A presentation given by Jude Sherry at the 2011 ReForm seminar in Tullamore. The goal of the presentation was to demonstrate the challenges SMEs face when undertaking Life Cycle Assessments and ecodesign.
Captain Planet inspired me to want to rid the world of evil pollution, however, he also gave the illusion that it was an easy task.
Unfortunately when I grew up I realised that there were too many things to juggle, money, life, work, family, study.
Then you are confronted by the many different choices and paths to take in life, which are not always distinguishable or easy to see where they really lead to.
All paths seem to be interconnected, no matter what you choose it will have a know on effect somewhere you never considered to be connected.
When asked to clean you room you could simple hide the mess under your bed and in your wardrobe.
Reality isn't that simple, there is no hiding the environmental impacts of our actions, even if they are happening in our backyard. When trying to reduce exhaust emissions manufactures are encouraged to reduce the weight of their cars.
Car manufactures than put pressure on suppliers and sub-suppliers to reduce the weight and improve the productivity of their products.
This is achieved by selection lighter and more effective materials, like the use of neodymium in speakers.
However neodymium can have server environmental impacts, due to its mining practices. This is especially worrying since over 90% of neodymium comes from Chinese mines which are not strictly regulated.
The human impacts of producing neodymium are alarming, especially given the above image is of a typical factory in China.
Life Cycle thinking and Life Cycle Assessment is one method that aims to consider all the environmental impacts during a products full life cycle. Its should consider the environmental consequences of our decisions that would ordinarily be hidden to manufactures.
If we only concentrate on the big companies and brands making changes we will only reach 1% of all enterprises in the EU.
99% of all companies in the EU are SME’s, of these 45% are considered to be operating in high environmental impact sectors. Of these only 4% implement even the most basic of energy reduction measures. This leaves 8.5 million enterprise that make high environmental impacts in the EU.
However, when companies are faced with the daunting task of undertaking an LCA, it is too much for them. They are overwhelmed as there are too many options and too flexibility within SME’s.
Global supply chains are often too big and complicated for SME’s to be realistically able to track the sources of their materials. On top of this SME are often smaller their suppliers and it is unlikely that will be able to get accurate environmental data off their suppliers.
Event SME’s that integrate sustainable design into their core business strategy are reluctant to undertake an LCA.
However, sector approaches to LCA (Carbon Footprinting) are more attractive options.
Sector based LCA’s reduce the amount of work required by an SME, making it more feasible.
LCA is an FP7 project which aims to enable SME’s to undertake LCA on a sector basis.