What is it about?

When developing new or improved product or processes it is difficult for small businesses and research projects to calculate and report the environmental impact of an innovation. Conducting formal standardised Life Cycle Analysis such as ISO or Green House Gas Protocol is normally outside the skillset of small companies or within university research teams. This paper describes a simplified method of reporting metrics by reporting only the change in circumstance, rather than calculating for example a complete carbon footprint or LCA. This helps to identify the environmental benefits of the R&D and restrains the scope of measurement and calculations to reduce erroneous data collection or estimation, and reduces the expertise required to undertake the analysis.

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Why is it important?

In order to slow the rate of climate change it is imperative that ALL commercial sectors and societies work to reduce carbon emissions on all fronts, as concluded by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2018). For small businesses or university research projects (or collaborations between them), however, the resource and expertise required to undertake formal LCA is not available. Funding bodies requirements for reporting of environmental outputs are also becoming ever more prevalent, with environmental metrics being either a reportable cross-cutting theme or a formal output. There is therefore a need for an accessible method for calculating/estimating and reporting via a demonstrable rationale capable of scrutiny under audit. Although attempts have been made to simplify LCA, they all adhere to strict guidelines requiring a holistic approach to understanding the complete carbon footprint of a product/process. These still require a relatively high level of expertise, leaving small enterprises unable to engage with them. Thus most small businesses and research programmes find it extremely challenging to effectively calculate anything resembling an auditable environmental claim.


Having assisted hundred of companies to develop eco-innovative ideas for over a decade, from PhD programmes to internships, it has become apparent that there is very little engagement with carbon calculating or understanding LCA across all sectors. Due to the complexes and expertise required not a single company of over 500 assisted has undertaken any formal (or informal) environmental assessment. This methodology was therefore developed over a number of years in order to create an effective process that was capable of reporting high quality data without examining every aspect of a business or a products lifecycle. It has been proven to deliver results that withstand scrutiny at audit and has enabled the businesses and research groups to focus on R&D whilst understanding the environmental aspects and magnitude of impacts.

Matt Fulton
University of Liverpool

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A Simplified Environmental Assessment Methodology for Research Projects as an Alternative to Life-Cycle Assessment, The Journal of Environment & Development, August 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1070496519867435.
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