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Journal ArticleDOI

Organizational water footprint: a methodological guidance

01 Feb 2020-International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (Springer Berlin Heidelberg)-Vol. 25, Iss: 2, pp 403-422
TL;DR: In this article, a methodological approach to assess the water footprint at the organizational level, in line with the current development of life-cycle based approaches toward the organizational scale on the one hand and footprint metrics on the other hand, is proposed.
Abstract: This paper proposes a practical methodological approach to assess the water footprint at the organizational level, in line with the current development of life-cycle based approaches toward the organizational scale on the one hand and footprint metrics on the other hand. This methodological development allows for organizational water footprint applications intended to inform management decisions and to alleviate water-related environmental impacts throughout the supply chain. ISO 14046, dedicated to water footprint with a major focus on products, and ISO/TS 14072 for organizational LCA (O-LCA) are compared. A set of indications to carry out an organizational water footprint is identified based on: the requirements common to water footprint and organizational LCA; complementary methodological elements specified in only one of the standards; solutions to issues identified as conflicting. Additional application guidance on data collection prioritization for organizational water scarcity footprint studies is delivered based on the review of existing organizational case studies and comparative product or commodity studies. O-LCA and water footprint provide complementary requirements for the scoping phase and the inventory and impact assessment phase respectively, according to the different methodological foci. We identify conflicting or contradictory requirements related to (i) comparisons, (ii) system boundary definition, and (iii) approaches to avoid allocation. We recommend (i) avoiding comparisons in organizational water footprint studies, (ii) defining two-dimensional system boundaries (“life-cycle dimension” and “organizational dimension”), and (iii) avoiding system expansion. Additionally, when carrying out a water scarcity footprint for organizations, we suggest prioritizing data collection for direct activities, freshwater extraction and discharge, purchased energy, metals, agricultural products and biofuels, and, if water or energy consuming, the use phase. The standards comparison allowed compiling a set of requirements for organizational water footprints. Combined with the targeted guidance to facilitate data collection for water scarcity footprint studies, this work can facilitate assessing the water footprint of organizations throughout their supply chains.

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Citations
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Journal Article
TL;DR: Compared to white adults, American Indian/Alaska Native adults are more likely to be obese, to be diagnosed with diabetes, to have high blood pressure, and to be current cigarette smokers.
Abstract: Chronic diseases and their risk factors remain widespread among American Indians and Alaska Natives, as they are across the country. However, the burden in Indian Country is far higher than virtually everywhere else in the United States. Compared to white adults, American Indian/Alaska Native adults are more likely to be obese, to have been diagnosed with diabetes, to have high blood pressure, and to be current cigarette smokers.

152 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The water planetary boundary has been proposed to determine limits for a sustainable anthropogenic appropriation of freshwater as discussed by the authors, and its development status and applications including its integration into Life Cycle Assessment and Environmentally-Extended Input-Output-Analysis.

28 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this paper, Verones et al. argue that value choices made within the goal and scope phase, and not the inventory size, should be decisive for the choice between an average and an incremental/integrative approach, with the marginal approach being a special case of the latter.
Abstract: Life cycle assessments and life-cycle-thinking-based footprints aim at supporting management decisions (ISO 2006), traditionally at the level of products and processes, and increasingly at larger scales such as organizations, sectors, and territories (Hellweg and Milà i Canals 2014; ISO 2014; Forin et al. 2019a). Such large systems often come along with largescale inventories, according to the reference flow or reporting unit chosen. At the same time, several impact assessment methods use a marginal characterization approach, which assumes “sufficiently small” inventories that do not change the background situation, without providing alternatives for “larger” inventories that might affect the background. The article “Marginal and non-marginal approaches in characterization: how context and scale affect the selection of an adequate characterization factor. The AWARE model example” (Boulay et al. 2019) acknowledges that marginal characterization approaches are not suitable for large-scale inventories (which potentially affect the background) and suggests using average characterization factors to overcome this problem in the case of retrospective assessments. This procedure is in line with the current discussion and the recommendations of the Life Cycle Initiative hosted byUNEnvironment (Verones et al. 2016, 2017). In addition, the authors make explicit that the average approach helps to avoid the drawbacks typical to marginal factors (dependence on inventory size and non-additivity), which, in the case of water scarcity footprint, fueled the scientific dispute in the community in the last years (Hoekstra 2016: Pfister et al. 2017). In an outlook paragraph, the authors offer insights into integrative LCA (also called incremental in Guinée and Lindeijer (2002)), suggesting its use for non-marginal, prospective assessments (i.e., with water consumption taking place in the future) using non-linear characterization functions. In the same context, the incremental/integrative approach is defined as the generalization of marginal and average approaches (which provide constant characterization factors, thus not requiring a case-by-case calculation). The article raises attention on the often-neglected assumptions underlying impact assessment methods, thus providing a valuable contribution for LCA method developers and practitioners. Such assumptions have become more visible while considering large-scale inventories but are relevant to all system types and sizes. The aim of this comment is to add further considerations on how the context of the study should be accounted for when selecting the most appropriate characterization approach. We argue that (i) value choices made within the goal and scope phase, and not the inventory size, should be decisive for the choice between an average and an incremental/integrative approach (with the marginal approach being a special case of the latter) (Section 2) and (ii) the retrospective or prospective character of the assessments is not a discriminant for the choice of the characterization approach (Section 3). Following this reasoning, we suggest an alternative algorithm for selecting the characterization approach (Section 4) and provide conclusions (Section 5).

12 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: O-LCA has the potential to contribute in the future implementation of the life cycle concept in environmental management systems, in the development of organizational footprint metrics for region-specific impacts, and in the social dimension of life cycle assessment.
Abstract: The novelty of the O-LCA method and the existing differences with the established product LCA practice, as well as the unique structure each organization, pose a broad range of methodological and application challenges, in addition to the general methodological gaps in LCA. In order to provide practitioners with lessons learned for future applications and boost future method development efforts, the paper discusses those challenges. The challenges included in this paper were mainly identified from a survey administered to the road testers and from experiences during the piloting process. These are complemented with case studies from literature. The focus of the paper is on challenges exclusive to the organizational approach, although some additional issues common to product LCA but intensified in organizational LCA are also included. Each issue is characterized and exemplified, recommendations of reference standards are analyzed, and possible solutions discussed. With the goal and scope of O-LCA, some challenging issues were to select part of an organization as the reporting organization, and the operability of the reporting flow. Regarding the system boundary, the challenges were which parts of the supply chain should be included in the study, problems when setting the system boundary for the service sector, how to include supporting activities, and how to prepare the right system boundary diagrams. Regarding the inventory stage, the discussion starts with alternatives to the categorization of the inventory into activities and the aggregation of those activities into groups. It includes an equivalence table for an easier transfer from other organizational frameworks (ISO 14069 and the GHG Protocol). Some challenges during impact assessment and interpretation were the assessment of local impacts, scoping performance tracking, and the use of O-LCA results for an organization’s strategy. The review of challenges is not meant as a complete overview of all possible challenges—new challenges may arise in future case studies. Further application testing is needed, along with research to support a future revision of the O-LCA Guidance, in line with the issues highlighted in this paper and new challenges may arise in future case studies. O-LCA has the potential to contribute in the future implementation of the life cycle concept in environmental management systems, in the development of organizational footprint metrics for region-specific impacts, and in the social dimension of life cycle assessment.

10 citations


Cites background or methods or result from "Organizational water footprint: a m..."

  • ...Their stated intention to pursue organizational LCA studies (Forin et al. 2019a) is fundamental to test the method’s suitability for performance tracking and monitor performance tracking applications....

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  • ...The O-LCA-specific tasks tagged as most challenging by the road testers’ survey, and described in UN Environment (2017) and Forin et al. (2019a), are discussed in depth in this paper....

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  • ...All the other road testers that chose “cradle-to-gate” are service providers (Forin et al. 2019a)—see Section 3.3.2 for more detail....

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  • ...Delineating the reporting organization was not rated by the organizations as a particularly challenging issue (UN Environment 2017; Forin et al. 2019a), although some organizations struggled to define a subject of study that is consistently delimited....

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  • ...The methodological options and application pathways chosen by the road testers as well as the challenges encountered during the study are illustrated in Forin et al. (2019a), based on a survey carried out on occasion of the Flagship activity....

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Journal ArticleDOI
17 Mar 2020-Water
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors present the first complete organizational water scarcity footprint case study carried out for Neoperl GmbH, a German company that offers innovative solutions regarding drinking water for the plumbing industry.
Abstract: With water scarcity representing an increasing threat to humans, the environment and the economy, companies are interested in exploring how their operations and supply chains affect water resources globally. To allow for systematically compiling the water footprint at the company level, the organizational water footprint method based on ISO 14046 and ISO/TS 14072 was developed. This paper presents the first complete organizational water scarcity footprint case study carried out for Neoperl GmbH, a German company that offers innovative solutions regarding drinking water for the plumbing industry. The cradle-to-gate assessment for one year includes, besides facility-based production activities, purchased materials, electricity and fuels, and supporting activities, such as company vehicles and infrastructure. Neoperl’s total freshwater consumption amounts to approximately 110,000 m3, 96% thereof being attributable to the supply chain, with freshwater consumption through purchased metals playing the predominant role. Metals (mainly stainless steel and brass) are major hotspots, also when considering the water scarcity-related local impacts resulting from freshwater consumption, which mainly affect China and Chile. These results can be used to improve the company’s supply chain water use in cooperation with internal and external stakeholders by means of, e.g., sustainable purchase strategies or eco-design options to substitute water intensive materials.

