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Sustainability Education and News — Resources

Gain Knowledge Quickly as You Access Our Newsletters, Tutorials, Webinars, Videos, White Papers, Presentations and Case Studies, Life Cycle Assessment, and Sustainable Return on Investment (S-ROI) Resources.

This website as well as our sustainability blog, #ShiftTheEarth, is filled with relevant information so don’t miss subscribing to our monthly newsletter, TheShift  for the latest sustainability news and industry views.  Focus on sustainable return on investment insights are found in the S-ROI VISION for a Sustainable World  newsletter.

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New! Check out our Sustainability Glossary!

A Sustainability Glossary: Definitions for Executives, Strategic Planners, Practitioners

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TheShift, includes tips to help you improve your sustainability assessment, analysis and reporting; regulation updates; important industry conferences and commentary on current events

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Software Tutorials


Free Brown Bag Sustainability Webinars and Past Recordings

Enjoy Your Lunch Break With Us, Our Brown Bag Webinars are Back!


brown bag webinar logo, have lunch and learn with usEarthShift Global is pleased to announce a series of sustainability 'Brown Bag' webinars. These are Free webinars covering a wide range of topics and delivered by leaders in their respective fields. For a full description of the webinar and speaker profile, please follow the above link.

Each webinar will be held from 1-2 PM Eastern time. Our webinar is a 40-minute presentation followed by a 20-minute Questions and Answers Session.

If you're unable to attend the webinar due to a last minute schedule conflict, we post each recorded session. To select a Past Recording, follow the above link to the list of Webinars and click, "View Recording".


Case Studies, White Papers, Reports and Presentations

White Papers, Presentations

Life Cycle Assessment White Paper and Poster

Poster:  LCA Comparison of Flexible Packaging Printing Using Three Different Methods for Short-Run Jobs

Presented at ISIE and ISSST Joint Conference
Nathan Ayer, Lise Laurin — EarthShift Global and Tom Etheridge, Mach Machikawa, Noa Falk Yogev — HP Inc.

Download Hewlett Packard (HP) White Paper:
Low Environmental Impact Printing with HP Indigo Digital Presses For Production of Flexible Packaging

(PDF download — 3.2 MB file, 12 pages)
Link to share with colleagues:


Navigating the Critical Review Process — White Paper (PDF)

The ISO critical review process for LCAs is intended to provide assurance to the study’s commissioner that the analysis was completed in compliance with the ISO guidelines for LCA. A poorly executed peer or critical review can be very costly and time consuming, so it is in your best interest to be proactive and ensure that the process runs smoothly. We provide best practices and helpful tips on how to be more strategic, avoid common pitfalls and utilize forward thinking to providing effective, ongoing communication with the review panel.

Danisco Assessed the Sustainability of Xylitol (XIVIATM)

Production to Guide Product Development Efforts — White Paper (PDF)

Environmental and social impacts can occur throughout a product's life cycle. Danisco fine-tuned their approach to include Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and environmental footprinting to guide product development efforts towards reducing their impact and to provide quantitative impact data to their customers, retailers and consumers. XIVIA is a sustainable, naturally occurring sweetener with all the sweetness of sugar but with 40% less calories.

Publications: LCA Papers


Evaluating Alternative Environmental Decision Support Matrices for Future Higg MSI Scenarios

Authors: Valentina Prado, Jesse Daystar, Michele Wallace, Steven Pires, Lise Laurin

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

The Higg MSI is a widely used platform for the textiles and apparel industry in the support of their environmental sustainability strategies. While it provides important life cycle information, it can be difficult to interpret. Aggregated into an index as it used to be, or fragmented as of 2021, both can lead users to inefficient decision making. This article studies the problem of tradeoffs in the Higg MSI and provides recommendations going forward


Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment of Sol-Gel Derived Anti-Reflective Coating for Greenhouse Glass

