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The Karma of Products: Exploring the Causality of Environmental Pressure with Causal Loop Diagram and Environmental Footprint
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Industrial Ecology. (Sustainable Production and Consumption)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7717-600X
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Environmental pressures from consumer products and mechanisms of predetermination were examined in this thesis using causal loop diagram (CLD) and life cycle assessment (LCA) footprinting to respectively illustrate and provide some indicators about these mechanisms. Theoretical arguments and their practical implications were subjected to qualitative and quantitative analysis, using secondary and primary data. A study integrating theories from various research fields indicated that combining product-service system offerings and environmental policy instruments can be a salient aspect of the system change required for decoupling economic growth from consumption and environmental impacts. In a related study, modes of system behaviour identified were related to some pervasive sustainability challenges to the design of electronic products. This showed that because of consumption and investment dynamics, directing consumers to buy more expensive products in order to restrict their availability of money and avoid increased consumption will not necessarily decrease the total negative burden of consumption. In a study examining product systems, those of washing machines and passenger cars were modelled to identify variables causing environmental impacts through feedback loops, but left outside the scope of LCA studies. These variables can be considered in LCAs through scenario and sensitivity analysis. The carbon, water and energy footprint of leather processing technologies was measured in a study on 12 tanneries in seven countries, for which collection of primary data (even with narrow systems boundaries) proved to be very challenging. Moreover, there were wide variations in the primary data from different tanneries, demonstrating that secondary data should be used with caution in LCA of leather products. A study examining pre-consumer waste developed a footprint metric capable of improving knowledge and awareness among producers and consumers about the total waste generated in the course of producing products. The metric was tested on 10 generic consumer goods and showed that quantities, types and sources of waste generation can differ quite radically between product groups. This revealed a need for standardised ways to convey the environmental and scale of significance of waste types and for an international standard procedure for quantification and communication of product waste footprint. Finally, a planning framework was developed to facilitate inclusion of unintended environmental consequences when devising improvement actions. The results as a whole illustrate the quality and relevance of CLD; the problems with using secondary data in LCA studies; difficulties in acquiring primary data; a need for improved waste declaration in LCA and a standardised procedure for calculation and communication of the waste footprint of products; and systems change opportunities for product engineers, designers and policy makers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm, Sweden: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2016. , 77 p.
Series
TITRA-IM-PHD, 2016:01
Keyword [en]
Products, Environmental Pressure, Causal Loop Diagram, Environmental Footprint
National Category
Environmental Engineering Other Environmental Engineering
Research subject
Industrial Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-184223ISBN: 978-91-7595-910-8 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-184223DiVA: diva2:916120
Public defence
2016-05-11, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Sing-Sing, våningsplan 2, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

Jury committee

Henrikke Baumann, Associate Professor

Chalmers University of Technology

Department of Energy and Environment

Division of Environmental System Analysis

Joakim Krook, Associate Professor

Linköpings Universitet

Department of Management and Engineering (IEI) / Environmental Technology and Management (MILJÖ)

Karl Johan Bonnedal, Associate Professor

Umeå University

Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE)

Sofia Ritzén, Professor

KTH Royal Institute of Technology

School of Industrial Engineering and Management

Department of Machine Design

Integrated Product Development

QC 20160405

Available from: 2016-04-08 Created: 2016-03-30 Last updated: 2016-04-11Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Unintended environmental consequences of improvement actions: A qualitative analysis of systems' structure and behavior
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Unintended environmental consequences of improvement actions: A qualitative analysis of systems' structure and behavior
Show others...
2015 (English)In: Systems research and behavioral science, ISSN 1092-7026, E-ISSN 1099-1743Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We qualitatively analysed how and why environmental improvement actions often lead to unintended environmental consequences. Different theories are integrated to delineate the underlying system structure causing this system behavior. Causal loop diagram technique is utilized to explore and visualize: how incremental improvements in material and energy efficiency can unintendedly cause consumption to increase; how this consumption rebound effect is linked to generation of waste and pollution; and how this can give rise to social and negative externalities, economic inequalities and other broad unintended consequences in our society. Consumption and incremental innovation are found to be the highest leverage points and reinforcing factors driving unintended environmental consequences in this complex system. The paper in addition explores two potential modes of behaviour dissimilar to those of unintended environmental consequences. These emerging modes of behaviour are product-service systems and environmental policy instruments. Their combination forms a prominent transition pathway from a production-consumption-dispose economy to a so-called circular economy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
John Wiley & Sons, 2015
Keyword
Unintended environmental consequences; incremental innovation, consumption rebound effect; causal loop diagram.
National Category
Environmental Management
Research subject
Industrial Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-164870 (URN)10.1002/sres.2330 (DOI)000379955400006 ()2-s2.0-84923340510 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20160812

