Life Cycle Considerations in Sustainable Business Development. Eco-efficiency studies in Swedish industries
This thesis shows that there are reasons for placing some trust in the possibilities of aligning business goals and environmental goals, as well as in the possibilities of increasing eco-efficiency through technological development. The possibilities, although not unlimited, are not utilised to their full potential. For the function of exploring and exploiting such possibilities further, there are also reasons for placing some hope in the development of analytical tools, based on the merging of environmental economics with economics of technology and innovations.
The environmental movement takes an interest both in the avoidance of negative impact and in the promotion of activity with positive long-term effect. However, resource refinement and production of performance potential for the future is hardly an explicit environmental priority today. In a long-term perspective this may be critical, because all activities have some negative effect and an activity that contributes to system improvement for the future normally requires more extensive present activity than a short-term solution.
The thesis contains a case study showing that Ericsson Mobile's successful product development, in business terms, involves a remarkable product development, also in environmental terms. The analysed quotient, between the performance of the mobile phone and the loss of battery metal, illustrates the development of eco-efficiency. Compared to today's hesitation surrounding the possibility of an improvement factor of 4 or 10, it is interesting to note that the results of this case study show a relative improvement of the eco-efficiency by a factor in the order of magnitude of 4000, in the ten year period from 1988 to 1998. This result illustrates how a reduction of the battery weight has resulted in improvements of both the phone's usefulness and its environmental load. The exact value is, however, uncertain, among other things due to the uncertainty of the analyses as well as of the relevance of the environmental valuation of the metals, but the order of magnitude of the estimated improvement is interesting. Still, it is important to note that this level of improvement factor hardly can be regarded as generally applicable. It is normally more difficult to change established technologies, e.g. in relation to production of food and houses.
The long-term sustainable system should enable profitability in activities that contribute a positive net effect to the total resource potential. However, the sustainability challenge contains a basic conceptual problem in that it has been difficult to understand the interrelation between society's general development goals and the environmental aspects of the sustainable development goal. It is a main conclusion that there is a need of further interdisciplinary research on how to use environmental information in business develop-ment to handle the sustainability challenge.
life cycle assessment