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Hybrid approach for the evaluation of organizational indirect impacts (AVOID): combining product-related, process-based, and monetary-based methods

Finogenova, Natalia; Bach, Vanessa; Berger, Markus; Finkbeiner, Matthias

Purpose: Environmental burden caused by an organization occurs both within its boundaries and in its value chain. Organizational life cycle assessment (LCA) was proposed as a method for calculating impacts of an organization throughout its life cycle; nevertheless, companies are still lacking a universal approach to conduct inventory analysis and face challenges in data collection. This paper introduces a hybrid approach for compiling the inventory for the indirect activities on organizational level in an effective manner. Methods: Three existing accounting methods (namely product related, process based, and monetary based) are connected within the hybrid approach. The potential to apply each method for an indirect activity is analyzed with regard to the system boundary requirements and availability of activity data and emission factors. The calculation procedures are introduced for selected activities. The advantages and limitations of the hybridization on organizational level are discussed. The developed approach is applied in a case study to the automotive supplier Brose Fahrzeugteile GmbH & Co.KG. Results and discussion: The framework for application of the hybrid approach including the required activity data and emission factors for every indirect activity and each accounting method is provided. The product-related and process-based methods are recommended as more robust; nevertheless, hybridization with the monetary-based method might be essential for compiling a comprehensive inventory by limited data availability. Such limitations as double counting, truncation error, and insufficient data resolution may influence the results and should be considered when applying the hybrid approach. The case study demonstrated that the proposed approach allowed establishing an inventory for all relevant indirect activities. However, due to missing emission factors, only the impact category climate change was calculated for all activities; acidification and water use were quantified for six activities. Conclusions: The introduced hybrid approach enables selecting the most suitable accounting method for the indirect activities depending on data availability. This promotes application of the organizational life cycle assessment in particular for small and medium enterprises and companies that do not have access to the commercial LCA datasets. Availability of the emission factors for all impact categories in public databases is essential to provide robust results using the hybrid approach.
Published in: International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 10.1007/s11367-018-1544-7, Springer