Authors: Natayla Tsoy; Valentina Prado, Aike Wypkema, Jaco Quist, Maurice Mourad

Journal of Cleaner Production

Innovation is essential for economic growth and sustainable development. Although novel technology can bring benefits and opportunities, it may cause undesirable consequences to environment and society. In order to prevent future ecological disadvantages, environmental analysis is carried out to estimate the impacts of a certain innovation. Environmental assessment of technologies is usually carried out when they have been already launched in the market. As a result, reoriention of the technological development towards better environmental performance in the later stages of Research and Development (R&D) becomes more complicated. Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been developed as a framework to assess the environmental impacts of new technologies by exploring possible paths of the technological development. The thesis project demonstrates the application of Anticipatory LCA for the analysis of the innovation at the early phase of R&D. The aim of the following work is to guide the Netherlands Organization of Applied Scientific Research (TNO) coating innovation technology based on LCA impact results. The novel coating is being synthesized at laboratory scale and has a great potential to be launched in the market. The scenarios method was used to scale up the coating production process to pilot and industrial scales. The LCA results showed that the novel coating manufactured at industrial scale would have approximately the same environmental impacts as conventional coatings in the future. In this study, environmental impact of implementation of the new coating was studied with the help of Sensitivity analysis. Depending on feedstock and logistics, reductions could be achieved with respect to environmental impact while implementing the same innovation.


Energy Apportionment Approach to Incentivize Environmental Improvement Investments in the Chemical Industry

Valentina Prado, Rebecca Glaspie, Randy Waymire, Lise Laurin

Journal of Cleaner Production

Energy intensive processing industries, such as the chemical industry, face barriers when justifying clean energy investments because costs of implementation for environmental impact reductions are too high relative to the perceived benefit. One way to lower the barrier for environmental investments within these industries is to create the business case with specialty products. The problem is that specialty products represent a small fraction of overall production, and clean energy upgrades to the company’s power production are typically shared among all products, diluting the value of the new investment. To incentivize environmental impact reducing investments this study illustrates an energy apportionment approach that concentrates the environmental improvements and costs strategically to the products where the market is willing to pay for the added value. The approach is illustrated via a case of a chemical plant where two types of upgrades (natural gas or solar) are considered according to costs and climate change impact reduction.


Quantified Uncertainties in Comparative Life Cycle Assessment: What Can Be Concluded?

Angelica Mendoza Beltran, Valentina Prado, David Font Vivanco, Patrik J. G. Henriksson, Jeroen B. Guinèe, and Reinout Heijungs

Journal of Environmental Science and Technology

Interpretation of comparative Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) results can be challenging in the presence of uncertainty. To aid in interpreting such results under the goal of any comparative LCA, we aim to provide guidance to practitioners by gaining insights into uncertainty-statistics methods (USMs). We review five USMs-discernibility analysis, impact category relevance, overlap area of probability distributions, null hypothesis significance testing (NHST), and modified NHST−and provide a common notation, terminology, and calculation platform. We further cross-compare all USMs by applying them to a case study on electric cars. USMs belong to a confirmatory or an exploratory statistics’ branch, each serving different purposes to practitioners. Results highlight that common uncertainties and the magnitude of differences per impact are key in offering reliable insights. Common uncertainties are particularly important as disregarding them can lead to incorrect recommendations. On the basis of these considerations, we recommend the modified NHST as a confirmatory USM. We also recommend discernibility analysis as an exploratory USM along with recommendations for its improvement, as it disregards the magnitude of the differences. While further research is necessary to support our conclusions, the results and supporting material provided can help LCA practitioners in delivering a more robust basis for decision-making.


