Assessing the contribution of products to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals – the SDGs – represent the most important framework for sustainable development worldwide. However, the question of how the contribution of products and companies to the SDGs can be measured has been little explored so far. Companies in particular are called upon to make their contribution to achieving the goals. Dr. Ulrike Eberle, Julius Wenzig and Nico Mumm have just published a scientific article on this topic in the International Journal for Life Cycle Assessment: Assessing the contribution of products to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: a methodological proposal

The presented method enables companies to analyze their impact and that of their products on the SDGs targets in their own company and in the supply chain. Since the latter in particular is required, for example, by the German Supply Chain Sourcing Obligations Act (LkSG), but also in other countries such as France, the Netherlands or the UK, and in the future also throughout the EU, the method developed makes an important contribution here and also fills a research gap. The paper describes the methodological approach that was applied to derive indicators and develop a proposal for assessing the contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For this purpose, all 17 SDGs and all 169 targets were analyzed in terms of their product relevance. In order to systematically identify product-related goals, it was analyzed firstly whether a product has a direct influence on achieving the SDG and secondly whether the companies that produce the product and the raw materials have a direct influence on achieving the respective SDG. In total, 61 product-related sub-goals were identified for which 45 sets of indicators were derived that are suitable for assessing the potential contribution of products to the SDGs. The estimation of the contribution to the SDGs is done for the socio-economic impact of the product on a scale from +1 to -1 and is based on 20 of the proposed 45 indicators. The impact assessment methodology developed for the socio-economic impacts follows the Social Life Cycle Assessment (s-LCA) guidelines published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 2009.

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