Over on the LinkCycle blog, Alex Loijos took a close look at six of the most popular LCA software packages, comparing and rating the whole lot. It’s a good overview of what’s out there in terms of LCA tools, and should serve as a solid resource for anyone trying to figure out what tools are available. Hopefully this post will help you better understand how to decide what is what’s best for your organization’s goals and objectives.
I reached out to EarthShift’s Senior Sustainability Analyst Dave Hartter for his take on the list, and, more importantly for his tips on how to choose the right LCA software.
Hartter is a great authority on this, for before he worked for EarthShift, he was involved in the LCA decision making process for two large corporations. So he was a customer, and knows that perspective well.
First, says Hartter, it’s imperative to establish the goals and objectives of your LCA program. It’s not enough to simply say, “maybe we should start doing this LCA stuff.” You’ve got to know what you want to get out of the program, and how it is going to impact your organization’s mission and practices.
Hartter suggests taking a good long look in the mirror and asking the following about your organization:
- How do you intend to use the results of these LCAs? Would they impact product development? Would they be to market your product’s advantages over competitors (in either a business-to-business or business-to-consumer scenario)? Would you use them to improve the internal processes or operations in your business or organization? Would you use them for guidance in managing your supply chain?
- How often do you intend to perform LCAs? Is this a one-time thing for, say, development of a new product, or to market the environmental benefits of one? Or will you be running an LCA for every new product, or for repeated business or production processes?
- How do you intend to resource your LCA program? Are you able to dedicate at least one staff member to perform and coordinate all LCA efforts? Or do you want a broader range of your employees to have LCA capabilities?
Once you feel comfortable answering those questions, then you are ready to start taking the software choices seriously. Why? Because LCA software isn’t “one size fits all,” and the software you choose should be that which best accommodates your particular needs. “If a company would like to use LCA for public claims,” says Hartter, “then a full LCA is required, which often can be resource intensive and require significant training for an LCA practitioner.” He continues, “If the company wants to make competitive claims, then further resources are required, including a critical review, which requires advanced modeling features found in programs like SimaPro."
And what if the company wants to integrate LCA into actual product development? Hartter recommends a software solution that can handle screening LCAs. “A tool like EarthSmart allows engineers and industrial designers who aren’t LCA experts and don’t do LCA as part of their everyday work to perform LCAs and reduce environmental impacts of future products early in the design process.”
Of course, the resources your organization can devote to LCA is one of the biggest factors in choosing software. Says, Hartter, “If a company is able to staff at least one person as the residential LCA expert and would like to perform full LCAs, then a program like SimaPro may be appropriate. But if those resources aren’t available and a simplified LCA will suffice, it’s more cost effective to go with a simplified tool like EarthSmart.”
If it sounds like a lot to process, that’s because it actually is! Don’t be intimidated by all the software names and potential applications. That’s what EarthShift is here for. We can help guide you through the whole process, from initial curiosity about LCA to figuring out how it fits your organization's goals and objectives, to actually integrating LCA into your business practices. “It’s a lot to digest all at once,” recognizes EarthShift co-founder Melissa Hamilton, and that’s why EarthShift can help. With a team of experienced LCA experts, EarthShift can walk you through the decision making process and provide every resource you need while developing the practice of LCA within your organization.
We're excited to share this important announcement from our partner PRé:
Last week ecoinvent communicated the release date of their database. According to this, ecoinvent v3.0 has a planned release date of May 6, 2013. On this date PRé will also receive the final database to start implementation into SimaPro. As it takes time to finalize and check the conversion of the ecoinvent data to SimaPro, we expect to need about 3 months to implement the new database into SimaPro.
At the time of the release of SimaPro 8 we will notify you via e-mail when the upgrade to SimaPro 8 and ecoinvent 3 is available. You are entitled to an upgrade free of charge, if:
- You bought an indefinite SimaPro 7 license on or after January 1st 2012.
- Or if you have a valid Service Contract for SimaPro at the time of the release of SimaPro 8.
- Or if you have a valid temporary SimaPro license at the time of the release of SimaPro 8.
In case your Service Contract is not up to date and you would like to upgrade to SimaPro 8, please contact us via the web form.