5 citations


Cites background or methods or result from "Organizational water footprint: a m..."

  • ...Additionally, Neoperl plans to periodically calculate their OWF and track performance development....

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  • ...To cope with this limitation, the production mix data available in the OWF tool filled data gaps on the geographical location of second tier suppliers in the metals category, thus facilitating the estimation of the water scarcity impacts of raw materials....

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  • ...In line with the organizational modeling introduced by the Guidance on Organizational LCA [33] adopted in the OWF method, the inventory is categorized into activities, which are in turn grouped according to their position within the value chain into direct activities, indirect upstream activities, and indirect downstream activities (excluded in cradle-to-gate assessments)....

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  • ...The tool combines the database with the modeling approach provided by the OWF method....

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  • ...Neoperl’s organization model for the organizational water scarcity footprint case study (own picture adapted from the general model in [7])....

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References
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Book
22 Feb 2011
TL;DR: The Water Footprint Network (WFN) as mentioned in this paper is a set of definitions and methods for water footprint accounting, as well as a library of water footprint response options for consumers, nations, and businesses.
Abstract: This manual presents a scientifically rigorous method to help companies understand their dependency and impact on global water resources, and offers guidance on response strategies that conserve water for industry, communities, and nature. It contains the global standard for water footprint assessment as developed and maintained by the Water Footprint Network. It covers a comprehensive set of definitions and methods for water footprint accounting. It shows how water footprints are calculated for individual processes and products, as well as for consumers, nations, and businesses. It also includes methods for water footprint sustainability assessment and a library of water footprint response options. The water footprint of a product is the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured over the fully supply chain. It is a multidimensional indicator, showing water consumption volumes by source and polluted volumes by type of pollution; all components of a total water footprint are specified geographically and temporally.

1,727 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The cross-national expenditure elasticity for just CO2 corresponds remarkably well to the cross-sectional elasticities found within nations, suggesting a global relationship between expenditure and emissions that holds across several orders of magnitude difference.
Abstract: Processes causing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions benefit humans by providing consumer goods and services. This benefit, and hence the responsibility for emissions, varies by purpose or consumption category and is unevenly distributed across and within countries. We quantify greenhouse gas emissions associated with the final consumption of goods and services for 73 nations and 14 aggregate world regions. We analyze the contribution of 8 categories: construction, shelter, food, clothing, mobility, manufactured products, services, and trade. National average per capita footprints vary from 1 tCO2e/y in African countries to ∼30t/y in Luxembourg and the United States. The expenditure elasticity is 0.57. The cross-national expenditure elasticity for just CO2, 0.81, corresponds remarkably well to the cross-sectional elasticities found within nations, suggesting a global relationship between expenditure and emissions that holds across several orders of magnitude difference. On the global level, 72% of greenhouse ...

1,421 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The most comprehensive and most highly resolved economic input–output framework of the world economy together with a detailed database of global material flows are used to calculate the full material requirements of all countries covering a period of two decades and demonstrate that countries’ use of nondomestic resources is about threefold larger than the physical quantity of traded goods.
Abstract: Metrics on resource productivity currently used by governments suggest that some developed countries have increased the use of natural resources at a slower rate than economic growth (relative decoupling) or have even managed to use fewer resources over time (absolute decoupling). Using the material footprint (MF), a consumption-based indicator of resource use, we find the contrary: Achievements in decoupling in advanced economies are smaller than reported or even nonexistent. We present a time series analysis of the MF of 186 countries and identify material flows associated with global production and consumption networks in unprecedented specificity. By calculating raw material equivalents of international trade, we demonstrate that countries’ use of nondomestic resources is, on average, about threefold larger than the physical quantity of traded goods. As wealth grows, countries tend to reduce their domestic portion of materials extraction through international trade, whereas the overall mass of material consumption generally increases. With every 10% increase in gross domestic product, the average national MF increases by 6%. Our findings call into question the sole use of current resource productivity indicators in policy making and suggest the necessity of an additional focus on consumption-based accounting for natural resource use.

1,182 citations

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Trending Questions (1)
How can corporate water footprints be assessed?

The paper provides a practical methodological approach to assess corporate water footprints, which involves comparing ISO 14046 and ISO/TS 14072 standards and prioritizing data collection for water scarcity footprint studies.