Methodological and analytical bases for social-ecological transformations
[Translate to English:] © plainpicture / Kornelia Rumberg

The Oeko-Institut’s researchers use a broad range of tools and methods in their work. Some of these models and tools were developed by the Oeko-Institut in order to analyse environmental problems and are being adapted and continuously refined in response to current challenges. The researchers also make use of other well-established methods.

Key methods – an overview:

Models and tools developed by the Oeko-Institut

Economic models and distributional effects

The Exiobase database is characterised by a high degree of detail for 200 products and more than 163 sectors. It is linked to multiple social and environmental satellite accounts for 44 countries and five rest-of-world regions. The incorporation of detailed data on energy, agricultural production, resource extraction, environmental factors and bilateral trade facilitates the analysis of environment- and resource-related impacts in all countries. The advantage of the Exiobase database is that it offers a high level of disaggregation of products and sectors, allowing changes induced by individual policies and measures to be captured on a sectoral basis. The linking to trade flows means that upstream chain effects, both domestic and international, are also included, facilitating analysis of environmental and resource use associated with imported or exported goods or products (in relation to CO2, this is known as “carbon content of products”). Impact analyses using the input-output model can be performed at both the economic and the environmental level.

EmIO is an input-output model, developed by the Oeko-Institut, which models the linkages between sectors within the national economy and includes a specific module for impacts on employment. It is available in two forms – EmIO-D (Germany) and EmIO-EU – based on the input-output tables produced by the German Federal Statistical Office and Eurostat respectively, which are published each year within the scope of national economic accounting. EmIO can be used to calculate the employment effects of investment, cost savings or additional costs resulting from energy and climate policy measures in the various sectors. It also takes into account the linkages within the national economy and inputs from other sectors.

Every energy and climate policy measure brings about distributional effects within the population. Based on detailed household data, the distributional effects of various measures on the population in Germany can be determined using the Oeko-Institut’s SEEK-DE microsimulation model. SEEK-DE models how changes in price (e.g. induced by taxes) or changes in the quantities demanded (e.g. resulting from energy-saving measures) affect different types of household. The individual dimensions of distribution that are considered include disposable income, household composition and socioeconomic status.

Microdata sets from household surveys, including the Income and Consumption Sample Survey (EVS), the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) and Mobility in Germany (MiD), serve as input data for the SEEK-DE microsimulation model. The topic of the analysis determines which of the data sets is appropriate and should be prioritised.

Evaluations may be performed for the EU as a whole and for individual Member States. Microdata sets from household surveys at EU level, including the Household Budget Survey (HBS) and EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), serve as input data for the SEEK-EU microsimulation model.

Energy sector modelling

The Oeko-Institut uses the FABio-Farming simulation model for the agricultural sector. It models arable and livestock farming under various management systems (e.g. conventional and organic farming, extensification). The Excel model calculates greenhouse gas emissions and can be used to quantify the effects of climate change mitigation measures in agriculture. FABio-Farming can furthermore model environmental parameters (biodiversity, nitrogen content, carbon) and is based on more nuanced economic assumptions.

The Oeko-Institut’s FABio-Forestry tool for modelling forest growth and silvicultural management is a distance-independent individual tree growth model that can be applied to various forest development scenarios. It is based on data collected for the second and third cycles of the German National Forest Inventory. FABio includes a model for calculation of increment, a recruitment model for the characterisation of new trees, mortality, deadwood and soil carbon models, and a model for the sorting and classification of wood products. FABio-Forestry supports scenario analyses as a basis for comparison of the impacts of various silvicultural practices and management scenarios on wood supply, carbon sequestration and diverse aspects of nature conservation.

For the LULUCF sector, the Oeko-Institut developed an Excel-based model which – based on historical reported data – projects land use, land-use changes and associated emissions up to 2050. Policy decisions such as a ban on grassland conversion or the rewetting of bogs can be simulated in scenarios. The model is available in a version for Germany and the EU. FABio-LULUCF for Germany integrates the results from FABio-Forestry and reports changes in agricultural land use to FABio-Farming and LISE.

The Oeko-Institut uses the Livestock and Soil Emissions (LISE) model in order to calculate greenhouse gas emission trends and other agricultural variables. This bottom-up agricultural model captures livestock farming and agricultural land use in Germany in relation to production (yields and performance indicators, management systems, technologies) and selected environmental parameters (greenhouse gases, land use, nitrogen turnover). An additional sub-module can be used to estimate energy-related emissions from agriculture which – based on the sector allocation stipulated in Germany’s Federal Climate Change Act – also count towards target attainment. As well as modelling long-term scenarios, LISE is used to quantify the impacts of climate change mitigation measures. Other Excel-based tools exist in parallel and can be used to model the development of demand for animal and plant-based products or the biomass supply, for example. These various tools are linked to the LISE model but can also be used separately.

Other models

The AnaFgas model (Analysis of Fluorinated greenhouse gases), which was developed jointly by Öko-Recherche GmbH and the Oeko-Institut, is a bottom-up stock model to derive demand and emission scenarios for F-gases in relevant sectors and sub-sectors for the EU27 and the United Kingdom. It models demand for and emissions of HFCs, PFCs and SF6 for the period 2000 to 2050 based on market data and estimates of the quantity of equipment or products sold each year containing these substances, and the quantity of substances required in the EU to manufacture and/or maintain equipment and products over time.

AnaFgas can be used to quantify the effects and costs of policy interventions to reduce emissions of fluorinated greenhouse gases by comparing different scenarios (e.g. policy options, baseline and counterfactual).

The Green Cloud Computing (GCC) methodology aims to measure and calculate the environmental impacts of individual cloud services. The methodology makes it possible to calculate an environmental footprint for specific services. Effort metrics are identified and assessed in relation to the service provided. The entire life cycle of IT equipment is considered, and resource demand and environmental impacts are identified and analysed. In addition, the quantified information is integrated into a data model in order to identify optimisation potential and define appropriate measures.

This key performance indicator (KPI) tool enables the resource efficiency and environmental impacts of data centres to be comprehensively assessed. The following parameters serve as performance indicators for data centre usage: the servers’ processing power, indicators to measure data storage capacity, and the networks’ data transmission performance. Abiotic resource depletion potential, cumulative energy demand, greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption are assessed. The environmental impacts determined can be reported separately based on life cycle stages (manufacturing, distribution, use and disposal phase) or sub-systems (server, data storage, network and buildings technology). As well as capturing and calculating the indicators, the KPI4DCE Tool can be used to simulate the effects of upgrading measures or to assess, after the measures have been implemented, whether the desired impacts have been achieved.


PROSA is a method, developed by the Oeko-Institut, for the strategic analysis and evaluation of product portfolios, products and services. PROSA assesses environmental, economic and social aspects along the product line. The goal is to identify system innovations and options for action towards sustainable development. The Oeko-Institut applies the PROSA methodology to develop criteria for ecolabelling of products and services and for public procurement, for example. A key element of the PROSA analysis is consultation with local and national stakeholder groups with a view to developing tailored, country-specific sustainability solutions.

Under the REACH Regulation, Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) are placed on the Candidate List and published EU-wide. REACH Radar is an Excel-based tool, developed by the Oeko-Institut, which includes the updated versions of this and other substance lists. By using REACH Radar, companies can quickly ascertain whether they utilise any of these substances and can then make targeted efforts to identify substitutes.

The TEMPS  (Transport Emissions and Policy Scenarios) model developed at the Oeko-Institut makes it possible to quantify the transport sector’s final energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions in various scenarios. The model comprises three components: transport demand, vehicle stock, and energy and carbon footprint.

The taxes and charges of particular relevance to the transport sector – energy tax, electricity taxes and charges, truck tolls, motor vehicle tax, value added tax on vehicles and fuels – are modelled in detail in TEMPS. A key element of the model is that it includes vehicle selection (passenger cars and trucks). This is captured through agent-based modelling and takes into account the costs to the user, compliance with CO2 standards with due regard for their impact on vehicle prices, and restrictions such as potential purchasers’ operating range requirements.

Other  models and tools

Data collection

Scientific research and policy advice require a firm factual basis. This in turn necessitates the collection and subsequent compilation and analysis of data. But which data collection method is most appropriate? That will depend on the timescale and available budgetary resources, the type of data sources used, and the likely location and quality of the data.

One option when collecting data is to conduct quantitative surveys with the aim of quantifying the distribution of specific attitudes within the survey group in numerical terms and determining how they correlate with other traits such as sociodemographic characteristics, attitudes towards other issues, or level of knowledge. Qualitative surveys are performed by conducting interviews with expert practitioners, for example.

Quantitative data analysis methods

Data analysis methods should be considered at the project planning stage onwards in order to ensure that data collection and data analysis strategies are fully aligned. So which data analysis method is most appropriate? That will depend on the available data. Various statistical methods can be applied; examples are regression analysis, structural equation modelling and trend analysis. In decomposition analysis, a method frequently used by the Oeko-Institut, the most significant direct and indirect drivers and factors influencing greenhouse gas emission trends are identified. Another key method is benchmarking analysis, which compares various processes or outcomes as a basis for measuring policy impacts.

