MePSS Webtool - Tool (Level 4)

Worksheet W09 - Inventory Sustainability Indicators
Table of Contents
1. Objective
2. Putting into Practice
3. Implementation
4. Software, templates and other support
5. Call on Resources
6. Literature, examples and background information

Objective Table of Contents

This tool helps to gain a better overall understanding of the sustainability aspects and to identify relevant indicators.

Putting into Practice Table of Contents

2.1 When and why should this tool be used?

This tool should be used during the “Strategic analysis” phase relative to the company at present and can be reviewed later on to reflect the issues surrounding the PSS under development. When implemented in a workshop, it is useful to divide the group in subgroups. Each group will be given a short time (e.g., 15 minutes) to work, and then the results will be consolidated to obtain a final selection of aspects and related indicators.

2.2 Who should use this tool?

The tool can be used by the PSS champion in a consultative process with stakeholders or in a meeting with the assessment experts.

Implementation Table of Contents

3.1 How should this tool be used?

The process to follow is to identify the relevant dimensions of sustainability, then the relevant categories and finally the relevant aspects for the company. This will facilitate the identification of relevant indicators for sustainability.

When applying the tool to the dimensions, categories, aspects can be identified spontaneously or using existing frameworks (such as GRI, see 3.3).

Step 1 - From Sustainability to Dimensions:

The first step is simply the split up of the sustainability concept into the three dimensions

Sustainability split up into three dimensions

Step 2 - From dimensions to categories:

Categories are broad areas or groupings of social, environmental or economic issues of concern to the company stakeholders. These are the different issues, which in our eyes would be enough to determine a dimension. This step is more complex, and may need specific adaptations, depending on the product service systems considered.

The examples for the categories listed below are to be seen as examples, depending on your focus, you may want to add additional categories.

Step 3 - From categories to aspects:

Aspects are the general types of information related to a given category. Again, as an example, we provide a list of aspects and their relation to the categories:

The aspects should be detailed enough to enable you to pinpoint the relevant supporting indicators.

A list such as this one can be used to help out the thinking on aspects and processes:

Category Aspects
Direct economic Impact on the stakeholders (Economic aspects)
  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Employees
  • Providers of Capital
  • Public Sector
Direct economic Impact on the company (Financial aspects)
  • Company Profit Indicators
  • Company Cost Indicators
Environmental Impacts (on human, ecosystem and resources)
  • Materials
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Biodiversity
  • Air emissions, effluents, and waste
  • Suppliers
  • Product and services
  • Compliance
  • Transport
  • Overall
Labour practices and decent work
  • Employment
  • Labour/management relations
  • Health and safety
  • Training and education
  • Diversity and opportunity
Human rights
  • Strategy and management
  • Non-discrimination
  • Freedom of association and collective bargaining
  • Child labour
  • Forced and compulsory labour
  • Disciplinary practises Security practices
  • Indigenous rights
  • Community
  • Bribery corruption
  • Political contributions
  • Competition and Pricing
Product Responsibility
  • Customer health and safety
  • Products and services
  • Advertising
  • Respect for Privacy

Step 4 - From aspects to indicators:

The last step is to link the aspects to quantifiable indicators, at least as far as this is considered relevant.

What is an indicator?

Indicators are those parameters, which when measured give an idea of the impact that an activity (in our case the whole chain of the business) has over an aspect. Air emissions (heavy metals, Sox, Nox, VOCs, among others) are indicators for air quality, greenhouse gases emissions for climate change, working hours for working conditions, etc. Commonly one aspect will have several indicators and one indicator can give information for more than one aspect.

The procedure for linking aspects to indicators is relatively simple, as in general a multitude of methods is available to express an aspect as an indicator:

  • For the environmental aspects, a multitude of methodologies are available. For instance, for climate change, the IPCC has developed an indicator;
  • For the social aspects, some creativity may be needed, but most are quite simple to identify; for instance, employment can be expressed as the number of jobs created (directly and indirectly). Some indicators like Child labour are complex to determine, especially as there is a general recognition that in poorer area’s of the world, working a few hours per day may have a positive impact;
  • For the economic aspects, many indicators, such as return on investment, are available.
The tool can be used with stakeholders, to trigger brainstorming on the relevant environmental impacts.

Step 5 - Link with the system map:

Often the indicators defined in the previous steps can be linked to one or a few processes in the lifecycle. In the tool "Identification of relevant activities with regards to sustainable development", described in Worksheet 4, such an overview of the lifecycle is generated. It might be very useful to use this graphical overview to link important indicators to the processes in this overview. These important indicators can be added as a kind of "red flag". It will improve understanding, and it will be easier to communicate the results of this worksheet to others.

3.2 Result

The result of this tool is a diagram with the relevant dimensions, categories, and indicators:

These results can be fed into as an input to the tool on Sustainability Orienting Guidelines (Worksheet 18).

3.3 Input needed/ data required/ data acquisition process

  • Company Policy (if available);
  • Existing frameworks and indicator guideline (e.g., Global Reporting Guidelines, Compass, IPPC directives, industry specific guidelines) might be used to make sure that no important sustainability aspects were missed. These include Public Sustainability guidelines like, GRI, World sustainability council, Compass, IPPC directives, etc.;
  • Open communication with stakeholders, and expert input to link aspects to indicators;
  • Good communication with all the company’s areas of expertise.

Software, templates and other support Table of Contents

4.1 Software

This tool does not require any software.

4.2 Templates and other support

Dimensions Categories Aspects Indicators
Economic ... ... ...
... ...
... ... ...
... ...
Social ... ... ...
... ...
... ... ...
... ...
Environmental ... ... ...
... ...
... ... ...
... ...

Call on Resources Table of Contents

5.1 Personnel and time needed

The time and number of people needed depends on the context of the project. The minimum amount of time needed is 2 to 3 hours.

Literature, examples and background information Table of Contents

6.1 Methodological References

Excerpt from "Toolkit for the people, planet and profit assessment of product service systems", Mark Goedkoop and Carmen Alvarado