Novel Method of Sensitivity Analysis Improves the Prioritization of Research in Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment of Emerging Technologies

Dwarakanath Ravikunmar, Thomas P. Seager, Stefano Cucurachi, Valentina Prado, and Christopher Mutel

Journal of Environmental Science and Technology

It is now common practice in environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) to conduct sensitivity analyses to identify critical parameters and prioritize further research. Typical approaches include variation of input parameters one at a time to determine the corresponding variation in characterized midpoints or normalized and weighted end points. Generally, those input parameters that cause the greatest variations in output criteria are accepted as the most important subjects of further investigation. However, in comparative LCA of emerging technologies, the typical approach to sensitivity analysis may misdirect research and development (R&D) toward addressing uncertainties that are inconsequential or counterproductive. This paper presents a novel method of sensitivity analysis for a decision-driven, anticipatory LCA of three emerging photovoltaic (PV) technologies: amorphous-Si (a-Si), CdTe and ribbon-Si. Although traditional approaches identify metal depletion as critical, a hypothetical reduction of uncertainty in metal depletion fails to improve confidence in the environmental comparison. By contrast, the novel approach directs attention toward marine eutrophication, where uncertainty reduction significantly improves decision confidence in the choice between a-Si and CdTe. The implication is that the novel method will result in better recommendations on the choice of the environmentally preferable emerging technology alternative for commercialization.


Sensitivity to Weighting in Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA)

Valentina Prado, Marco Cinelli, Sterre F. Ter Haar, Dwarakanath Ravikunmar, Reinout Heijungs, Jeroen Guinèe, Thomas P. Seager

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

Purpose Weighting in life cycle assessment (LCA) incorporates stakeholder preferences in the decision-making process of comparative LCAs. Research efforts on this topic are concerned with deriving weights according to different principles, but few studies have evaluated the relationship between normalization and weights and their effect on single scores. We evaluate the sensitivity of aggregation methods to weights in different life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methods to provide insight on the receptiveness of single score results to value systems.

Methods Sensitivity to weights in two LCIA methods is assessed by exploring weight spaces stochastically and evaluating the rank of alternatives via the Rank Acceptability Index (RAI). We assess two aggregation methods: a weighted sum based on externally normalized scores and a method of internal normalization based on outranking across CML-IA and ReCipE midpoint impact assessment. The RAI represents the likelihood that an alternative occupies a certain rank given all possible weight spaces, and it can be used to compare the sensitivity of final ranks to weight values in each aggregation method and LCIA. Evaluation is based on a case study of a comparative LCA of five PV technologies whose inventory is readily available in Ecoinvent.

Results and discussion Influence of weights in single scores depend on the scaling/normalization step more than the value of the weight itself. In each LCIA, aggregated results from a weighted sum with external normalization references show a higher weight insensitivity in RAI than outranking-based aggregation because in the former, results are driven by a few dominant impact categories due to the normalization procedure. Differences in sensitivity are caused by the notable variety (up two orders of magnitude) in the scales of normalized values for the weighted sum with external normalization and intrinsic properties of the methods including compensation and a lack of accounting for mutual differences.

Conclusions Contrary to the belief that the choice of weights is decisive in aggregation of LCIA results, in this case study, it is shown that the normalization step has the greatest influence in the results. This point holds for EU and World references in ReCiPe and CML-IA alike. Aggregation consisting of outranking generates rank orderings with a more balanced contribution of impact categories and sensitivity to weights’ values as opposed to weighted sum approaches that rely on external normalization references.


Implementation of Stochastic Multi Attribute Analysis (SMAA) in Comparative Environmental Assessments

Valentina Prado, Reinout Heijungs

Environmental Modelling and Software

The selection of an alternative based on the results of a comparative environmental assessment such as life cycle assessment (LCA), environmental input-output analysis (EIOA) or integrated assessment modelling (IAM) is challenging because most of the times there is no single best option. Most comparative cases contain trade-offs between environmental criteria, uncertainty in the performances and multiple diverse values from decision makers. To circumvent these challenges, a method from decision analysis, namely stochastic multi attribute analysis (SMAA), has been proposed instead. SMAA performs aggregation that is partially compensatory (hence, closer to a strong sustainability perspective), incorporates performance uncertainty in the assessment, is free from external normalization references and allows for uncertainties in decision maker preferences. This paper presents a thorough introduction of SMAA for environmental decision-support, provides the mathematical fundamentals and offers an Excel platform for easy implementation and access.


