed. We cannot keep taking from the planet and future generations as we have been doing over the last few decades, without giving back.

Ellen Meijer

Consultant

My background in industrial design made it clear to me that the current system of consumption and disposal cannot be maintained in the long run. I quickly became interested in quantifying sustainability, so that well-supported decisions can be made in our move towards a more sustainable world. LCA provides the ability to focus on the facts.

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