Available from: 2015-04-20 Created: 2015-04-20 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
2. Some pervasive challenges to sustainability by design of electronic products: a conceptual discussion
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Some pervasive challenges to sustainability by design of electronic products: a conceptual discussion
2015 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 108, Part A, 281-288 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sustainability should encompass responsibility for unintended environmental consequences of modern developments. This study examined some pervasive challenges to sustainability by design of electronic products, namely: (i) product and consumption redundancies; (i) embodied environmental and social impacts occurring distant in time and space from the point of consumption; and (iii) production and consumption dynamics. This analysis identified essential developments in certain areas that can assist design practice in preventing unintended environmental consequences. These were: (1) complementing life cycle assessment studies with analyses of unintended environmental consequences; and (2) exploiting the vital role of product design in fostering a circular economy. Indicators that provide information about (a) the increasing spatial and decreasing temporal separation of production, consumption and waste management, (b) constraints in raw materials supply and (c) marginal changes in money and time spent should be available to product designers and consumers. Furthermore, information technology, namely computer-aided design (CAD) tools, should be refined to assist product designers in designing for effective circularity and end-of-waste and limiting hibernation of resources in the use phase.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2015
Keyword
Sustainability, Design, Challenges, Unintended consequences, Electronic products, Rebound effects
National Category
Environmental Management
Research subject
Industrial Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-178178 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.08.041 (DOI)000367762500026 ()2-s2.0-84945445213 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20151214

Available from: 2015-12-07 Created: 2015-12-07 Last updated: 2017-12-01Bibliographically approved
3. Group Model-Building to identify potential sources of environmental impacts outside the scope of LCA studies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Group Model-Building to identify potential sources of environmental impacts outside the scope of LCA studies
Show others...
2014 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 72, 96-109 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Specific methodologies that consider a more comprehensive/diverse set of parameters must be explored by the LCA community. This study utilises the Group Model-Building (GMB) method to identify, and Causal Loop Diagram (CLD) technique to make explicit, variables which are not typically considered in LCA studies, but may have significant influence upon environmental impacts through cause-effect links and feedback loops in product systems. A literature review on LCAs concerning household washing machines and conventional passenger cars product systems is performed to investigate what are the commonly used functional unit, life cycle stages and system boundaries. Two parallel GMB sessions were organised to elicit relevant variables and relations in the product systems and build in a first version of CLDs. Individual interviews with the participants were undertaken to refine and validate the system models. Final versions of the system models were built. GMB and CLD can serve as a basis for (i) delimitating appropriated system boundaries for LCA and (ii) identifying variables/areas to be included in sensitivity and scenario analysis. Sensitivity and scenario analysis examine the influence that those variables/areas have on the environmental impacts of the product and describe both different contexts and profiles of users. GMB and CLD have the potential to bridge the divide between quantitative and qualitative variables, for more robust understanding of the causes and mechanisms of environmental impacts and improving conclusions and recommendations in LCA.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2014
Keyword
Group Model-Building, Causal Loop Diagram, Life Cycle Assessment, Product systems
National Category
Environmental Management
Research subject
Industrial Ecology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-144177 (URN)10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.03.001 (DOI)000336780200009 ()2-s2.0-84899916551 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20140627