Life Cycle Assessment and Socioeconomic Evaluation of the Illicit Crop Substitution Policy in Colombia

Juanita Barrera-Ramírez, Valentina Prado, Håvar Solheim

Journal of Industrial Ecology

The peace treaty of Colombia contemplates a crop substitution policy seeking to replace coca crops with legal alternatives. Although crop substitution diverts funding of illegal activities and provides an income to farmers, it is important to understand how the change to a variety of legal crops (coffee, sugarcane, and cacao) affects the income of farmers, and whether there is an environmental advantage of a crop over another. This study applies life cycle assessment (LCA) coupled with socioeconomic indicators to two regions, Putumayo and Catatumbo, over different policy scenarios. LCA results show that a policy success does not ensure a lower environmental impact across the board. Legal crops consume less fuel than coca crops, which reduce fuel‐related impacts, but the use of fertilizer in coffee and pesticide use in sugarcane increase toxicity‐related impacts. The results, however, are affected by a lack of characterization factors of agrochemicals, but once these are replaced by proxies, coca crops appear to have greater toxicity impacts. In terms of individual crops, cacao crops have a lower environmental impact than coffee and sugarcane, but it also takes the longest to harvest, which may pose a financial risk to farmers. The socioeconomic analysis reveals that for Catatumbo farmers, a policy success reduces the income, whereas for Putumayo farmers, a policy success increases income and job generation. In general, it was observed that the dynamics of the illegal supply chain vary for each region, influencing the environmental and socioeconomic outcome of the substitution policy.


Case Studies and Reports


Becton Dickinson ecoFinity Life Cycle Solution — Hospital Sustainability Poster (PDF), LCA Report, Hospital Waste Disposal (PDF)

BD ecoFinity® Life Cycle Solution Environmental Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) for acute care facilities seeking to reduce their environmental footprint, the BD ecoFinity Life Cycle Solution is the environmentally preferable disposal solution for single-use medical sharps, such as hypodermic needles and syringes. By implementing BD ecoFinity, hospitals can continue to realize the clinical advantages of BD's best-in-class single-use medical devices, while reducing the environmental impact of medication delivery.

nPulpTM Paper Packaging — YFY Group in China uses Green Chemistry to Address Air Quality

A Comparative LCA of nPulp and Molded Paper Packaging Summary Report (PDF)

China's rapidly growing population and industry are leading to increased air pollution and dire health and economic impacts with global implications. A significant contributor to these issues is the standard local practice of burning straw residue from crops such as wheat and rice. In response to this alarming situation, YFY Group developed nPulp, a bio-based pulp product which utilizes straw waste to produce products such as paper, corrugated cardboard and molded pulp packaging. The new breakthrough enzymatic process not only reduces harmful air emissions, it creates a market for what was once a waste product, providing an additional source of income for rural farmers.

Algae Biodiesel LCA Report

Algae Biodiesel Life Cycle Assessment Using Current Commercial Data (PDF)

Article for The Journal of Environmental Management, Elsevier

Autotrophic microalgae represent a potential feedstock for transportation fuels that might produce lower greenhouse gas emissions and provide similar or lower net energy ratios (NERs) (energy in/energy out) when compared to petroleum diesel or other biodiesels. But life cycle assessment (LCA) studies based on laboratory-scale or theoretical data have shown mixed results. We attempt to bridge the gap between laboratory-scale and larger scale biodiesel production by using cultivation and harvesting data from a commercial algae producer and compare that with a hypothetical scaled up facility.

LCA of Packaging Options

A Life Cycle Assessment of Packaging Options for Contrast Media Delivery:  Comparing
Polymer Bottle vs. Glass Bottle

Article for The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, (December 2014)

This paper compares environmental impacts of two packaging options for contrast media offered by GE Healthcare: +PLUSPAK™ polymer bottle and traditional glass bottle. The study includes all relevant life cycle stages from manufacturing to use and final disposal of the bottles and includes evaluation of a variety of end-of-life disposal scenarios. The study was performed in accordance with the international standards ISO 14040/14044, and a third party critical review was conducted.


Sustainability Glossary of Terms for Executives, Strategic Planners, Practitioners

Sustainability is increasingly being integrated into high-level decision-making at corporations, public sector agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other groups. This brings many benefits, but can also create challenges – including vocabulary issues, like defining words and phrases related to sustainability.

It’s important for sustainability practitioners to understand the terms and concepts of traditional financially oriented analysis, and for executives to have a grasp of the metrics and frameworks that now allow environmental and social considerations to be incorporated into project evaluations.

We hope the following definitions of sustainability terms will prove useful to both groups, and serve as an aid to effective collaboration. This sustainability glossary was prepared by our colleague John Parker, chief product officer and co-founder of Impact Infrastructure, developers of Autocase, with input from the EarthShift Global team; we thank John for his excellent efforts, and invite our readers to send suggestions for other terms or words they’d like to see added.

View Sustainability Glossary


Sustainable (S-ROI) Resources

How and When to Start an Engagement



New Dates!   S-ROI Training OptionsChoose from a Free 1-hour, 3-hour, or Full-day Master Classes.


S-ROI Consulting

— 3D Printing Case Study Presented at the ISIE / ISSST Conference in Chicago

Cover for 3D case studyAssessing the Sustainability of 3D Printing of Plastics

3D printing has the potential to change manufacturing of many types of products resulting in changes in the environmental, social and economic landscape. Which of these changes will actually occur depends upon many factors, including the cost and energy trajectory of this new technology, the response from competitive technology, and the adoption by industry and others.

Follow links for the complete abstract and to download presentation:


— Two Papers Presented at the Eco-Balance Conference in Japan

EarthShift Global is a pioneer in S-ROI methodology – our founder and CEO, Lise Laurin, is a widely respected S-ROI expert, international speaker, and author of multiple papers and a forthcoming book on the subject.

The Environmental and Social Impacts of Biofuels Production: Total Cost Assessment of Biomass Utilization Trials in Japan(PDF)

Pilot biofuels projects in Japan have allowed a better understanding of the actual land use, processing requirements, and economic impacts of biofuels. Through the use of Total Cost Assessment (TCA), this study looks at the costs and benefits of Japanese investments in biofuels production in order to determine whether the projects are sustainable.

tags: biofuels, Total Cost Assessment, social impacts, Life Cycle Assessment, Sustainable ROI, Sustainability


Sustainable Return on Investment: A Scenario-based Multi-criteria Assessment Tool for Policy-Making (PDF)

Policy makers use various tools to make decisions, looking at impacts to businesses, communities, and the environment. As systems become more complex, the trade-offs between different social and environmental impacts make a simple decision increasingly difficult.

Sustainable Return on Investment (S-ROI) originally developed as an industry Multicriteria Decision Analysis (MDCA) tool, provides more transparency in how weights are defined and how they are applied. This methodology shows promise in its ability to assess the sustainability of policy from the perspective of the environment and groups affected by the decision.

tags: sustainability, Sustainable Return on Investment, Total Cost Assessment, multicriteria decision analysis, social impacts,


What is S-ROI?

Total Cost Assessment Manual

The S-ROI methodology grew out of the Total Cost Assessment (TCA) method developed by the AIChE. Follow this link to read the original Total Cost Assessment (TCA) manual. (

tags: total cost assessment, S-ROI, Sustainable Return on Investment Methodology


Externalities Costs

This is one of the most comprehensive studies of environmental externalities costs from CE Delft. (
Contact EarthShift Global for more externalities references.

tags: environment, effects, costs, prices, economy, analysis, measure, method



LCA Resources and Journals

LCA Resources

Free Download — LCA Textbook
Life Cycle Assessment: Quantitative Approaches for Decisions that Matter

The free book has been written by a small and established team of LCA professionals with 20 years of combined experience teaching LCA, and 50 years of performing LCA studies and research. The authors are H. Scott Matthews, Chris T. Hendrickson, and Deanna H. Matthews, professors at Carnegie Mellon University. Its free availability has been done with students in the developing world in mind. While produced with academic audiences in mind, other interested parties can access the content to learn about LCA. The textbook is the centerpiece of a comprehensive collection of unique learning resources leveraging free data and methods, such as the US LCI database. We encourage educators and users to contribute their own resources to be shared on this website.

