SS4: Targets, indicators, and benchmarks for resource use 

Time: Monday, 12 October 2015 (12:30 – 14:20)

Location: Flüela

Session Chair: Marilyn J. Mehlmann, Global Action Plan International, Sweden

Session Chair: Dr. Patrick Wäger, Empa, Switzerland



Criticality of water – aligning water and mineral resources assessment

Thomas Sonderegger, Stephan Pfister, Stefanie Hellweg

ETH Zurich, Chair of Ecological System Design, Switzerland

The concept of criticality has been used to assess whether a resource may become a limiting factor to economic activities. It has been primarily applied to non-renewable resources, in particular to metals. However, renewable resources such as water may also be overused and become a limiting factor. We therefore developed a water criticality method that allows for a new, user-oriented assessment of water availability and accessibility. Comparability of criticality across resources is desirable, which is why the presented water criticality method is based on a metal criticality method (Graedel et al. 2012). Its basic structure with three dimensions is maintained: 1) the supply risk addresses the physical availability as well as regulatory and geopolitical risks; 2) the environmental implications account for impacts of resource use on human health and the environment; 3) aspects of vulnerability (e.g. dependency on water for economic production) and adaptation to supply restrictions (e.g. production of desalinated water and water storage) of affected economies are taken into account. With respect to the necessary adaptations to the water context, a transparent water criticality framework is proposed that may pave the way for future integrated criticality assessment of metals, water and other resources. Water criticality scores were calculated for 159 countries subdivided into 493 geographic units for the year 2000. Amongst the most critical regions are Northern Africa (Egypt, Libya) and Central and South Asia (e.g. Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Northern India). Results allow for a detailed analysis of criticality profiles, revealing locally specific characteristics of water criticality (e.g. low water stress but high vulnerability). This is useful for the screening of sites and their related water criticality, for indication of water related problems and possible mitigation options and water policies, and for future water scenario analysis.


Assessing sustainable limits for meals – first results from the project NAH_Gast: Developing, Testing and Dissemination of concepts for sustainable production and consumption in the food service sector

Holger Rohn1, Melaie Lukas2, Tobias Engelmann1, Christa Liedtke2

1Faktor 10 – Institut für nachhaltiges Wirtschaften gemeinnützige GmbH; 2Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy

The food industry belongs to the most significant economic sectors worldwide. Regarding resource use, human nutrition is responsible for about 30 % of global resource consumption. In order to decrease resource consumption to a level in line with planetary boundaries, it is suggested to reduce the resource use of the nutrition sector by factor 2. In view of about 40 % market share in the total nutrition market in Germany, the restaurant and catering sector presents a large untapped potential to increase resource efficiency and improve consumers’ health status. In the light of the above, the current project NAH_Gast aims at initiating, supporting and promoting transformation processes for sustainable business in the hospitality sector. Therefore the project will promote the concept of a resource-efficient and socially inclusive economy through the development and testing of instruments for sustainable product innovations, which should be integrated in hospitality settings so actors will be able to measure and assess foodstuff and menus from the viewpoint of sustainability and health. By now, already existing indicators and assessment methods, e.g. Carbon and Material footprinting, or already targeted concepts such as the Nutritional Footprint or SusDISH have to be compared and analyzed. The aim is to provide a comparison of existing concepts and their adaption to reach the overall goal towards a deeper understanding of sustainable catering and food procurement. The paper may be seen as the conceptional and methodological part of the general framework of the NAH_Gast project.


The Good Growth Plan farm network – Monitoring resource efficiency of crop production systems

Elisabeth Fischer1, Juan Gonzalez-Valero1, An Segers2

1Syngenta, Switzerland; 2Market Probe Agriculture and Animal Health

The FAO estimates that food supplies need to increase by 70% to feed a growing population of 9 billion people by 2050. The changes in agricultural practices required to grow more tend to exert higher demand on resources and put eco-system services at risk of degradation. Syngenta, a global company selling agrochemicals and seeds, invests in research and development of agricultural innovations that help farmers produce more with less. In 2013, Syngenta launched The Good Growth Plan and set global targets to be met by 2020 with regard to resource efficiency and other indicators. A global monitoring and evaluation system was set up to track progress on these targets. To measure improvements of farm resource efficiency, a global network of over 3500 farms in 41 countries was established. The network covers 23 different crops in different market segments, including smallholder farms in developing countries. The sample includes reference and benchmark farms. While reference farms are real customers selected by Syngenta, benchmark farms were randomly selected within the same market segments. In 2014, the baseline farm surveys were carried out by Market Probe, an independent agricultural market research company. Data on resource efficiency will be collected annually until 2020. With more years of data available, panel techniques and time series analysis will be used to assess trends and determinants of resource efficiency.


