The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment vol:19 pages:387-404
The European Commission (EC) has developed a reference method for organisation environmental footprinting (OEF) in support of improving the sustainability of production and consumption. This methodological development was guided by four core criteria. Specifically, it was deemed necessary that the method provides for a (1) multi-criteria,
(2) life cycle-based approach that considers all organisational and related activities across the supply chain, (3) provides for reproducibility and comparability over flexibility, and (4)ensures physically realistic modelling.
Here, we review a subset of existing organisation environmental footprinting methods. We evaluate key areas
of convergence (very limited!) and divergence between these
methods, and the extent to which the methodological specifications they provide satisfy the four aforementioned
criteria for the EC OEF method. On this basis, we specify
where and why the EC OEF method necessarily diverges
from and/or goes beyond the reviewed methods.
Results and discussion
We found little consistency between the reviewed methods, and few instances where our four criteria for the EC OEF method were satisfied. We specify the methodological norms for the EC OEF method for, among other things, definition of the unit of analysis (the organisation) and reference flow; organisation and analytical boundaries; cut-off criteria; impact categories and models; allocation solutions; and data quality. We further provide a rationale for each norm, in particular why they diverge from the various options presented in the reviewed methods.
In order to satisfy the four core criteria, the EC OEF method diverges from/goes beyond the reviewed methods in a variety of important respects. We suggest that the end result represents a significant advance in the standardization of life cycle-based organisation environmental footprinting.