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Group Model-Building to identify potential sources of environmental impacts outside the scope of LCA studies
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Industrial Ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7717-600X
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Industrial Ecology.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9869-9707
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Environmental Strategies Research (fms).
Polytechnic of Turin.
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2014 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, Vol. 72, 96-109 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Specific methodologies that consider a more comprehensive/diverse set of parameters must be explored by the LCA community. This study utilises the Group Model-Building (GMB) method to identify, and Causal Loop Diagram (CLD) technique to make explicit, variables which are not typically considered in LCA studies, but may have significant influence upon environmental impacts through cause-effect links and feedback loops in product systems. A literature review on LCAs concerning household washing machines and conventional passenger cars product systems is performed to investigate what are the commonly used functional unit, life cycle stages and system boundaries. Two parallel GMB sessions were organised to elicit relevant variables and relations in the product systems and build in a first version of CLDs. Individual interviews with the participants were undertaken to refine and validate the system models. Final versions of the system models were built. GMB and CLD can serve as a basis for (i) delimitating appropriated system boundaries for LCA and (ii) identifying variables/areas to be included in sensitivity and scenario analysis. Sensitivity and scenario analysis examine the influence that those variables/areas have on the environmental impacts of the product and describe both different contexts and profiles of users. GMB and CLD have the potential to bridge the divide between quantitative and qualitative variables, for more robust understanding of the causes and mechanisms of environmental impacts and improving conclusions and recommendations in LCA.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2014. Vol. 72, 96-109 p.
Keyword [en]
Group Model-Building, Causal Loop Diagram, Life Cycle Assessment, Product systems
National Category
Environmental Management
Research subject
Industrial Ecology
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-144177DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.03.001ISI: 000336780200009ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84899916551OAI: diva2:711652

QC 20140627

Available from: 2014-04-10 Created: 2014-04-10 Last updated: 2016-04-08Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Karma of Products: Exploring the Causality of Environmental Pressure with Causal Loop Diagram and Environmental Footprint
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Karma of Products: Exploring the Causality of Environmental Pressure with Causal Loop Diagram and Environmental Footprint
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Environmental pressures from consumer products and mechanisms of predetermination were examined in this thesis using causal loop diagram (CLD) and life cycle assessment (LCA) footprinting to respectively illustrate and provide some indicators about these mechanisms. Theoretical arguments and their practical implications were subjected to qualitative and quantitative analysis, using secondary and primary data. A study integrating theories from various research fields indicated that combining product-service system offerings and environmental policy instruments can be a salient aspect of the system change required for decoupling economic growth from consumption and environmental impacts. In a related study, modes of system behaviour identified were related to some pervasive sustainability challenges to the design of electronic products. This showed that because of consumption and investment dynamics, directing consumers to buy more expensive products in order to restrict their availability of money and avoid increased consumption will not necessarily decrease the total negative burden of consumption. In a study examining product systems, those of washing machines and passenger cars were modelled to identify variables causing environmental impacts through feedback loops, but left outside the scope of LCA studies. These variables can be considered in LCAs through scenario and sensitivity analysis. The carbon, water and energy footprint of leather processing technologies was measured in a study on 12 tanneries in seven countries, for which collection of primary data (even with narrow systems boundaries) proved to be very challenging. Moreover, there were wide variations in the primary data from different tanneries, demonstrating that secondary data should be used with caution in LCA of leather products. A study examining pre-consumer waste developed a footprint metric capable of improving knowledge and awareness among producers and consumers about the total waste generated in the course of producing products. The metric was tested on 10 generic consumer goods and showed that quantities, types and sources of waste generation can differ quite radically between product groups. This revealed a need for standardised ways to convey the environmental and scale of significance of waste types and for an international standard procedure for quantification and communication of product waste footprint. Finally, a planning framework was developed to facilitate inclusion of unintended environmental consequences when devising improvement actions. The results as a whole illustrate the quality and relevance of CLD; the problems with using secondary data in LCA studies; difficulties in acquiring primary data; a need for improved waste declaration in LCA and a standardised procedure for calculation and communication of the waste footprint of products; and systems change opportunities for product engineers, designers and policy makers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm, Sweden: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2016. 77 p.
, TITRA-IM-PHD, 2016:01
Products, Environmental Pressure, Causal Loop Diagram, Environmental Footprint
National Category
Environmental Engineering Other Environmental Engineering
Research subject
Industrial Ecology
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-184223 (URN)978-91-7595-910-8 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-05-11, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Sing-Sing, våningsplan 2, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)

Jury committee

Henrikke Baumann, Associate Professor

Chalmers University of Technology

Department of Energy and Environment

Division of Environmental System Analysis

Joakim Krook, Associate Professor

Linköpings Universitet

Department of Management and Engineering (IEI) / Environmental Technology and Management (MILJÖ)

Karl Johan Bonnedal, Associate Professor

Umeå University

Umeå School of Business and Economics (USBE)

Sofia Ritzén, Professor

KTH Royal Institute of Technology

School of Industrial Engineering and Management

Department of Machine Design

Integrated Product Development

QC 20160405

Available from: 2016-04-08 Created: 2016-03-30 Last updated: 2016-04-11Bibliographically approved

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Laurenti, RafaelLazarevic, DavidPoulikidou, SofiaFrostell, Björn
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