Common LCA tools evaluate products and processes according to their ecological impact. Sustainability, however, is based on three pillars: ecology, economy and society. The SEEBALANCE® tool combines LCA with Life Cycle Costing and Evaluation of Impact on Society, e.g. working conditions or jobs created in relation to a certain product / process. The first challenge was to quantify all these impacts and to put them on a solid data basis. Another ongoing challenge is to continuously develop the tool by adding new relevant societal or ecological elements, such as biodiversity or water usage.
This tool was developed (2002-2005) by BASF SE in collaboration with various academic research institutions, including the Institute for Geography and Geoecology of Karlsruhe University, Ökoinstitut e.V. and Jena University. The collaboration was part of the 'Sustainable Aromatics Chemistry' research project, supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The tool has been implemented through several studies (more than 10 so far) carried out by BASF's eco-efficiency group. This group is the main user of the tool, but broader use is envisioned, since the tool is not limited to any particular industry sector. Widespread adoption of the tool could lead to establishing a standard for a comprehensive sustainability assessment method recognized by many types of users, including politicians and political decision makers, as well as industry, research and non-governmental organizations.
The tool allows for balanced evaluation and the potential to see ‘the big picture' of a project, product or process, rather than just its environmental effect. The ultimate result will be balanced and factually informed decisions.
- Further establishment of SEEBALANCE® as a decision tool
- Setting standards for socio-eco-efficiency analyses
- Defining further relevant stakeholders in societal or environmental aspects
- Finding a sound model and data basis for new elements / categories
- Adding new categories (in ecological and societal assessment) whilst time keeping the tool quantitative
Means of expanding and proliferating the method:
- Experience exchange with other experts
- Dialogue with stakeholders and decision makers
- Establishing generally accepted evaluation tools and further integrating them into decision-making processes.
- Data generation and qualification with different sectors for integration in SEEBALANCE®
Implementation of Eco-Efficiency Analysis, the basis of SEEBALANCE®, dates back to 1996. Since then, more than 400 Eco-Efficiency Analyses and more than 10 SEEBALANCE® analyses had been carried out. The story began with end-consumer related studies - such as evaluating the impact of exchanging old refrigerators with more efficient new models - and evolved towards more strategic projects, such as the decision to use a certain Indigo dye production process or assessing the benefits of fuel additives or insulation materials. Other examples include a study of alternative methods of apple production, and a comparison of the environmental, societal and economic consequences of using different materials in the manufacture of men's shirts.
All examples enabled different stakeholders to take balanced and factually informed decisions.