Chapter 1: An introduction to sustainable development and LCSA
Full access

Sustainable development has become a major concept everywhere. Since its initial formulation by the Brundtland Commission, its meaning has broadened as stakeholders adapt it to their concerns. Its use by the United Nations in 2015 to frame a series of objectives and targets - the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - gave the term more substance. But while the targets are well described, the roadmap to reach them is often ill-defined. Missing in many of the posited cures to planetary ills is a life cycle view. This first chapter sets out the sustainability context for the subsequent, more technical contributions. After first looking at the terminological conundrum, the chapter describes the life cycle perspective of sustainable solutions, before seeing how current methods perform in such a framework. The chapter ends with a discussion on how the SDGs themselves might evolve. A life cycle toolbox is proposed to facilitate the evolution of available methods.

  • Balkau, F., Bezama, A. (2019): Life cycle methodologies for building circular economy in cities and regions. Waste Management and Research 37 (8), 765–766.

  • Balkau, F., Bezama, A., Leroy-Parmentier, N., Sonnemann, G. (2021): A review on the use of life cycle methodologies and tools in sustainable regional development. Sustainability 13 (19), art. 10881.

  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (2022): About the IPCC. https://www.ipcc.ch/about/ (Last accessed December 2023).

  • International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) (2016): How can mining support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals? https://www.mining-technology.com/features/featurehow-can-mining-support-the-uns-sustainable-development-goals-5698439/ (Last accessed December 2022).

  • International Resource Panel (IRP) (2022): The Panel. https://www.resourcepanel.org/the-panel (Last accessed December 2022).

  • Kloepffer, W. (2008): Life cycle sustainability assessment of products. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 13, 89–95. https://doi.org/10.1065/lca2008.02.376.

  • Our World in Data (2018): SDG Tracker: Measuring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. https://sdg-tracker.org (Last accessed December 2022).

  • Purvis, B., Mao, Y., Robinson, D. (2019): Three pillars of sustainability: in search of conceptual origins. Sustainability Science 14, 681–695. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625–018–0627–5.

  • United Nations (2007): Life Cycle Management: A Business Guide to Sustainability. https://www.unep.org/resources/report/life-cycle-management-business-guide-sustainability (Last accessed December 2022).

  • United Nations (2012): Defining a New Economic Paradigm: The Report of the High-Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness. Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Sustainable Development. https://sdgs.un.org/publications/defining-new-economic-paradigm-report-high-level-meeting-wellbeing-and-happiness-17467 (Last accessed December 2022).

  • United Nations (2015): The 17 Goals. Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Sustainable Development. https://sdgs.un.org/goals (Last accessed December 2022).

  • United Nations (2022): Measuring up to our Ambition: Strengthening Follow-up and Review. Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Sustainable Development. https://sdgs.un.org/statements/measuring-our-ambition-strengthening-follow-and-review-14007 (Last accessed December 2022).

  • Valdivia, S., Backes, J.G., Traverso, M. et al. (2021): Principles for the application of life cycle sustainability assessment. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 26, 1900–1905. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367–021–01958–2.

  • Wackernagel, M., Hanscom, L., Lin, D. (2017): Making the Sustainable Development Goals consistent with sustainability. Frontiers in Energy Research 5, art. 18. https://doi.org/10.3389/fenrg.2017.00018.

  • World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) (1987): Our Common Future. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1080/07488008808408783.

  • Zeug, W., Bezama, A., Thrän, D. (2021): A framework for implementing holistic and integrated life cycle sustainability assessment of regional bioeconomy. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 26, 1998–2023.

Handbook