Embedded but overlooked values: Ethical aspects of absolute environmental sustainability assessments

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Currently used sharing principles (grandfathering and final consumption expenditure) do not align with the purpose of Absolute Environmental Sustainability Assessments (AESAs)—enabling all to meet basic needs within the planetary limits. This discrepancy, though niche within life cycle engineering, demands attention due to the integration of the sharing principles in the widely adopted Science Based Targets initiative, embraced by 4000+ companies, representing over a third of the global economy. This paper suggests operationalizing sufficientarianism as a fair sharing principle for AESAs guaranteeing a minimum threshold of well-being for all. The theory of human needs is highlighted to distinguish luxuries from necessities. This is vital when assigning shares to products/companies, as there's no room for luxuries (products for someone which cause others to fall short), given the extremely limited individual safe operating space, regardless of the sharing approach. This paper argues that sufficientarian-based sharing principles must overlook historically skewed material welfare distributions to ensure no one falls below the minimum threshold. It underscores the need for an interdisciplinary approach to sharing principles, acknowledging and discussing diverse value perspectives on equal grounds. The focus is to inform and discuss the development of new sharing principles, which introduces initial steps toward a sufficientarian-based approach. The paper concludes that recognizing embedded values is paramount in sharing principle development. Failing to do so risks letting quantifiable metrics dictate the values integrated into AESAs without open discourse.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Number of pages11
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Apr 2024

ID: 388546524