International economic development is the biggest challenge that global businesses face today. Companies are increasingly being held responsible for impacts of their products, processes and services on society and the environment. These impacts concern environmental effects and social effects in balance with the economic aspects of the company. This responsibility is called Corporate Responsibility or Corporate Citizenship and can include, but is not limited to, climate change, clean water, child labor, biodiversity, human rights, occupational health and safety, and poverty. Many companies are actively integrating sustainability principles into their business strategies by pursuing goals that go far beyond a concern for reputation management. Global corporations are saving energy and developing green products, which can help companies capture value through growth and return on capital. Increasingly more executives from large corporations state that sustainability programs make a positive contribution to their companies’ short- and long-term value.
The field of industrial ecology is playing an instrumental role in the redesign and realignment of industrial systems and activities to be more ecologically and socially responsible. Critical to the field of industrial ecology is life cycle assessment (LCA), which involves methods, techniques, process and procedures analysis of the full range of environmental impacts, product or service life cycles, and supply chains. Developing countries and emerging economies are also harnessing the potential in LCA for sustainable development. Governments play a very important role with the leverage they have through procurement, regulation, international treaties, tax incentives, public outreach, and other policy tools. Incorporating life cycle assessments into the design and development processes for products and policies is changing the way people live, their mindset and the expectations they have for the future.
- Professor: Craig Mayberry