In any case there is no need for you to purchase the ecoinvent v3.0 upgrade through ecoinvent as we will provide it to you as part of SimaPro 8. It is best to keep your Service Contract current as all updates and bug fixes after release of SimaPro 8 including ecoinvent v3.0 can only be provided to you if you have a valid Service Contract.
To stay up to date on the release of SimaPro 8 including ecoinvent v3.0, please visit our website at http://www.pre-sustainability.com/simapro8.
We will, of course, post updates as they become available.
For folks outside of the LCA world, it’s an often-held assumption that recycled paper is better for the environment than the stuff that’s made fresh from dead trees. But in reality, behind the scenes, in the processors and pulp factories, it’s a much more complex picture.
This is why the National Geographic Society, publishers of the seventh most widely circulated magazine in the country, commissioned a full life cycle assessment (LCA) of using recycled paper for magazines versus virgin paper.
The findings of the analysis support the mainstream assumptions that recycled paper is indeed found to have fewer environmental impacts. The study also debunks claims from the paper industry and some publishers -- including National Geographic itself -- that questioned the environmental benefits of using recycled paper stock, at least with regards to the magazine-specific materials studied.
At least that's what these immediate results tell us. But do they tell the whole story? "There are some questions I have that would have been answered if the LCA had included the actual making of the magazine, use phase and end of life," says EarthShift Principal and Managing Director Melissa Hamilton.
The study, conducted by ENVIRON, and titled Life Cycle Assessment of Deinked and Virgin Pulp (which you can download here), found that recycled paper (called “deinked” or “recovered” in the formal lexicon of the report) has lesser environmental impact in all 14 of the impact areas assessed.
It’s important to note the goal and scope of this specific assessment. The report’s authors state that the goal is to, “Identify and quantify the key factors contributing to the relative environmental impacts of deinked and virgin pulp, and to inform [National Geographic Society] actions and decision making.”
What Is the Life Cycle of Magazine Paper?
To fully assess the impacts of recycled and virgin paper, the assessors first had to consider the life cycle processes that eventually deliver the paper stock to the printing press, and eventually to the subscriber or newstand. According to the study, these life cycle processes include:
- Raw materials extraction and processing (waste paper collection and sorting, wood acquisiting)
- Pulp production
- Use (paper making and magazine production)
Because the relative differences were the target of the study, the assessors excluded all the steps that both recycled and virgin paper had in common. Thus, the assessment focused on the “cradle-to-paper mill” steps in the life cycle of magazine paper, and not the actual printing and production, use, or eventual disposal. (We all know that everyone holds onto their National Geographics forever anyways, with those distinguished yellow spines decorating many a bookshelf.)
Again, some concern could be raised about the fact that the assessment didn’t include the paper making process itself in the comparison, though the authors insisted that there was no difference in those processes and impacts.
"We've been involved with similar studies looking at recycled content vs virgin materials and very often we find that both the manufacturing processes and the quality of the end product are altered because of the recycled content," says Hamilton.
Hamilton points out one particular nuance of making paper from recycled pulp: so-called “stickies” that are enough of a challenge to the industry that long articles – and indeed entire books -- have been written about them in the trade presses.
"So even though the study states that technical advisors indicated there is no difference, I still think it is important to corroborate this by actually including it in the analysis. I want to know what the scrap rates are for both types of paper used in the making of the magazine, if they have to take some additional steps when using recycled pulp and if quality or durablity of the finished magazine are the same, and I don't know that without actually gathering the appropriate data and doing that analysis."
What Does the Report Tell Us?
The big takeaway from the study was a clear indication that in 14 out of 14 environmental impact categories studied, the production of recycled pulp is environmentally superior to the production of virgin fiber pulp.
What are these 14 categories, you may ask?
- Climate change
- Respiratory effects
- Ozone depletion
- Energy from biomass
- Fossil Energy consumption
- Wood use
A couple of relevant impact areas -- biodiversity and carbon sequestration – were not included in this report. The authors explained:
Other impact categories, such as biodiversity and carbon sequestration were not included, because supporting data and/or impact characterization factors could not be obtained within the project scope and available resources.
