Example: Concept for Development and Use of EPIs within Specific Trades
Below is a brief description of the working process in a given branch of trade to develop trade-specific EPIs for cleaner technology assessment, development and other purposes. It is assumed that an operational detailed tool for environmental assessments including LCAs is available. The description is necessarily rather general and important elements are therefore exemplified via the three cases in Chapter 6.
5.1 Preparatory assessments
When a trade association considers to develop and use common trade EPIs on a detailed level, some basic conditions should be reviewed and assessed:
- Does a significant number of enterprises within the trade show environmental similarities? Or may the trade be divided into subsectors each giving similar environmental pressures? Alternatively into a limited number of typical production and work processes?
Important conditions for environmental similarities are
- similar main categories of raw materials and compounds for the typical production processes and products
- specific production processes characterising the trade, including specific impacts and emissions from these processes important product types, including main characteristics for the use and life time of these products.
Environmental similarities are of importance for the value of developing common detailed EPIs for branches of trade.
- Has the branch of trade a common organisation and the necessary resources regarding staff and economy for the task, and does a tradition exist in the trade for this organisation to handle such tasks?
This is of importance as the process of developing common detailed EPIs is a challenging project and demands considerable experience in project management and communication.
Cooperation with other sectors?
- Do other sectors or other groups of industries exist with environmental impacts and pressures of a similar nature?
The potential for cooperation with other sectors or organisations may be of great importance for success and save resources of staff and money.
After having been through the above considerations, a solid basis exists to decide whether to continue the project or to identify other options for solutions.
5.2 Project organisation
A project organisation should be established to perform the necessary development work. Normal principles of project management should be applied.
Project team and qualifications
The project team must consist of professionals with extensive networks as well inside as outside the specific sector. The team must be dominated by experienced people from the trade with extensive knowledge of the technologies and environmental and occupational health and safety aspects of the trade industries. The trade association should also be represented and a qualified consultant might be advantageous.
Apart from the experience and professional qualifications of the team members, also abilities to cooperate in an interdisciplinary fashion and produce a common knowledge platform and operational results are important.
A most competent member of the project team should be assigned as project manager.
Consensus and stakeholder dialogue
In the working process, consensus should be established regarding the key environmental issues of the individual technologies and the sector as a whole. This will imply involvement of parties external to the industry sector in question, e.g. authorities, important raw material suppliers, important customer group representatives, relevant NGOs, etc.
5.3 Reference technologies, process and product dimensions
Technology overview and reference technologies
An overview of the typical technologies of the trade must be established by the project team and a set of reference technologies identified. The reference technologies must then be described in unit operations and also in one or more typical product life cycle contexts.
Life cycle perspective
The reference technologies must be documented in a life cycle perspective regarding environmental impacts, e.g. via an available LCA-assessment tool based on internationally recognised principles of LCA methodology.
Process and product dimensions
Using a life cycle approach to assess environmental impacts from cleaner technologies makes it necessary to identify links between the process dimension and the product dimension. If these links are not known, the effects on the product life cycle from a given new process technology cannot be managed in a well-defined manner, and a cleaner technology implementation can consequently not be effectively performed.
Key product properties link process and product dimensions
These links between process and product dimensions are key product quality parameters reflecting life cycle environmental impacts and are often associated with product life time. A change in technology, which affects these "key product properties" or "technology specific indicators on product level", may significantly change the environmental impacts over the product life cycle. In such cases, a "cleaner" process technology may prove to be neutral or even "dirtier" in a life cycle perspective than the existing technology.
The key product properties are of major importance in cleaner technology projects: The reference technologies and corresponding LCAs provide the necessary information and data to identify the reference environmental impacts in all stages of the life cycle. The key product properties make it possible to identify, in an operational manner, in which life cycle stages environmental changes occur and assess and manage the environmental impacts of these changes.
This type of life cycle evaluation is termed a D-LCA (delta-LCA) and constitutes a comparison of a new technology to a reference technology, but a comparison where only the environmentally different parts of the new technology are involved. For an individual industry the reference technology may be the existing technology. When D-LCA is known, also the total LCA of the new technology in question can be calculated via the LCA of the reference technology.
5.4 Use of EPIs on various levels
The D-LCA may provide detailed EPIs for practical application on company and industry sector level. The full LCA is necessary, however, to document the EPIs on levels 0 or 1 for reporting and evaluation on national or regional authority level. The EPIs at lower levels may of course also be based on the full LCA if preferred.
Technology Specific Environmental Indicators (TSIs)
The detailed EPIs at trade level will represent environmental issues considered to be of significant concern to the trade. These EPIs may further be transformed into "technology specific (environmental) indicators" (TSIs) on trade or company level. These may be very specific and developed into very decentralised process indicators. They may have any form as long as they are clearly related to one or more of the priority EPIs of the company or trade in a well-defined manner. As an example, the EPIs "specific energy consumption" and "specific consumption of chemicals X and Y" may be heavily dependent on "process temperature" and "uniformity of quality and supply of key compound Z", which then constitute Technology Specific Indicators. Several of these indicators in various processes may thus contribute in different ways to one or more EPIs for the production as a whole.
Thus, the detailed EPIs represent the environmental priorities of the company or trade, while the Technology Specific Indicators represent the parameters by which to manage the environmental priorities during process operation. Examples of this are shown in the case-stories in Chapter 6.
5.5 Use of EPIs and TSIs in Cleaner Technology Development
EPIs and TSIs on the various levels may be used in various ways depending on the actual task to be performed. When the task is Cleaner Technology development, the working process includes the following steps:
- Define a reference technology and calculate the corresponding LCA and EPIs on levels 0 and 1.
- A preliminary assessment of the EPIs on levels 0 or 1 for the new technology to be evaluated is made. At this stage is used a fast assessment approach for each aggregated indicator. These EPIs are compared to the corresponding EPIs of the reference technology. If no significant net improvements of the upper-level EPIs can be seen, a decision to proceed with the development of the new technology should be based on important lower level EPIs or a further - more detailed - evaluation should be made. If a clearly significant improvement in the upper-level EPIs can be seen, a further development process of the new technology can be planned with a view to the expected improvements in the upper-level EPIs.
- The relevant key product properties (TSIs) for the technologies in question are identified to form the technological link between the process dimension and the product dimension.
- The lower level EPIs for the new technology in the product dimension represented by D-LCA and the full LCA are calculated. By using the CEIDOCT methods of indicator aggregation, the EPIs on levels 0 or 1 for the new technology are computed. These are compared to the preliminary assessment values and the result is used in the further development process.
- In later stages of the technology development process it is necessary to identify relevant Technology Specific Indicators for management on process level. When the new technology is finally in operation, the environmental management of this operation will be taken care of by monitoring of the TSIs, while the environmental performance will be measured by the relevant EPIs on company and industry sector levels.
When the assessment methodology stated above is repeated regularly all through the development and testing of the new technology, it can be efficiently assured that the environmental objectives and targets for the new technology are continuously observed and adhered to, and the development process can be continuously adjusted as necessary. The same will be true in the case of product development at any level, i.e. all technological development processes may be managed efficiently from an environmental viewpoint via the proposed concept and methodology.
The concept may also be used if authorities are involved in the process, e.g. to provide financial support or other types of cooperation. In such cases the concept will constitute a systematic framework for the communication between the company/industry sector and the governmental authority in order to make sure that previously assessed environmental objectives and targets are reached, or to verify if this is not the case.
Illustrated in Figure 5.1.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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