Topic 3 Product Related Sustainability Assessments

  • Many tools have been developed to assess sustainability practices, it’s like a jungle!
  • Tools can be categorized by approach or focus areas
  • The most famous series of product related assessments are: Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA); Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); Life Cycle Costing (LCC); product material flow analysis; Product energy analysis; Conceptual modelling analyses (cost-benefit analysis; risk analysis and uncertainty analysis; impact assessment); Design-related tools of analysis (Sustainable Business Model Canvas; SWOT analysis etc)

free image from pixabay platform

  • Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) refers to an approach for exploring the impacts of a range of proposals (policies, programmes, action plans)
  • Sustainability in SIA regards all the three aspects of ESG: economic, environmental and social.
  • SIA method privileges «soft» forms of analysis i.e: stakeholder involvement; transparency and accountability. (To maximize the stakeholders involvement is desirable to be easy understandable.


Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool used to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product or a service through its life cycle, from the raw materials acquisition to the process, use and disposal (Lindfors, 1995).


Life Cycle Costing (LCC) is an economic approach that considers «total costs of a product, process or activity discounted over its lifetime» (Gluch and Baumann, 2004). LCC it’s generally used to rank different investment alternatives.



  • Material Input per unit of Service (MIPS) index (Spangenberg et al, 1999), all material flows connected to a product or service are taken in consideration, focus on the ecological rucksack = all materials used for the complete process – the actual product weight, as you can see in the image below.

image source: Digital Climate Collage

  • Measures direct and indirect flows of energy required to manufacture a product or a service (Herendeen, 2004)

example of SFA and Product Energy Analysis applied to Sustainability Reporting by H.B. Fuller

Now we will introduce the most common methods of analysis in the conceptual modelling analysis system, that belongs to the product related assessments:

  • is used to choose the best alternative possible, measuring the trade-offs between criteria
  • analysing the risk, try to minimize knowing that there could be an amount of uncertainty
  • tries to evaluate how sensitive and resilient a system is to changes, usually applies to human-environmental systems and recently has been developed in climate change related issues
  • is applied to evaluate public policies or in the field of sustainability assessment to weight the benefits compared to the costs
  • is a group of tools for forecast the outcomes of a project or a policy. I.e: Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) lead by EU, the aim is to involve people in the processes of assessment

Let’s focus our attention on Visual Tools,  Visual Tools are useful in everyday life because are less expensive than the previous tools we have introduced,and easier to put on work,

  • Visual Tools can help ease to the employees the reasons why the firm is changing some procedures
  • VT can show new opportunities and risk related to sustainability
  • The goal in choosing Visual Tools should be a fundamental change in the internal processes


We are going to introduce now two of the most common Visual Tools applied in business everyday life:

  • enables to identify the positive and negative effects of business activities

The Impact Canva, Source

  • highlights the challenges, strengths, opportunities and weaknesses, to help understand which could be the action to undergo and prioritize

free image from pixabay platform

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