According to EarthShift’s experts, this isn’t uncommon, as these impact categories aren’t typically assessed in LCAs. But they are certainly important to this industry and further research should be conducted.
Across the 14 categories, which you can see laid out on the graphs on page 11 of the report, the relative impacts weren't just lesser in the recycled pulp, but were found in each and every case to be less than half of the impact of the virgin pulp.
The full picture is, of course, a little more complicated. The assessors identified four key areas where data variability and various assumptions might affect results, such as, "(1) the amount of energy used in pulping, (2) the fuel mix used in pulping, (3) the environmental impact characterization method used in the model, and (4) the method for allocating recycling benefits in the model."
The National Georgraphic assessment shows that, even when considering the full range of possible values for these key areas, using recovered/recycled pulp reduces negative environmental impacts for their paper in the vast majority of the environmental impact categories studied.
It’s important to recognize that this study only applies to the pulp used by National Geographic. "Other pulp will have more problems with stickies or may require more or different fuel during the pulping process,” says EarthShift Founder Lise Laurin. “Most prior paper LCAs in fact show a different story -- that recycled paper takes a lot more energy to produce. This leads us to conclude that perhaps National Geographic has identified a truly better recycled process. If so, we hope they will share the secrets of their success with others.”
“When we took a quick look at recycled paper vs virgin paper in the Ecoinvent LCI database we saw a different story and one that is not so black and white. Obviously we recognize that the authors conducted sensitivity analysis to their results and that the variables and assumptions of the National Geographic study aren’t the same as this simple analysis but it does leave us wanting a little more information from this particular study,” says Laurin.
The relative impacts of recycled versus virgin paper, EarthShift analysis using the Ecoinvent LCI database. Blue bars represent the impact of recycled paper, and green bars represent virgin.
"EarthShift offers extensive LCA training classes because we want to promote the use of LCA in industry, but we teach our students to follow ISO 14040/44 guidelines, especially when they intend to publish the results of the study and make comparative assertions," explains Laurin. With respect to this study, the authors state that they followed ISO but no where is it referenced that a critical review was conducted on this study prior to publishing the results, and this is an important component of the ISO protocol that needs to be met for the LCA to be ISO compliant. Since ENVIRON stafff have attended EarthShift trainings we expect that they have followed this important step but it would be nice to see that documented in the report.
Because the commissioner of the study is specifically interested in using the results of the analysis to inform decision making regarding their magazine, the final product, we would want to include actual paper manufacturers in the stakeholder committee. This is something that isn’t mentioned in the report. "When I see these kinds of omissions, it gives me concern about the results," says Laurin.
“All in all, I’m really happy to see a magazine with such influence as well as a large distribution undertake an important study like this,” says Hamilton. “We all benefit when organizations like National Geographic do an LCA and then talk about it because it inspires others to do the same and furthers the practice of LCA in industry.”
Darby Hoover of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a partner on the study, spoke to the broader implications throughout the industry, specific to high grade magazine paper. “This study confirms that the best way for publishers to reduce the environmental impact associated with the paper they buy is to increase recycled content” said Hoover, before calling out the study's sponsor directly. “We hope that National Geographic, as one of the nation’s top producers of nature publications, takes immediate steps to incorporate the highest recycled content into their magazine and other paper purchases, and sets goals for continued improvement in its paper attributes over time.”
Hans Wegner, Chief Sustainability Officer for the National Geographic Society, at least hinted at potential production changes for the magazine, saying that, "the information gleaned will further inform our own paper manufacturing purchasing practices, which are developed around the criteria of quality, performance, availability, affordability and environmental impact."
National Geographic wouldn't necessarily be a trailblazer in the switch to recycled paper. Hundreds of publications -- from Audubon to Ranger Rick to The Nation to Make to Backpacker -- already publish on recovered stock.
But still the overall impact of these shifts to recycled paper was little understood. It was wise then of the National Geographic Society to turn to LCA -- one of the most effective tools for taking a balanced, science-based look at the environmental impact of products -- to better understand the environmental implications of their production and purchasing practices.
