A Framework for Effectiveness-based Sustainability Assessment in Manufacturing – A Product Life Cycle Approach

In recent decades, various human health impacts and environmental concerns (e.g., microplastic pollution, chemical exposure, biodiversity loss) associated with manufacturing/product life cycles have surfaced, threatening human health and planetary well-being. Attempts have been made to address such impacts by adopting various approaches of a reductionist nature, primarily reported as efficiency-based improvements. Efficiency-based improvements, however, have proven to be inadequate, indicating the requirement of an effectiveness-based systems approach. Effectiveness-based approaches stand distinct from efficiency-derived improvements and offer regenerative nature-positive solutions through a holistic perspective. Effectiveness-based approaches are also amenable to circularity. Understanding the relationship between design and manufacturing decisions and life cycle impacts for guiding interventions at the early design stage is crucial for effective interventions for sustainable manufacturing and planetary health. This can be achieved with the help of sustainability assessment approaches that integrate circularity principles, resource criticality, and various impacts from environmental, social, and economic dimensions at local and global planetary scales. The thesis addresses this urgent need by adopting an interdisciplinary approach, drawing insights from multiple disciplines, including manufacturing engineering, sustainability science, environmental engineering, planetary health, and human toxicity and exposure assessment. The salient contributions are i) contextualizing effectiveness in the context of sustainable manufacturing and ii) developing an effectiveness-based sustainability assessment (ESAM) framework and its implementation methodology to trace and regulate life cycle impacts to design and manufacturing decisions. The study has involved an extensive literature review, and feedback from industry and academic experts and provides a rationale for data collection and knowledge dissemination for effectiveness in sustainability practice. A case study on crystalline silicon (c-Si) solar photovoltaic panel life cycle (cradle-to-grave) demonstrates the capability of the framework in sustainability assessment and examines absolute progress towards SDGs, including the identification of conflicting SDGs.

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Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment

Author Manish Kumar
Institution Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Advisor Monto Mani
Degree Doctoral
Expected graduation 2024