Available from: 2014-04-10 Created: 2014-04-10 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
4. Measuring the environmental footprint of leather processing technologies
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Measuring the environmental footprint of leather processing technologies
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The selection of materials and manufacturing processes determines most of the environmental impact that a product will have during its life cycle. In directing consumption towards products with the least impact on the environment, measuring and comparing material alternatives with site-specific data is a fundamental prerequisite. Within the apparel and footwear industry, some famous brands have recently been basing their advertising on the claim that vegetable-tanned leather is more environmentally friendlythan chromium-tanned leather. However, there is a lack of scientific research assessing and comparing vegetable-and chromium-tanned leather in a wider context than the toxicity of chromium. To fill this gap, this study measured and compared the carbon, water and energy footprint of vegetable and chromium leather processing technology and intermediate processing stages in 12 selected tanneries in seven different countries world-wide. Each tannery proved to be very individual and therefore attempting to perform this type of analysis without simply producing meaningless generalities is a challenge for companies, researchers and regulators. The variability in results demonstrates that secondary data for the tanning phase should be utilizedwith caution in a decision-making context. The use of primary data would be advisable for life cycle assessment(LCA) studies of leather goods. No significant differences were found in the footprint of vegetable and chromium leather processes, but these are only indicative findings and need confirmation in further studies. An important area needing investigation is then how a fair comparison can be made between renewable natural materials and non-renewable materials used in both leather processing technologies.

Keyword
leather processing, tanning, vegetable-tanned, chromium-tanned, water footprint, energy footprint, carbon footprint
National Category
Environmental Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-184225 (URN)
Note

QC 20160405

Available from: 2016-03-30 Created: 2016-03-30 Last updated: 2016-04-08Bibliographically approved
5. Calculating the pre-consumer waste footprint: a screening study of 10 selected products
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Calculating the pre-consumer waste footprint: a screening study of 10 selected products
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Knowledge aboutthe total waste generated by the production of consumer goods canhelpraise awareness among policy-makers, producers and consumers of thebenefits of closing loops in a future circular economy and avoiding unnecessary production and production steps and associated generation of large amounts of waste.In strict life cycle assessment (LCA) practice, information on waste outputs fromintermediate industrial processes of material and energy transformation is only translatedinto and declared aspotential environmental impacts, whichare oftennot even shown in the final results. In this study, a procedure to extract available intermediate data and perform a systematic pre-consumer waste footprint analysiswas developed. The pre-consumer waste footprint concept was tested to analyse 10 generic products, whichprovided some interesting results for the different product categories and identifieda number of challenges that need to be resolvedin development of the waste footprint concept. These challenges include standardiseddata declaration on waste in LCA,with a separationintowaste categories illustratingthe implicit environmental and scale of significance of waste types and quantities(e.g. hazardous waste,inertwaste, waste for recycling/incineration)and establishment ofa common definitionof waste throughoutsectors and nations.

Keyword
waste footprint, streamlined life cycle assessment, pre-consumer waste, waste quantification and communication
National Category
Environmental Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-184227 (URN)
Note

QC 20160405

Available from: 2016-03-30 Created: 2016-03-30 Last updated: 2016-04-08Bibliographically approved
6. Towards Addressing Unintended Environmental Consequences: A Planning Framework
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards Addressing Unintended Environmental Consequences: A Planning Framework
2015 (English)In: Sustainable Development, ISSN 0968-0802, E-ISSN 1099-1719, Vol. 24, no 1, 1-17 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Efforts to decouple environmental impacts and resource consumption have been confounded by interactions and feedback between technical-economic, environmental and social aspects not considered prior to implementing improvement actions. This paper presents a planning framework that connects material flows and the socio-economic drivers that result in changes in these flows, in order to reduce conflicts between localized gains and global losses. The framework emphasizes the need for (i) having different settings of system boundaries (broader and narrower), (ii) explicitly accounting for causal relationships and feedback loops and (iii) identifying responsibilities between stakeholders (e.g. producers, consumers, collectors, recyclers, policy makers). Application of the framework is exemplified using the case of the global mobile phone product system. 'Product design and development' and 'Retailers and users as part of a collection system' were identified as central intervention points for implementing improvement strategies that included designing for longer life, designing for recycling and improving collection, designing for limiting phone hibernation time and internalizing external costs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Wiley-Blackwell, 2015
Keyword
Global sustainability, Physical resource management, Planning, Sustainable development, Systems thinking, Unintended environmental consequences
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-176245 (URN)10.1002/sd.1601 (DOI)000370661900001 ()2-s2.0-84958121991 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20151116. QC 20160319

Available from: 2015-11-16 Created: 2015-11-02 Last updated: 2017-12-01Bibliographically approved

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Output format
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