Resource efficiency and sustainable management of natural resources and raw materials: the need for a common understanding of the terminology in policy making

Jo Dewulf1,2, Lorenzo Benini1, Lucia Mancini1, Serenella Sala1, Gian Andrea Blengini1,3, David Pennington1

1European Commission, Italy; 2Research Group ENVOC; 3Politecnico di Torino

Policy makers set out a range of initiatives with the buzzwords ‘natural resources’, ‘raw materials’, ‘resource efficiency’, and ‘sustainable management’ of natural resources and raw materials. An analysis of the practice highlights that there are quite different interpretations of the terminology used. In this contribution, we bring proposals for coherent definitions of ‘natural resources’ and ‘raw materials’, a systematized framework for ‘resource efficiency indicators’ and a holistic set of sustainability concerns to understand the coverage and positioning of assessment methods for ‘sustainable management’ of raw materials production and supply.


Applicability of environmental impact assessment indicators on the use of natural resources in the built environment

Holger Wallbaum1, Alexander Passer2, Stefan Bringezu3, Jun Kono1

1Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden; 2TU Graz; 3Wuppertal Institute for Climate Environment Energy

The paper addresses the outcomes of a study on the analysis of state-of-the-art indicator-based approaches for the environmental impact assessment of the usage of natural resources. Life cycle based assessment methods are applied on the case of construction materials, construction products and entire buildings. The study has been conducted on behalf of the city of Zurich to support their strategy towards the 2000 Watt society with consideration of the potential trade-off situation between energy efficiency and renewable energies, greenhouse gas reduction potentials and the responsible use of (natural) resources. Some environmental impact assessment methods claiming to consider natural resources in their assessment and impact framework combining energetic and natural resources, which are detected or reported partly as separate parameters. A few methods use naturally-material resources as an input parameter, whereas other approaches consider mass flows in relation to suspected reserves or the willingness of the market to pay a price for a resource or a product. An expert survey among the advisory group members has also shown that the recyclability of a material resource and the avoidance of dissipative losses should be reflected within a reliable resource-specific ecological assessment method and an appropriate indicator. To meet these requirements, the combination of different evaluation methods to assess the use of (natural) resources and their environmental impacts can be carried out without any further methodological development. The disadvantages are that the existing methods today do not meet all the requirements of a sustainable use of resources. Furthermore the comprehensive results cannot be sensibly aggregated into a single number to support decision making processes.


Destroying circular economy in order to save it

Elmer Rietveld

TNO, The Netherlands

The Circular Economy concept by the Ellen MacArthur foundation (EMF) could be threatened by opportunists, fundamentalists or romantics. Basically anyone with an aversion to try to clarify the present state of the planet, society or economy. Concepts might therefore be in need of destruction or salvation. The eloquent display of the Circular Economy concept by the EMF has undoubtedly captured the imagination of many entrepreneurs, researchers and policy makers. Many organizations highlight their interest in a circular economy, which poses the risk of the concept being a victim of its own success. If everything is deemed important, nothing is. What’s worse: a scattered focus takes away the awareness of menacing challenges that are at the heart of the Circular Economy. This manuscript aims to discuss three challenges to the circular economy framework that we consider most threatening to the concept in the long term. First, the fact that publicly available data have stark limitations. Databases lack level of detail, geographical coverage and accuracy. This means that in decision making, conceptual thinking is overpowering verifiable fact-finding. Second, the absence of an answer to the question: how we should express circularity, even if we would have the data? Although propositions for indicator frameworks are available, (notably the “measuring circularity” report of the EMF from 2015) there is still no agreement among experts. Third, the inability to establish a framework of welfare optimization, even if we would have a clear definition of circularity. The need for corporate secrecy, the need for personal privacy, the lack of recognition of negative externalities, the nature of disruptive innovations The result is an unbalanced focus on mandates of public authorities, along with an allocation of resources to solutions that have little to do with ideas based on a Circular Economy concept.