Date of Award

8-31-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial Engineering - (Ph.D.)

Department

Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

First Advisor

Reggie J. Caudill

Second Advisor

Sanchoy K. Das

Third Advisor

Zhiming Ji

Fourth Advisor

Paul G. Ranky

Fifth Advisor

Athanassios K. Bladikas

Sixth Advisor

Maurie J. Cohen

Abstract

Stresses due to economic activity are threatening to exceed environmental and societal limits with the potential to jeopardize local communities and create global crises. This research proposes new methodologies and analytic techniques to comprehensively assess corporate sustainability and enhance the efficiency of estimating environmental and social impacts with Input Output Life Cycle Assessment (IOLCA).

Sustainability assessments and management require consideration of both social and environmental impacts as outflows of economic activity. There are a number of assessment tools available to gain insight into environmental and social impacts; but in most cases, these approaches lack essential components for a comprehensive and absolute sustainability assessment.

This dissertation proposes a new quantitative method for assessing sustainability across all the interrelationships within multiple domains of sustainability—economic, social, environmental, and potentially others. The comprehensive sustainability target method (CSTM) is a novel extension to an existing environmental burden sustainability technique. CSTM applies the science-based targets and concept of absolute sustainability to social burdensome and beneficial impacts, environmental beneficial impacts, and the interdependencies between the sustainability domains. CSTM is contrasted with an example of the relative assessments that appear in many sustainability disclosures. In addition to science-based targets for environmental burdens, companies should attempt to meet science-based targets for social and beneficial impacts.

Another area of research is focused on IOLCA, a widely used method of estimating environmental impacts based on economic sector level data and analysis. These IOLCA models rely on sector averages and require practitioners to combine impact estimation models to describe specific companies or “custom products”. This research presents a novel extension to environmental input-output modeling that increases the usability and responsiveness of the technique to perform custom product-specific assessments.

This enhancement models direct impacts from emissions (and other stressors) attributable to direct spending on commodities across the economy that cause those impacts. The proposed extension directly calculates the internal impact (II); hence, the model implemented is referred to as the IOLCA-II. The IOLCA-II extension directly produces impact estimates in the categories typically used to manage and report greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions: Scope 1, Scope 2, and Scope 3. In addition to the IOLCA-II enhancement for environmental assessment, selected social impacts are incorporated into the extended model to permit social impact estimation. IOLCA-II impacts are estimated for two scenarios: first, a solar energy application at a university; and second, driverless operation of a long-haul trucking company. The baseline and scenarios are modeled using IOLCA-II and compared to explore the impacts and consequences of the proposed scenarios. These case studies reveal the advantages of using the new methodology and the efficiency of the input-output model results compared to conventional IOLCA hybrid/custom product assessment.

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