Assessing Supply Risks within A Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment Framework – A Critical Review of Available supply risk indicators

by Marcus Berr (presenting author), Roland Hischier, Patrick Wäger

Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, St.Gallen, Switzerland


The supply of goods and services covers consumer needs and supports human well-being, but also contributes to environmental, economic and social impacts such as global warming, resources exploitation and political conflicts.

As a first step within one of six work packages of the ongoing Swiss national research project “OASES”, which aims at improving the assessment of footprints for greenhouse gases, pollutants, natural resources, critical materials and the social consequences of Swiss end use, we currently perform a critical review of existing raw materials criticality assessment approaches, with a particular focus on the evaluation of supply risk indicators along the supply chain. The overall aim of this work package is to identify supply risk indicators along life cycles and to integrate and apply these indicators in the Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) framework.

The supply risk of raw materials is determined by taking into account a set of indicators. Available literature already reveals a variety of supply risk indicators, which differ in their aggregation and scoring methods and the databases they refer to, often using data from international sources, but also applying specific national datasets. Most of these indicators emphasise the extraction and production stage along the supply chains. First attempts regarding the integration of supply risk indicators into LCA use characterization factors in order to reassess existing and establish new midpoint, Area of Protection and endpoint impact categories.

Based on our review, we can clearly conclude that well-developed supply risk indicators are available, but methodologies are missing to comprehensively address the supply risks of key resources and products along their entire supply chains. Additional research will both have to consider availability and acquisition challenges of indicator-specific data and require alterations in life cycle data inventories and impact assessments to adequately integrate supply risk indicators under the LCSA framework.