Now the magazine that likes to boast that it has been "inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888" can better reflect that ethic in the very paper upon which it prints that iconic yellow border.
Contact EarthShift’s team of sustainability experts to learn more about Life Cycle Assessment through our training, consulting and software solutions.
A few months ago, EarthShift founder and managing director Lise Laurin was asked to offer her opinion on one of the great environmental debates of our time: paper or plastic?
Of course, most of us try to remember to bring our own reusable bags (which is better, as long as we're not washing them with hot water every time we use them!). But Lise was actually asked to respond to this blog post, which asks, "If you forget your re-usable bag, do you go with paper or plastic?"
In her response, Lise avoided the technical nitty-gritty, burst out of the narrow framing of the question, and offered a really helpful real world perspective. Here's what she wrote:
Buy more food (provided you are going to eat it). The impacts of driving your car to the store are much greater than the impacts of the bags. So if you can reduce the number of trips, you'll do more than if you pick one bag over the other.
Next, try to reuse the bag when you get home. Where they have banned plastic bags, the purchase of bags like trash can liners has gone up. So if you have a use for one bag over the other, pick that.
Don't waste food. The impacts of what you're putting in your bag far outweigh the bags themselves. Every time we throw food away, we're throwing away all of that energy, etc.. It's like leaving the windows open with the heat on.
And be sure to recycle any bags you haven't reused. Both types are highly recyclable.
Remarkably, most people think only of the actual bag itself when pondering this "paper vs. plastic" question. But as Lise points out, only by expanding the boundaries of our analysis we get a full picture of the environmental impacts of a product or practice.
Photo: Jonathan Youngblood on Flickr
EarthShift has developed a new, powerful feature for its simplified LCA tools. Any quantity can now be made into a parameter or variable. This allows for rapid scenario analysis and the ability to analyze several similar products concurrently.
Figure 1: Right click on any Quantity to create a parameter.
Any LCA practitioner or consultant can now set up a model within EarthSmart or PackageSmart and assign parameters to specific quantities. This turns the tool into a simple calculator for designers and others expert in areas other than LCA to do scenario analysis. The beauty of this approach is that the model and underlying data are easily kept up to date. As the users grow and learn more, it’s easy to add more metrics. Best of all, as users outgrow the calculator, they have the option to explore the underlying model. As they gain understanding, they can try to modify the model on their own or even to create their own models. The LCA practitioner can always check in to ensure the models adhere to good practice.
Figure 2: Users can easily run scenarios in the Analysis or Reports screens.
To get started with PackageSmart today, click here and sign up for your trial account.
To try EarthSmart, contact Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and have him set you up with your own account.
As the preferred provider of industry-leading SimaPro LCA software in North America, we strive to provide the best and most relevant support to LCA practitioners who use the software. Completing an accurate LCA study is a nuanced process, and SimaPro is such a robust software, that we are constantly discovering new ways to improve the process.
To help share tips, tricks, and other lessons, EarthShift recently announced our new portal, where SimaPro users and other LCA practitioners can read tutorials, manuals, and leaf through past support topics submitted by users around the world (See “EarthShift Offers New Tools for LCA Practitioners, SimaPro Users").
Here is our most recent crop of SimaPro tips. To see the rest, or to read the latest time-saving tricks, go to https://earthshiftsupport.zendesk.com/home. Please note that you will need to create a free login and password to access the site.
How to see what projects use specific libraries
1. If you would like to see what projects use a specific library, close the project you are in and open the library project of interest (e.g. USLCI).
2. Then select “Delete” (don’t worry, you are NOT actually going to delete the library!).
3. Say “Yes” to the warning:
4. Say “OK” to the Error:
5. Then you will receive an overview of what processes and in what projects these processes are being used.
How to see what underlying processes are used in your process
1. If you would like to see what underlying processes and their respective libraries are used in your process, run an analysis on the process of interest.
2. Then, click on the “Product overview” tab to see what projects and libraries, as well as products are used.
NOTE: When using unit level data, all linked processes will be shown as well.
Library switch function
If you are using a database that contains both system level and unit level data (e.g. Ecoinvent unit library and Ecoinvent system library), and you would like to switch from one (e.g. system level processes) to the other (e.g. unit level processes) in your analysis, you can by using the library switch function.
