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Conceptualising environmental responsibility

  • Lenzen, Manfred
  • Murray, Joy
Registered author(s):

    Downstream responsibility is rarely addressed in the academic literature and in corporate sustainability reporting. We conceptualise downstream responsibility for the example of carbon emissions, by establishing a terminology as well as a framework for quantifying downstream carbon footprints. By extracting emissions-intensive sales chains for a number of Australian industry sectors, and comparing these to emissions-intensive supply chains, we demonstrated the ability of input-output analysis to quantify emissions responsibility in both directions. We extend the definition of downstream responsibility beyond the product use and disposal phases, to include what we call "enabled" emissions. This term implies that whatever is sold downstream enables our customers to operate and emit, irrespective of whether it is our product that is combusted, or that directly combusts fuels, or not. Our structural path analyses and threshold-capture relationships reveal stark differences between industries with regard to the data collection efforts necessary to achieve a reasonably complete footprint assessment. Industries appear to have their own specific carbon footprint profiles, and one cannot design generic relevance tests that tell which data to collect. Moreover we conclude that current completeness standards in carbon reporting cannot be satisfied using relevance thresholds. Input-output analysis and structural path analysis are excellent tools that can help companies undertake screening exercises, which in turn help prioritising and streamlining the collection of data needed to establish a corporate downstream carbon footprint. Compared to conventional manual approaches, hybrid life-cycle assessments assisted by input-output analysis and structural path analysis achieve more complete results, with substantially less staff, money and time.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VDY-518YBHX-1/2/ea1aa584b398bc62881c261f2d9f2f97
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 70 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 2 (December)
    Pages: 261-270

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2010:i:2:p:261-270
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

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    1. Andrew, Robbie & Forgie, Vicky, 2008. "A three-perspective view of greenhouse gas emission responsibilities in New Zealand," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1-2), pages 194-204, December.
    2. Lenzen, Manfred, 2008. "Consumer and producer environmental responsibility: A reply," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2-3), pages 547-550, June.
    3. Y. Anny Huang & Manfred Lenzen & Christopher Weber & Joy Murray & H. Scott Matthews, 2009. "The Role Of Input-Output Analysis For The Screening Of Corporate Carbon Footprints," Economic Systems Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(3), pages 217-242.
    4. Rodrigues, João & Domingos, Tiago, 2008. "Consumer and producer environmental responsibility: Comparing two approaches," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2-3), pages 533-546, June.
    5. Lenzen, Manfred & Murray, Joy & Sack, Fabian & Wiedmann, Thomas, 2007. "Shared producer and consumer responsibility -- Theory and practice," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 27-42, February.
    6. Munksgaard, Jesper & Pedersen, Klaus Alsted, 2001. "CO2 accounts for open economies: producer or consumer responsibility?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 327-334, March.
    7. Thomas Wiedmann, 2009. "Editorial: Carbon Footprint And Input-Output Analysis - An Introduction," Economic Systems Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(3), pages 175-186.
    8. J. C. Minx & T. Wiedmann & R. Wood & G. P. Peters & M. Lenzen & A. Owen & K. Scott & J. Barrett & K. Hubacek & G. Baiocchi & A. Paul & E. Dawkins & J. Briggs & D. Guan & S. Suh & F. Ackerman, 2009. "Input-Output Analysis And Carbon Footprinting: An Overview Of Applications," Economic Systems Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(3), pages 187-216.
    9. Lenzen, Manfred, 2007. "Aggregation (in-)variance of shared responsibility: A case study of Australia," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 19-24, October.
    10. Glen Peters & Edgar Hertwich, 2006. "Structural analysis of international trade: Environmental impacts of Norway," Economic Systems Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(2), pages 155-181.
    11. Rodrigues, Joao & Domingos, Tiago & Giljum, Stefan & Schneider, Francois, 2006. "Designing an indicator of environmental responsibility," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 256-266, September.
    12. Peters, Glen P., 2008. "From production-based to consumption-based national emission inventories," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 13-23, March.
    13. Shrestha, Ram M. & Timilsina, Govinda R., 2002. "The additionality criterion for identifying clean development mechanism projects under the Kyoto Protocol," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 73-79, January.
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