SPIRE trio map out road to Sustainability measurement
The Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency (SPIRE) Public–Private Partnership (PPP) brings together a range of sectors in the process industry: cement, ceramics, chemicals, engineering, minerals and ores, non-ferrous metals, steel and water. All these SPIRE sectors are resource and energy intensive and improving their resource and energy efficiency are key to improving their sustainability and competitiveness.
But what do we mean by sustainability and, more importantly, how can we measure it in a consistent manner across a wide range of industries and applications?
Clearly, sustainability assessment methods are crucial for evaluating the current situation at an industrial site and to evaluate the achievement of resource and energy efficiency goals. Any methods or tools developed for sustainability assessment must be widely applicable and scalable.
Providing better, consistent sustainability assessment is an underpinning requirement for real progress in industrial sustainability and is key for meaningful cross-sectorial assessment. To get a better insight, SPIRE, in its first round of calls in 2014, funded three parallel projects (SAMT, STYLE and MEASURE) with the specific objective to increase the European knowledge base related to applied sustainability assessment tools, methodologies, and indicators and to overcome bottlenecks for cross-sectorial take-up and further development in the process industry.
The three projects worked together closely and have now completed their work. The trio have published their results individually and have also just produced a set of harmonised recommendations.
The aim of the SAMT project was to review and make recommendations about the methods with best potential for evaluating sustainability in the process industry and to improve the integration of sustainability assessment methods in decision making.
The project discovered, for example, that there is a demand for both developing existing methods to cover and integrate different aspects of sustainability (environmental, economic and social), and to develop simplified assessments with harmonised guidelines, in which the assessment process could be integrated with daily decision-making by automating part of the work flow. In addition, based on the project’s analysis of existing standards (including the ISO 14000 family and PEF – Product Environmental Footprint), future standardisation activities related to sustainability assessment methods were proposed. SAMT results and outcomes can be found here: www.spire2030.eu/samt
Project STYLE set out with a remit to look for an ideal collection of tools to meet the needs of a specific scenario: ‘A project team is evaluating options for a resource or energy improvement for their process or product and they need a pragmatic tool to check the broader sustainability implications of each technological solution’.
Although promising features were found in existing open access tools, the most suitable tools that the project discovered had been developed in-house by industry and, therefore, were not available to be easily transferred and used across other process industries. Consequently, STYLE worked with project partners and stakeholders to develop a high-level structure for an ‘Ideal Toolkit’, taking useful features from existing tools and feedback from a range of tool users. STYLE has made recommendations for the further development of this Toolkit. STYLE results and outcomes can be found here: www.spire2030.eu/STYLE#edit-group_outcomes
The MEASURE team focussed on concepts to guide innovation processes within SPIRE collaborations towards more sustainable technologies and to facilitate industrial cooperation in sustainability assessment across-sectors and along value chains.
MEASURE advocates an innovation management approach, which promotes holistic understanding of economic, environmental and societal challenges that a new technology must respond to. The approach provides an ability to compare alternative solutions, offer understanding of their benefits and drawbacks, and progress towards a defined target for robust decision-making. Cooperation between industries aiming for a holistic understanding of the chances of industrial symbioses and product value chain management are also supported, for example, by recommendations for a harmonised data exchange system. MEASURE results and outcomes can be found here: https://www.spire2030.eu/measure/
The harmonised recommendations cover actions in four different categories:
- Uptake Actions including promoting a wider use of life-cycle-thinking (LCT)-based tools among process industry for regular decision-making,
- Methodology Actions including improvement of existing environmental and social assessment methods, and standardisation of monetization aspects – an essential element for assessing project impact,
- Tools Actions including development of tools to simplify data handling & management that are also adaptable to different contexts, and
- Data Actions including Improving interoperability between different datasets and life-cycle-assessment (LCA) software, and improving availability of data.
You can download the full set of SAMT-STYLE-MEASURE Harmonised Recommendations here.
Some of the ideas, tools and guidelines that have emerged from these three pioneering projects will be applied in the forthcoming SPIRE/ Horizon2020 funded project entitled ‘SPRING’. This Coordination and Support Action (CSA) is a response to the SPIRE funding call SPIRE-11-2017 on ‘Support for the enhancement of the impact of SPIRE PPP projects’.
SPRING will bring together tools and guidance on best practice to enable SPIRE projects to better measure their progress, impact and success and fulfil their objectives and potential. SPRING will address the needs of those who make the decisions to adopt process innovations in industry and the barriers to their adoption.