1. In the calculation set-up window, select the method and process you would like to analyze.
2. Then, double click below “Current library” and select the library that you currently have in your process that you would like to replace (e.g. Ecoinvent system processes).
3. Next, double click below “Replacing library” and select the library you would like to use instead (e.g. Ecoinvent unit processes).
4. Then, click “Calculate.”
NOTE: You will need to populate the Suffix for databases that do not use the same nomenclature for system (S) and unit (U).
NOTE: This function ONLY switches the data for THIS calculation.
5. To view what processes where replaced (AKA Equivalent products), click on the “Unequivalent products” tab, which will look something like this:
NOTE: This will also show what products were not matched and incompatible products. You can copy this list (Edit/copy) and paste into a word document or email.
Standardizing on LCI data libraries—good practice and calculates faster, too!
If you remember back to your Intro to LCA training, you’ll remember that different Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) libraries are built to different standards. Some use the consequential approach (LCA Food DK) while most use an attributional approach. Some use the cut-off method for recycling (ecoinvent) while others use avoided burden (the older BUWAL 250 library). Ecoinvent and most of the US-EI library include infrastructure and uncertainty. Input/Output data includes office lighting and services that are mostly ignored by other data sets. By standardizing on one or two datasets, you reduce the inconsistency in your model, ensuring that both Product A and Product B are modeled using the same assumptions and methods. This simplifies the consistency check part of Interpretation.
1. You can make this standardization easier by selecting only the libraries you want to use at the start of a project. Click on “Libraries” (under Goal and Scope) and click “Deselect all” (on the right). Then select only the library or libraries you want to use. Be sure to select the Methods library so you can do impact assessment. SimaPro will then limit what you see and what you can choose.
Click on Libraries. Then deselect all and choose only the libraries you want to use, plus the methods library.
2. But there is another reason to limit the number of libraries you use—to calculate faster! The first time you analyze, SimaPro loads all of the linked data into memory. It starts with the computer RAM or active memory and if it exceeds the available RAM, it creates and uses a swap file on the hard drive. Accessing the swap file takes much more time than accessing RAM. Whenever you use electricity from either the ecoinvent U or US-EI library, you automatically load 2000+ processes into memory. As you add more unit data from other libraries, you are most likely adding more data into the swap file, slowing the process down even more.
3. So if you’re finding the analysis, comparison or uncertainty analysis are getting slow, check to see if you’re using more than one library (link to “How to see what underlying processes are used in your process”). If you can limit the number of libraries without affecting the quality of your model not only will you improve consistency, it will save you time in the long run!
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By Jim Lochran
Sales and Business Development Manager
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Smithers Pira Sustainability in Packaging event in Orlando, Florida. This year’s event included hot industry topics like:
• Food Waste and the Role of Packaging
• Maintaining the Value of Packaging
• Packaging's Role in Supply Chain Sustainability
• Sustainable Innovation that Turns into Supply Chain Efficiency
• Impact of E-commerce on Packaging Design and Sustainability
Day One - A Dose of Realism
Day One kicked off with a fantastic presentation from Dr. Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund that included some sobering news when it comes to food waste. In the US, up to 50% of fresh food is wasted.
With that dose of realism as a backdrop, Ron Cotterman from Sealed Air detailed some of the amazing advances happening in the packaging industry, ranging from incredible mushroom-based packaging to more everyday items like tray and vacuum-sealed meat packaging. Ron also stressed the importance taking a systems approach to innovation, since “optimizing the parts can sometimes sub-optimize the whole.”
Day Two - Innovation and Reducing Waste
Day Two began with a look at the importance of design from Beto Lopez of IDEO, in particular how giving a consumer a clean design allows them to engage in end of life activities. An example Beto shared involved work IDEO did for the battery recycling industry, which faces its share of challenges. Did you know that the EPA requires that battery terminals be covered prior to transport to eliminate the risk of fire? To address that requirement, IDEO prototyped a solution that enables consumers to use the battery packaging itself to seal the terminals prior to recycling, thus engaging users and significantly reducing the cost to the recycling industry.
