Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment for Sustainable Development Goals

Friday, November 5, 2021

The Journal of Industrial Ecology invites submissions for a special issue on linking Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Nature–human imbalance and current events, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic, show the challenges for sustainable development and the possible trade-offs between different sustainabilty goals (e.g. health versus prosperity). The need for more sustainable development and the possibility of conflicts arising from the fulfillment of different sustainability goals deserve further exploration. To provide guidance, the SDGs are internationally-accepted global sustainability aspirations.  The overall SDG framework has been adopted by the United Nations and many countries to track and monitor the progress towards sustainable development. Furthermore, and in line with this objective, indicators need to be derived and applied for quantitative assessment and investigation of environmental, economic, and social impacts of different production and consumption systems associated with the achievment of SDGs at different geospatial and temporal scales.

The environmental impacts of various systems of production and consumption have been studied for several decades by developing and applying life cycle assessment (LCA) with its own ISO standard. However, the assessment of social sustainability, and its integration with economic and environmental sustainability, are still in the developmental stage. Life cycle sustainability assessment adds economic and social inventories and indicators to the environmental framework, or going further, integrates them. LCSA methodology is being increasingly applied and developed, as charted in a past special issue in this journal (

More recently, the 2030 Agenda for SDGs adopted by the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit aims to achieve a balance between people, planet and prosperity. LCSA methodology is currently gaining momentum beyond case studies toward its potential use as a policy tool to achieve UN SDGs. An example of a question answered by LCSA is “to what extent does a product system and/or the large-scale adoption of a product/service help in achieving (or not miss) SDG targets better than another one?” While various studies have explored this integration, the Journal of Industrial Ecology seeks new research for this special issue to promote the use of LCSA for the cohesive achievement of the SDG framework. 

The goals of the special include:

  1. Promoting original research that applies or develops quantitative and/or qualitative LCSA-related methodologies to support decision-making related to multiple (at least 2) SDGs in different economic sectors/industries/systems, and at different temporal and geospatial scales, including the local versus global dimension. Authors need to identify research gaps in literature and articulate the intellectual contributions of the work.
  2. Encouraging the integration of LCA with other advanced modeling techniques to better incorporate social, environmental, and economic considerations for improved LCSA methodology in support of various SDGs.
  3. Exploring how LCSA can contribute to the achievement of the SDG framework as a whole. For example, submissions are encouraged to show how SDGs can be achieved by holistically assessing environmental, social, and economic impacts and by uncovering hidden relationships between goals and targets. LCSA has the potential to serve as a systematic framework to cultivate and foster cross-disciplinary research for scholars who may be interested in a particular dimension of the SDGs or a global governance scheme. Submissions demonstrating the broader leadership of LCSA in supporting inter/cross-disciplinary research are encouraged.
  4. Further developing the assessment and coverage of interlinkages, trade-offs and prioritization of SDGs in LCSA methodology. In light of this, the characterization of positive impacts, such as product benefit or handprint assessment, and how to aggregate them with negative impacts is also key. Moreover, the relationship with conventional areas of LCSA-methodology should be explored with (re)consideration of the ethical backbone, such as social justice or equity issues. A potential gap between the current research focus of LCSA and SDGs is scale—the product itself may have negligible direct contributions to SDGs but could have significant impacts at a large-scale production and/or consumption. Submissions focusing on specific products or technologies should take this into consideration. 
  5. Considering further developments in the SDG community, such as a possible revision of the SDG framework (, and studying how these possible adaptations could be flexibly covered in LCSA methodology. Submissions are encouraged to discuss policy and governance implications beyond achieving and revisiting SDGs based on LCA evidence. For example, how can science-based evidence obtained from LCSA and SDGs research support decision-making in policy and determining social priorities?

Case studies that focus on the application of LCSA methods need to demonstrate and highlight the innovations with respect to methodology, new knowledge, or new data.

We welcome submissions on the development and/or application of LCSA-based indicators that are relevant for policy and planning purposes by a variety of stakeholders within the framework of the SDGs:

  • GOAL 1: No Poverty 
  • GOAL 2: Zero Hunger 
  • GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being 
  • GOAL 4: Quality Education
  • GOAL 5: Gender Equality 
  • GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation 
  • GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth 
  • GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality 
  • GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • GOAL 13: Climate Action
  • GOAL 14: Life Below Water
  • GOAL 15: Life on Land
  • GOAL 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • GOAL 17: Partnerships

Special Issue Timeline

  • Call for papers: 1 December 2020
  • Optional extended abstract submission deadline: 1 March 2021
  • Full papers invited by editorial team: 15 April 2021
  • Full manuscript submission deadline: 5 November 2021
  • Papers posted online when accepted
  • Issue publication expected in early 2022

Special Issue Editorial Team

Yuan Yao, Yale University, United States

Thomas Gloria, Harvard University, United States

Haibo Feng, Northumbria University, United Kingdom

Cassie Thiel, New York University, United States

Oludunsin Arodudu, Maynooth University, Ireland

Thomas Schaubroeck, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, Luxembourg

David Murphy, St. Lawrence University, United States

Larry Swatuk, University of Waterloo, Canada

How to submit

We encourage, but do not require, authors to submit an extended abstract by March 1st, 2021 in order to receive feedback about potential subsmissions. Extended abstracts should be in English and be no more than 1,000 words in length with 1 optional figure or table. The editorial team will review the extended abstracts and respond approximately one month later as to the suitability of the proposed submission. If it is not possible to submit an extended abstract, authors are encouraged to still signal their intention to submit to the email address below as early as possible.

Authors submitting an (optional) extended abstract should send it as a text file (pdf, Word, txt) to

Submission of completed manuscripts (5 November 2021) should follow JIE author guidelines (available at Authors should submit manuscripts through the JIE’s manuscript management website ( and indicate that their contribution is intended for the special issue on Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment for Sustainable Development Goals in the submission system. We strongly encourage all authors to consider sharing their data and methods and applying for the JIE’s data transparency badge:

Submission implies that the manuscript has not been submitted for publication elsewhere and that it will not be submitted elsewhere while the review process is underway.

For further information and abstract submission, please contact the following mailing list: