Application of Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment to the Bamboo and Aluminum Bicycle in Surveying Social Risks of Developing Countries
Published: 21 October 2012 by MDPI AG in The 2nd World Sustainability Forum session Corporate Sustainability Strategy
Abstract: Due to the arising internationally awareness of sustainable development, sustainability has become an ultimate goal for worldwide industries to pursue. To construct a sufficient method for assessing sustainability on the product level nowadays is an important issue but still a challenge. The mature approach, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), is used to evaluate the environmental burdens. Taking the economic and social dimensions into consideration for a comprehensive life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) is necessary and so far in its infancy. Therefore, developing the LCSA is essential and inevitable. To do so, there are two main aims of this study: first, combining LCA, life cycle costing (LCC) and social life cycle assessment (SLCA) on a case study of the bamboo bicycle and the aluminum bicycle, to emphasize on the theoretical development of an overall, scientifically and widely valid method for the integrated sustainability assessment. Second, the study takes the origin of raw materials for bamboo and bauxite from respectively China and Guinea, and bicycle manufacturing in Germany to administer the SLCA practically. The hot spot social life cycle database is used as a starting point for the practical analysis of the social situations of the countries. The study compares environmental impacts between the two bicycles. The overall LCA results indicates that the bamboo bicycle is more environmental advantageous than the aluminum one. If observing only the processes related to frame production, the outcome shows there are significant differences between the two bicycles in specific impact categories such as freshwater eco-toxicity, freshwater eutrophication, marine eco-toxicity and human toxicity; however, while checking the results for the whole life-cycle of the bicycle, the mentioned differences are minor. Besides, this paper adopts LCC fitting best together with LCA boundary as a consistent pillar of sustainability assessment. In LCC, the study focuses on the two perspectives from the manufacturer and the user of the two bicycles. While probing social circumstance of developing countries deeply in the SLCA, the results reveal that in China, shortage of labor right, low average wage, and insufficient sanitation in urban area are the main issues. For Guinea, the critical topics are gender equity, child labor, long working time, low wage, lack of labor law and completed legal system, high dropout rate, less improved sanitation, and low living standard.
Keywords: Bicycle; Bamboo; Aluminum; Life Cycle Assessment (LCA); Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA); Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA); China; Germany; Guinea