Building on this theme, Office Depot and Staples each presented on their innovative approaches to eliminating packaging waste in their delivery and in-store operations. Office Depot, in particular, has made significant strides by replacing boxes in its office delivery operation with reusable bins. Then, UPS took us through the importance of leveraging the right packaging for e-commerce, since today’s consumers often use social media to take companies to task for over-packaging.
The final day wrapped up with a very informative presentation from Kieran Furlong at Virent, which partnered with Coca-Cola to produce bio-based PET bottles. That presentation focused on the importance of recycling bio-based plastics, instead of composting.
The Need for Tools Like PackageSmart LCA Software
Events like these reinforce the need for tools like PackageSmart LCA software, which enable organizations to focus on the three crucial elements of packaging:
• Amount of material involved – Balance between the amount of material used and the performance of the packaging
• Cube utilization – Transport for some products is volume-based, so better utilization equals lower environmental impacts for those products
• Material type –Striking a balance between a material’s environmental impacts and its performance
PackageSmart takes these and other elements into account as part of its scenario-based analysis. Through the tool, packaging designers and engineers can easily examine the affect that changes in these and other areas will have on the environmental impacts of their primary, secondary and tertiary packaging. EarthShift offers a free 30-Day Trial of PackageSmart. We also offer a Smarter Packaging solution that integrates software, training and consulting services.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event and learning about the continued progress toward sustainability being made across the packaging industry.
"A Sunday afternoon on the Island Grande Jatte” is a wonderful painting by the French artist Seurat. The lucky ones will be able to admire it at the Art Institute of Chicago and feel the warmth of an 1880s summer day on this island in the Seine River."
By Beatrice Bortolozzo
Note: This post was originally published on http://www.pre-sustainability.com. The author, Beatrice Bortolozzo, is co-founder of 2B Srl, the Italian member of the SimaPro Partner Network, of which EarthShift is the North American member. Republished with permission.
The painting was made with a technique called Pointillism (or Divisionism), in which many distinct dots of pure color come together to create an image. The magic of it is that if you stand too close you won’t be able to tell what it is, only when you stand back do the dots blend into different shades of color and become detailed images.
Measuring sustainability requires a similar process.
To set your goals and understand what should be measured you first need to evaluate your major impacts, which can be identified by looking at the whole. Once this is done, you can step closer and develop your metrics.
But why is it important to measure sustainability?
As sustainability gains importance in business, companies are also reshaping their definition of value, which is not only associated with profit anymore. A qualitative sustainability assessment alone doesn’t allow you to go further than mere observation. A quantitative approach makes it possible to set specific goals, and can represent an efficient tool for innovation. Measures give value, and in the world of business, value gets dignity and attention. More importantly, metrics make it possible to rationalize decision-making and make logical, consistent choices.
In the art of selecting metrics, these are not simple dots, but they follow a systems perspective to better translate complexity into useful tools: for the company to set goals and to innovate, for suppliers to better understand requirements, for investors and customers to make comparisons and choices.
Even though many would agree it is important to measure, metrics can also scare employees, especially if they are seen as a judgment of one’s work. To become an everyday tool for improvement they should be chosen by those using them. Metrics should be adopted and integrated into employees’ daily functions in a way that allows them to feel responsible and above all in charge of the change — not scrutinized because of it.
Measuring doesn’t mean improving, but it’s a great start. You get to read a lot about big companies who develop their own metrics, advanced methods to measure sustainability. Yet is estimated that about 97 percent of worldwide companies are SMEs (in Europe 90 percent of businesses are microenterprises with less than 10 employees). These companies should not be afraid to start with few metrics. As long as they are carefully selected, they contain the essence of continuous improvement, and they are relevant. The following step is taking action and producing change.
Considering the whole supply chain is a big responsibility. You would certainly look amazing if your metrics showed very low impacts, but if you just consider your operations and the most significant impacts happen to be upstream or downstream, what you are doing is called externalizing impacts and cost. It is not an easy process, and SMEs will have more difficulty getting data from suppliers than a large company, but if suppliers see the benefits as well, it can be a win-win situation.
