Holistic and Integrated Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment in Bioeconomy
Main Presenter: Walther Zeug
Currently the social, environmental and economic risks and challenges of the bioeconomy are becoming increasingly the subject of applied sustainability assessments. Based on the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology, further approaches were developed whereby life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) aims to combine the evaluation of social, environmental and economic effects. How a practical framework for life cycle sustainability assessment should look like and how it can be implemented is still an open research question. First, we shortly reflect on the understanding of social, ecological and economic sustainability and how they define approaches of sustainable development and life cycle sustainability in the context of bioeconomy (Zeug et al. 2020). To structure a systemic framework of the important aspects of such assessments, we conducted a series of stakeholder workshops to assess the relevance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for regional bioeconomy (Zeug et al. 2019). Secondly, we selected indicators from existing life cycle assessment approaches as well as from bioeconomy monitoring systems and allocated them to a sustainability concept of holistic and integrated life cycle sustainability assessment (HILCSA) (Zeug et al. 2021). For a practical implementation we chose the software environment of openLCA. Third, we applied our method to the case laminated veneer lumber production in central Germany as an example (Zeug et al. 2022). On the one hand, the results of this study are an overview of existing holistic indicators and life cycle impact assessments as well as their link to the Sustainable Development Goals of general interest in sustainability assessment. On the other hand, we provide a framework for holistic and integrated life cycle sustainability assessment, a practical and applicable indicator set for regional (product & territorial) bioeconomy assessment, a suitable composition of life cycle impact assessment methods as well as their interpretation. The actual implementation of holistic and integrated life cycle sustainability assessment in openLCA allows an integrative life cycle sustainability assessment by conducting the life cycle inventory and impact assessment in a single framework with harmonized databases and more coherent results. We show the possibility of life cycle sustainability assessment to cover nearly all Sustainable Development Goals in terms of planetary boundaries, a sustainable provisioning system and human needs. The presented results show that systemic assessments have to take a broad range of social, economic and ecological aspects into account and provide an information and decision basis for stakeholders such as politics, society, research and organizations.