A review of sustainability indicators for biobased chemicals

Biobased chemicals are receiving considerate commercial attention as a potentially profitable means to use scare biomass resources. Contrary to the situation for energy products derived from biomass, sustainability considerations of biobased chemicals are currently only taken into account sparingly and non-comprehensively. In a new paper recently published in the journal “Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews”, we conduct a review of state-of-the-art sustainability indicators for biobased chemicals and a gap analysis is performed to identify indicator development needs. Given the multitude of economic, environmental and societal impacts that the production and use of biobased chemicals have on sustainability, assessment approaches need to be developed that allow for measurement and comparison of these impacts.

Based on the analysis, a clear hierarchy within the concept of sustainability is found where the environmental aspect dominates over economic and social indicators. Using results from the literature review, an indicator list is presented that captures all indicators currently used within sustainability assessment of biobased chemicals. A framework is proposed for future indicator selection using a stakeholder survey to obtain a prioritized list of sustainability indicators. In a next step, we further explore this framework and perform a Delphi Study for indicator selection and ranking. Preliminary results of this Delphi Study will be presented at the International Conference on Resource Sustainability in Beijing on June 28, 2018.


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