Advanced quantitative Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment – 3 pillars, 6 capitals, 17 SDGs

This course begins with a thorough introduction to quantitative Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) organized around the three pillars (economic, social, and ecological), the six capitals (as ‘Safeguard subjects’), and the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), combined with insights from subjective wellbeing research. The second part of the course provides opportunities to investigate individual impact pathways organized around the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from indicator definitions and data collection to calculation of impact factors for the affected ‘Safeguard subjects’ and considerations on weighting approaches to express relative importance. The course uses hands-on exercises on the procedures to construct fully quantified cause-effect relationships from pressure indicators to final scores for sustainable wellbeing.

The course

Subject and outline:

Lectures and exercises on:
  • Sustainable development as a measurable concept
  • Concepts of capitals, assets, safeguard subjects, instrumental and intrinsic areas of protection
  • Methods for assessing relative values of impacts
  • Estimating the current annual global impacts on sustainable wellbeing
  • Subjective wellbeing research as a source of data for calibration and integration
  • The 17 SDGs as policy areas
  • Re-arranging the SDG indicators for improved consistency
  • Identifying important and default impact pathways
  • Distinguishing impacts attributable to specific activities from non-production-specific impacts
  • Missing governance as a core explanatory factor
  • Data sources and integration into life cycle assessment databases
  • The social footprint as a measure of country-specific impacts on sustainable wellbeing
  • Inequality and equity-weighting
  • Defining relevant indicators for measurement of impact at midpoint and pressure at the organisational level
  • Working with sources of country-specific data
  • Procedures and guidelines for data collection
  • Establishing cause-effect relations and characterisation factors
  • Calculating the sustainable development impacts of specific activities or products
  • Applying science-based weighting to arrive at single scores for sustainable development
NOTE: The course focusses on the impact assessment part of LCA and does not cover general aspects of Life Cycle Inventory Analysis and modelling except for data collection for pressure indicators.

Form and academic recognition:

Form: 15 hours lectures, 25 hours exercises and group work. Academic recognition: 3 ECTS-point including mandatory pre-course reading from a literature list provided.

Learning outcomes:

  • Ability to perform quantitative assessments of sustainable development impacts
  • Ability to explain different indicator classification systems and their relations and relevance
  • Understanding the relative importance of current global impacts on sustainable wellbeing
  • Understanding the 17 SDGs as an exhaustive policy framework
  • Ability to assess the relevance and explain the relationships of different SDG indicators
  • Ability to assess the relevance and importance of different impact pathways
  • Ability to attribute impacts to specific activities or to missing governance
  • Ability to calculate the social footprint of a specific activity or product
  • Ability to perform equity-weighting and understanding its rationale and relevance
  • Ability to define relevant indicators for measurement of impact at midpoint
  • Ability to define pressure indicators for measurement at the organisational level
  • Ability to interpret country-specific data sources and assess their validity and relevance
  • Knowledge of procedures and guidelines for data collection
  • Ability to justify cause-effect relations and explain characterisation factors
  • Ability to justify science-based weighting procedures