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Novel ways to assess the sustainability of new technologies

There is a need for new methods that can measure, analyse and assess new technologies that takes into account all activities and their effects on the economy, environment and society. An EU-funded project developed an integrated technique for sustainability assessment of new technologies.
Novel ways to assess the sustainability of new technologies
As Europe strives to meet its 2020 growth strategy goals, there is growing recognition of the need for more formalised methods of assessing technology development. Present methods consider environmental, economic and social aspects separately, but an integrated assessment system is needed.

The EU-funded PROSUITE project developed a standardised, comprehensive approach for assessing the economic, environmental and social performance of new technologies. It considered technologies over their whole life cycles.

Project members adapted concepts developed for environmental life-cycle assessment (LCA) into a new approach uniting five major impacts on human health, social well-being, prosperity, natural environment and exhaustible resources. The hybrid LCA model allows economic assessment of the full-scale adoption of a technology.

A decision-support system was created to assess the economic, environmental and social aspects of technologies while ensuring they can be widely used for performing sustainability assessments. The standardised cost estimation for new technologies (SCENT) tool was finalised and incorporated into this ready-to-use software platform.

PROSUITE's assessment methods include recommendations for environmental assessment, plus 15 social indicators covering four main impact categories: safety, security and tranquillity; autonomy; participation and influence; and equal opportunities.

Project partners delivered actual sustainability estimates for four emerging technology cases on biorefineries, nanotechnology, mobile devices and carbon sequestration. All involved innovative processes, had potential for large-scale implementation, and led to value-added products or services.

The project organised 15 workshops, and the final conference was attended by European policymakers, industrial actors, consultants and academics who were introduced to PROSUITE's novel framework and tools. In addition, over 50 articles have been published or submitted to scientific journals.

PROSUITE provided the needed methods and tools for complete sustainability assessment of today's and tomorrow's technologies. Companies, governments and society should be able to better assess the sustainability of products, services or technologies.

Related information


Technologies, sustainability assessment, environmental assessment, social indicators
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