A metric, which is a measure, is a value expressing a relationship between one quantity and another taken as reference point, called a unity of measurement. Reaching consensus on a unity of measurement makes it possible for people to make agreements and comparisons. The “second” is the unity of measurement for time, and even though every one of us can have a different perception of it (think of what the expression “just a second” means to your partner, your mum, your best friend), you would agree it is extremely useful.
We are now overwhelmed by the number of metrics available, and they will probably keep on increasing. The big challenge for the future will be trying to harmonize sustainability metrics, focusing on a number of them and allowing agreement among stakeholders with different priorities and cultures. It’s a complex process, but sustainability has a very democratic nature, because it is inclusive and respectful, which makes the outcome uncertain. Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, “Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.” I believe that business sustainability has a similar nature. One possibility could be the development of international standards to set a yardstick, the same basis for comparison worldwide.
Once the metrics are up and running, be careful not to get stuck so close that that only see them, like the dots of pure color. Let’s remember to step back a bit, to be able to capture the wholeness of the picture, now knowing what it is made of.
ABOUT BEATRICE BORTOLOZZO
Beatrice Bortolozzo is a Marketing Expert in Sustainability. Beatrice is co-founder of 2B Srl, our Italian Partner. She specializes in LCA, ecodesign, and environmental marketing. She loves innovative thinking, sustainably creative experiences and has a passion for books, studying foreign languages, and cycling in the countryside.
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Assigning economic value to natural resources and other external factors is currently a hot topic in sustainability circles (see “Valuing Natural Capital at McDonald’s, Unilever, and Coca-Cola” and “Life Cycle Assessment Plays Key Role In the State of Green Business”).
On March 21, EarthShift is hosting a “Sustainability-ROI Facilitation Workshop" in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Sustainability-ROI, sometimes known as Total Cost Assessment, is what EarthShift uses to answer those discussions. The methodology, along with the 3Pillars software tool, allows professionals across functions to reconcile the need for financial returns with their commitment to sustainability (see “Big Company CFOs Leading the Charge Toward Sustainability?”).
By bringing diverse stakeholders together to assess potential implications of a decision, S-ROI combines the measurement of environmental, social and economic impacts to show a bigger picture of the total costs and benefits of an investment or decision to a set of key stakeholder groups (see “Bayesian Probability, Sustainability, and the Triple Bottom Line”).
From a technical perspective, the S-ROI methodology allows for the inclusion of externalities and intangible costs and benefits that are not captured by standard ROI and cost accounting practices. The output is recorded in traditional Net Present Value (NPV) terms, offering a good way to evaluate innovative and non-traditional concepts.
The Benefits of Stakeholder Diversity
Participants in this month’s workshop include an NGO representative, an academic, a student from Japan and a student from Greece, as well as two participants from large Fortune 100 companies. That kind of stakeholder diversity is where S-ROI gets its power. “The thing I love about this methodology is that everyone is on the same side of the table,” says EarthShift founder and S-ROI evangelist Lise Laurin, who will lead the session. “Every perspective is honored and included in the assessment. There are no wrong perspectives or wrong ideas.”
Even though getting a diverse group together could seem daunting for some organizations, one of the main goals of the session is to show the methodology’s efficacy and cost-effectiveness. “I want them to see that this is first of all very doable, that it’s something you can sit down and crank out without huge resources,” Laurin says, adding that the 3Pillars software program is designed to reduce resource requirements even further.
Learning S-ROI requires action. In workshop settings, Laurin typically leads groups through a standard example, where a conventional t-shirt manufacturer assesses whether to acquire an environmentally friendly competitor. There is a solid benefit to the acquisition, but while traditional ROI measures show risks on both sides, the S-ROI analysis done by the class typically shows that benefits to the company brand, employee morale, and other non-traditional factors far outweigh the risks.
Broad Applicability of S-ROI
Though assessing a potential acquisition is one strong use case for S-ROI, the methodology and the 3Pillars software offers broad applicability. In fact, Laurin is set on further expanding the uses of S-ROI, both in the business world and beyond. “One of the things that I’d love to see happen is municipalities, state and federal governments start to look at this, because it’s a much better way to make policy decisions” (see “CityMart Helps Scale Sustainability in Cities Around the World”).
Some of the S-ROI projects EarthShift has facilitated in the past include:
• Investigating increased investment in HIV/AIDS education by the mining company Rio Tinto
• Analyzing the implications of installing a recirculating system on a cooling water tower for a large industrial company
• Installing a pollution prevention device for a major energy producer
• Assessing and planning for a successful new product introduction for a major chemical company
• Assessing Dow Chemical’s 2015 Sustainability Goals
• Undertaking a series of studies on the impacts of biofuels
As part of the March 21 workshop, participants will receive a project template within 3Pillars, along with an EarthShift-developed report supplying costs of intangibles and certain externalities. “Sustainability investments pay off in ways other than increased economic ROI,” says Laurin. “They pay off through improved morale, branding, competitive advantage, retention of employees, sustainability of supply chains, and companies are much better able to maintain their license to operate. It’s about risk mitigation,” she says.
BP and the Benefits of S-ROI
Laurin points to BP as an example of a firm that would have benefited immensely from S-ROI. “They have an anecdotal history of ignoring safety rules and being very poor in that area. If they had done an S-ROI around much of what they do, they would have found that it’s more risky for bottom line than following safety rules. By trying to cut corners, they put themselves at risk for huge losses.”
Instead of one person swimming upstream to make change, S-ROI offers a venue and framework for stakeholders to gather and assess a decision. That results in increased institutional buy-in to sustainable decision-making.
Laurin says she hopes that the March workshop will allow its participants to go back go their organizations prepared to make the strongest case yet for sustainable decision-making. “Many sustainability decisions do not have required return on investment period, but when you add in this other criteria, they do,” Laurin says. “That’s the power of S-ROI.”
Contact us to learn more about Sustainability ROI and EarthShift’s other sustainability software, consulting, and training services.
Image courtesy © Rizj | Dreamstime.com
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New Web-based software tool, developed by EarthShift, brings Life Cycle Assessment one step closer to the mainstream with true multi-user functionality and robust data sets
Huntington, VT – March 12, 2013 – EarthShift is proud to announce the launch of EarthSmart, a simplified Life Cycle Assessment tool designed to enable sustainable product innovation through materials selection.
Selecting environmentally preferable materials is critically important for attaining improved environmental performance. It’s also a key to increasing innovation. From ideation through prototyping and production, EarthSmart allows designers and managers to integrate environmental assessment earlier and more continuously in the design process, when leverage is high and the cost of change is low.
Click the logo below to register for a Free 30-day Trial:
LCA is a highly technical and specialized practice that has traditionally been left to a few internal company experts or outside consultants. As LCA continues to move into the mainstream, expert users can quickly become overwhelmed by requests for analysis and reports. EarthSmart addresses this challenge by providing a highly intuitive solution that non-LCA experts can leverage for materials section and environmental impact reporting. The internal LCA expert or external consultant can easily configure the application to meet the needs of different groups within the organization, allowing the tool to grow with the non-LCA expert as they learn more about LCA, modeling and impact assessment.
- True multi-user functionality, with four different user types
- Settable parameters that allow easy scenario analysis for product designers
- Simplified modeling that enables designers to make small changes to existing models and quickly see the results
- More extensive modeling capability that allows users to expand their capabilities as they learn more about LCA
- The ability to quickly add custom recycling rates and waste overrides for individual materials
- A view into the environmental “hot spots” of a design
- User-friendly reporting feature, connected to MS Word, that allows new reports to be easily generated and updated whenever changes are made to the analysis
- Ability to create customized templates for Environmental Product Declarations
- Life Cycle Inventory Data (LCI) from over 4,000 processes available in the ecoinvent and USLCI databases and the ability to import custom data from other LCA tools
- A Web-based software as a service model, allowing users to access the program anywhere with no IT involvement
- Subscription licensing, including a pay as you go option
The EarthSmart software tool allows companies to seamlessly integrate ISO-certified Life Cycle Assessment into their design and materials selection process, helping users to monitor and analyze the environmental impact of their designs through the entire product life cycle.
Learn more about EarthSmart, or register for your free 30-day trial.