The fifth driver consists of governmental laws and regulations to promote sustainability. For example, US Executive Order 13514 requires that 95 percent of all applicable new contract actions for products and services advance sustainable acquisition. Similar provisions are appearing in countries around the world to quantify and reduce resource impacts.

Finally, the private sector realizes that it needs to address sustainability issues as part of the issues associated with the goods and services it sells.

Sustainability Indexes

A variety of efforts are under way to measure and report on the sustainability of products, Golden said. For example, Nike has led the development of a Materials Sustainability Index that encompasses about 40,000 different materials. International teams of researchers have done technical reviews of quantification methods to evaluate the sustainability of products throughout the supply chain. Innovators and designers can use this information to build sustainability into products throughout their life cycle. This information also can be used to evaluate suppliers of products no matter where they are located. “It is a common language, a common set of metrics and indicators, which everybody has to aspire to,” said Golden.

Much more can be done to develop and disseminate information. Golden called for the establishment of a National Sustainability Computation Center to support industry. Such a center could gather, analyze, and distribute data through a variety of public sector and private sector networks while also supporting education and outreach. It could address such issues as food security, ecosystem services, employment, shelter, energy, water scarcity, and national security.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement