When carbon is not enough: Comprehensive Ecological Rucksack Indicators for Products

Paper presented at R‘09 Twin World Congress in Davos.

Summary :

Consumers increasingly demand more transparent information about the sustainability performance of products and services. Thus companies aim at measuring and communicating the environmental performance of products. But which indicators enable a consistent measurement of the environmental sustainability of a product? Some major European initiatives have been launched, focusing in most cases on the indicator Carbon Footprint. But the Carbon Footprint does not take into account resource scarcity and trade-offs between different environmental categories, including the use of raw materials, water and land. In this paper, we present a pilot study assessing a more comprehensive set of indicators, which was conducted in 2008 with a number of Austrian companies. In contrast to the single indicator approach, a set of five indicators was selected and tested for the assessment of the environmental sustainability performance of products: Abiotic Material Rucksack, Biotic Material Rucksack, Water Rucksack, Actual Land Use and Carbon Footprint. In an ongoing Austrian research project, we currently explore, whether this indicator set can be further developed into an integrated and Web-based Business Resource Intensity Index (BRIX).