corsus involved in method development for biodiversity in life cycle assessments

Although the protection and promotion of biodiversity is one of the greatest challenges of our time, it is difficult to measure the impact of products and services on biodiversity. Dr. Ulrike Eberle, Managing partner of corsus, has been involved in developing a method to estimate the impact on biodiversity for life cycle assessments.

Due to the dramatic development, the protection of biodiversity is one of the most important goals of the global community. Two of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations Agenda 2030 aim to protect ecosystems, genetic diversity, and species richness: Goal 14 addresses marine conservation and Goal 15 (& 6.6) addresses land biodiversity conservation.

This is because the consequences of biodiversity loss affect not only nature, but also humans in many ways. Key livelihoods such as food, clean water and medicine depend significantly on biodiversity and the integrity of ecosystems. Nevertheless, more species have become extinct in the last 50 years than ever before, with the trend continuing to rise, and the integrity of the biosphere is now one of the four transgressed planetary boundaries.

In Life Cycle Assessments (LCA), it has been difficult to estimate the impact of products and services on biodiversity. While some methodological approaches already exist, their applicability has been limited outside of research and science due to their complexity. The Bundesamt für Naturschutz (BfN) has therefore funded a method development project to make biodiversity measurable in life cycle assessments.

In the newly developed method, land use is the central variable, which is linked to parameters that affect the biodiversity potential of the used land. In addition, the method makes it possible to integrate new findings or detailed information in the form of further parameters. It can thus always be adapted to the state of knowledge, as is done, for example, with the characterization factors of greenhouse gases for estimating the impact on climate change.

A scientific publication on the developed method has just been published under the title “Moving beyond land use intensity types: assessing biodiversity impacts using fuzzy thinking” in the “International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment”.

corsus has already applied the method in several projects. One of these is the collaboration with WWF Germany to assess the impact of German food on global biodiversity. Here the strength of the method becomes apparent: Due to the flexible structure in the possible depth of detail, complex systems like the nutrition of a country can be analyzed as well as smaller systems like the production of paper for a specific product. The results can be used to derive goals and measures for the protection of global biodiversity.