Sustainability evaluation of products and services
The ZNU – Center for Sustainable Leadership at Witten/Herdecke University and the Oeko-Institut have devised a method to measure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals for companies, products and product policy. It includes an analysis of product benefits. Convenient software is provided for ease of use.
At present, very few methods are available for the integrated analysis and evaluation of the sustainability of products and services based on globally uniform and accepted goals. However, a method developed within the SDG Evaluation of Products – SEP research project now provides a remedy. “Our method makes it possible, for the first time, to measure the contribution to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals at product or service level and to identify levers for improving performance,” says Dr Ulrike Eberle, project leader and Head of Research at ZNU. “Not least, this enhances transparency in human rights due diligence along the supply chain – and nowadays, Germany’s Supply Chain Act makes this a more important requirement than ever.”
The SDG Evaluation of Products (SEP) method uses the United Nations' Agenda 2030 with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 targets, adopted by the international community in September 2015, as its reference. The development of the method was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).
SEP consists of three building blocks and is based on the life cycle assessment approach. The sustainability evaluation is the core of the method. It measures the contribution of the product or service to the relevant SDGs using defined indicators. The result identifies sustainability issues where the product is already performing well, as well as those where there is still a need for improvement.
To complete the evaluation, a supplementary social benefit analysis can be carried out. With reference to the SDGs, this identifies the additional benefit aspects of the products and services under consideration, going beyond their core benefits.
“A detailed benefit analysis enables companies to adopt a more comprehensive systems-based approach to sustainability analysis,” says Martin Möller, deputy project leader and Senior Researcher at the Oeko-Institut. “It can also improve the knowledge base for assessing various options at political level, for example in the context of chemicals or product policy.”
To simplify the sustainability assessment, the ProFitS software was developed within the project framework and is freely available.