Session 8

Life Cycle Criticality Assessment: Basic methodology with an application to an electronic car
Guido Sonnemann1, Steven B. Young2, Alexander Cimprich2, Christoph Helbig3, Andrea Thorenz3, Axel Tuma3
1Université de Bordeaux, France; 2University of Waterloo, Canada; 3University of Augsburg, Germany

The last decades have been a period of economic growth and technological innovation. Consumption of industrial minerals is 27 times greater than in the early 1900s. Consequently, resource-related issues, such as geological scarcity, technological constraints, armed conflicts and geopolitical related supply risks are particularly important for sustainable development. In this context the concept of critical raw materials was developed.
Material criticality evaluation criteria consist of three dimensions: supply risk, vulnerability to supply restriction, and environmental implications. While conventional approaches towards the “natural resources” Area of Protection (AoP) in Life Cycle Assessment – such as the widely used Abiotic Depletion Potential method – tend to focus on physical depletion of resource availability in the long run, newer approaches for assessing resource “criticality” are typically concerned with risks of short run supply disruptions. Such “criticality” assessment methods are not designed to be compatible with the classical LCA framework; there is a lack of robust characterization models to express resource criticality in relation to a functional unit for a given product. The functional unit enables product level supply risk assessment and is a construct that strongly reflects the anthropocentric view of resources.
We propose a number of advancements towards integration of resource “criticality” in Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) and come up with the new approach of Life Cycle Criticality Assessment. First, based on a conceptual framework, a methodology for assessing Geopolitical Supply Risk (GeoPol) is proposed and demonstrated with a widely cited LCA case study of a European manufactured electric vehicle. Thus, we show the importance of integrating resource criticality into LCSA to inform management decisions at a product level.
This sequence of methodological development will be presented including new theoretical advances on the substitutability measure, and a LCSA case study with insights on resource criticality applied to the product-level.