Carbon accounting

The Oeko-Institut makes use of various carbon accounting methodologies. National greenhouse gas inventories are produced on the basis of the IPCC Guidelines. The Oeko-Institut also uses a variety of international standards, including GHG Protocol, ISO 14064 and the Global Reporting Initiative’s GHG Protocol Corporate Standard, in order to produce carbon audits for businesses and public authorities. Environmental impacts can also be calculated as part of a life cycle assessment, for example.

Qualitative analyses

Qualitative analyses are a key method used to assess various environmental problems and policy options. Here, the Oeko-Institut applies methods such as stakeholder, discourse, network, coherence and media analysis. As part of these analyses, specific stakeholder groups, conflicts of interest or even language use are identified and studied in the given context. The Oeko-Institut performs governance analysis in order to investigate specific forms of collective action in the political, administrative, business and social spheres.

Evaluation and impact assessment

Various evaluation and impact assessment methods are used by the Oeko-Institut in its research. An evaluation is the systematic assessment of specific policy interventions from their conceptual development and design to implementation and outcomes. It may focus on individual projects and actions, policy instruments, programmes, processes or organisations. Evaluations may be conducted before, during or after programme delivery. Programme evaluations may be conducted within the national, international and EU frameworks.

Impact assessments are core methods in evidence-based policy-making. Their purpose is to predict and systematically assess the likely impacts of legal provisions, policy measures, projects or interventions ex ante and compare them with other regulatory options. They can be performed for individual interventions or entire programmes in a national or international context. An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), for example, consists of an analysis and evaluation of a project’s foreseeable environmental and social impacts and risks. Economic impacts can also be calculated.


Scenario analysis

Scenarios are used to analyse possible future developments and how they interrelate. They describe alternative future situations and pathways leading to them. Scenarios model the hypothetical outcomes of events in order to identify causal processes and factors of relevance to decision-making. The Oeko-Institut has developed a range of scenario tools and models and makes use of them in order to investigate what-if scenarios that enhance understanding of the impacts of key factors on policy outcomes, such as the attainment of climate targets.

Broadly, a distinction is made between normative (target) and exploratory scenarios, which investigate the effects of policies and interventions on greenhouse gas reductions and other impact categories. Scenario tools and sectoral or socioeconomic optimisation or simulation models help to generate knowledge about the problem and its cause-and-effect relationships. These tools can be utilised in combination with other techniques to support decision-making, e.g. to assess the impacts of an alternative scenario in terms of its greenhouse gas mitigation effect or to determine the total cost-benefit ratio of a given proposal.


Product and substance assessment

The Oeko-Institut utilises multiple methods to assess products and substances, the most important being the Product Carbon Footprint (PCF) and the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF). The Product Carbon Footprint measures greenhouse gas emissions throughout the life cycle of a product in a specific application and in relation to a defined usage unit. The Product Environmental Footprint is based on life cycle assessment (LCA). Its purpose is to facilitate direct comparison of the environmental performance of diverse products with an identical function. The Oeko-Institut advises businesses and public authorities on the design and application of PEFs. Life cycle assessment (LCA) – or life cycle analysis – is a method used for the systematic analysis and environmental evaluation of products, technologies and services.

Toxicological substance evaluation focuses on the properties of hazardous substances and their effects on humans and the environment. This may also include assessments of possible substitutes. Material flow analysis is a technique based on systems analysis that investigates substance and material flows associated with specific products, processes, services or areas of need (e.g. construction and housing, mobility, food). Unlike life cycle assessment, material flow analysis has not been standardised at the international level. As a result, numerous methods exist and may differ considerably depending on the topic, purpose of the study and the analytical system used.


Economic methods

The Oeko-Institut makes use of various macroeconomic models, which are tailored to specific issues and regions. They rely on wide-ranging economic statistics and data and consider forward linkages within the national economy and with trade partners. In its research, the Oeko-Institut uses econometric analyses, among other things, in order to capture changes in economic performance in comparison to projected results. Cost-benefit analyses, external cost analyses and cost-effectiveness analyses are also performed by the Oeko-Institut in order to determine programmes’ economic feasibility. Distributional analyses are also important in capturing social impacts; these analyses show how specific groups are affected by particular measures.


Legal analysis

Analysis of the legal framework at national, European and international level clarifies whether and how (e.g. by which institutions, by which process) sustainability-oriented solutions can be legally implemented. This may involve new policy instruments or processes. The Oeko-Institut also assesses the legality of administrative procedures and compares various legal systems. Legal analyses may focus on the national, European or international level.


Consultation and engagement

The Oeko-Institut works with various formats and methods of stakeholder engagement in order to facilitate participation by the public and interest group representatives in policy- and decision-making. Here, one option is to hold consultations with stakeholder representatives and involve them in a research process. A further key area of the Oeko-Institut’s work is transdisciplinary research, whereby various stakeholder groups participate in the research process from the outset and knowledge is generated in collaboration with non-academic stakeholders.