LCA Capability Roadmap with SETAC North America

The SETAC North America LCA Advisory Board is actively working on a Capability Roadmap for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).
Current Activities:

Roadmap topics are in various stages of development.
Completed Roadmaps: Both roadmaps can also be found here.

Currently in the works:
  • Better handling ill-characterized uncertainty

Municipal Waste/Materials Management Data

The US EPA commissions studies of our waste management every year. The resulting reports are useful for LCA purposes because they include the amount and percent of each type of material recycled, incinerated, and landfilled. The results are also given in different sectors including packaging and white goods.

Studies, Summary Tables, and Data Related to the Advancing Sustainable Materials Management Report

Port to Port Distances

Get accurate distances between ports for ocean shipping.  (


LCA Journals



Understanding Life Cycle Impact Assessment Process, 3 Part Series

Author: Harnoor Dhaliwal, Certified LCA Consultant and Senior Sustainability Analyst

Part I – Overview and Fate

Part II – Modeling Exposure: Intake and Bioavailability

Part III – Modeling Effects and Conclusion


Anticipatory Life Cycle Assessment for Responsible Research and Innovation

Ben A. Wender, Rider W. Foley, Troy A. Hottle, Jathan Sadowski, Valentina Prado-Lopez, Daniel A. Eisenberg, Lise Laurin & Thomas P. Seager (2014) Anticipatory life-cycle assessment for responsible research and innovation, Journal of Responsible Innovation, 1:2, 200-207, DOI: 10.1080/23299460.2014.920121

Journal of Responsible Innovation (JRI)


The goal of guiding innovation toward beneficial social and environmental outcomes – referred to in the growing literature as responsible research and innovation (RRI) – is intuitively worthwhile but lacks practicable tools for implementation.

One potentially useful tool is life-cycle assessment (LCA), which is a comprehensive framework used to evaluate the environmental impacts of products, processes, and technologies. However, LCA ineffectively promotes RRI for at least two reasons:

  1. Codified approaches to LCA are largely retrospective, relying heavily on data collected from mature industries with existing supply chains and
  2. LCA underemphasizes the importance of stakeholder engagement to inform critical modeling decisions which diminishes the social credibility and relevance of results.

LCA researchers have made piecemeal advances that address these shortcomings, yet there is no consensus regarding how to advance LCA to support RRI of emerging technologies. This paper advocates for development of anticipatory LCA as non-predictive and inclusive of uncertainty, which can be used to explore both reasonable and extreme-case scenarios of future environmental burdens associated with an emerging technology.

By identifying the most relevant uncertainties and engaging research and development decision-makers, such anticipatory methods can generate alternative research agenda and provide a practicable tool to promote environmental RRI.

Keywords: anticipatory life cycle assessment, technology assessment, foresight, knowledge integration, research and innovation
Published online: June 2, 2014


Impact Assessment Methods


The primary objective of the ReCiPe method, is to transform the long list of Life Cycle Inventory results, into a limited number of indicator scores. These indicator scores express the relative severity on an environmental impact category. In ReCiPe we determine indicators at two levels:

  1. Eighteen midpoint indicators
  2. Three endpoint indicators

USEtox 2.0

The USEtox model has been developed by the USEtox Team, a team of international researchers from the Task Force on Toxic Impacts under the auspices of UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative.


Community Groups

For LCA practitioners and SimaPro users, EarthShift recommends joining the LinkedIn North American LCA group and the SimaPro group as well the LCA email discussion list.  These are great communities for sharing LCA knowledge and data.

LinkedIn Groups

LCA Capability Roadmap

UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative

LCA & Environmental Assessment

LCA in Industry –

Life Cycle Assessment –

North American Life Cycle Assessment –

Sima Pro Group

PRé Sustainability LCA Discussion Listserv –