Sat / 18.06. @ 08:30
“Sustainability” is an issue attracting a lot of attention. Just a quick search on 7 May 2016 in SCOPUS <www.scopus.com> has shown 117,182 publications containing this word. However, looking for both “Sustainability” and “Assessment” in the title and keywords brought just 18,109 papers and the search for “Sustainability” and “Measurement” revealed even less — 3,906 papers dealing with both issues.
It means that just 15.4 % of the papers related to sustainability deal with “Sustainability and Assessment” and only 3.3 % with “Sustainability and Measurement”. Is has been a considerable increase compared with similar time last year, however, it has been still just a fraction of all “sustainability” papers. This has been underlining the importance of the extended effort facilitating works and projects dealing with “Sustainability”, but not only, the research results, which combine also “Sustainability” with “Assessment” and especially “Sustainability” with “Measurement” and of crucial importance.
Various questions have been coming up in relation to sustainability measurement and assessment for an analysed process, production, supply chain etc:
i. How to define sustainability?
ii. How to assess sustainability?
iii. How to measure sustainability?
iv. Should be process specific, local, regional or global sustainability assessed?
v. How to set up a policy for sustainability?
vi. The role of system analysis approach to sustainability?
vii. How can the Environmental Performance Strategy Map help?
viii. How to specify Sustainable Process Index?
ix. Which metrics to use: Environmental/GHGE/Nitrogen/Water or some more/other footprints?
x. What are the lifecycle sustainability aspects?
xi. What is a decision point in sustainability analysis?
xii. How to obtain a sustainable design?
These questions highlight various important problems related to assessing and measuring environmental impact related to sustainability. However, they do not cover all issues related to this topic. With climate change and other negative environmental impacts, there should be an increased interest in measuring and reducing environmental burdens. The question, how to measure and following this to reduce environmental burdens is still waiting for more specific answers. The researchers, organisations, policy-makers, and others are putting efforts to develop concepts and metrics measuring environmental sustainability. The world society needs rather urgently the tools and methods to be further developed, discussed, agreed and as fast as possible implemented.
Amongst those concepts and metrics developed, environmental footprints are gaining increasing popularity and play an ever increasing role in sustainability evaluations and research. Footprints have become ubiquitous for researchers, policy-makers, and the general public. Over the past years, Carbon Footprint, or better Greenhouse Gas Footprint, has been almost the sole environmental protection indicator. Step by step the evaluations have moved to include a variety of other footprints and yet there is no generally accepted footprint or footprint family to be deemed as representative of the overall impact on the environment.
An as-wide-as possible discussion should be initiated in the near future bringing together engineers from different fields—mechanical and electrical, chemists, chemical and power engineers—to mention at least some. Very important and welcome is the involvement of agriculture researchers and practitioners as well as environmentalists. However, sustainability goes well beyond engineering. The human beings should be motivated and directed to the sustainable way of the life. This is the task of humanitarian sciences. That is it not always straightforward as examples of developing countries show—they become richer and the population likes to enjoy as much luxury and advanced life as the countries developed during the previous decades. The author has good and very valuable experience how this synergy can cross-fertilise both sides during his involvement at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at that time UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and technology) <www.tyndall.ac.uk>. The recent research demonstrated that Greenhouse Gas Footprint could be substantially reduced if the population in highly developed countries were ready to change their diet, reducing the consumption of meat.
This presentation has been benefiting from the numerous presentations at SDEWES conferences and from the joint effort of a worldwide team of researchers, who spend considerable effort to find and formulate the answers to as many as possible key questions in the recently published book.
Klemeš J.J. (ed), Assessing and Measuring Environmental Impact and Sustainability, 2015, Elsevier / Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, UK