Context for the Study

In this chapter we present a case study on how the use of Life Cycle Management can be mainstreamed in SMEs using a sector based and regional approach. A methodology for this purpose has been developed and applied in Northern France. It is a highly industrial region facing important challenges for sustainable development. The strong industrial past has affected the region through a complete reconversion from coal and heavy industry to other industrial and service sectors. Social challenges include the high population density (324 people per km2 vs. 113 in France) with 95 % living in urban communities. The environmental challenges this region is facing are diverse. The greenhouse gas emissions per capita are 30 % higher compared to the French average. The share of renewable energy consumption is four times less than the national level. Only 1.9 % renewable electricity (17.7 % France) is produced in the region and 16.4 % of the surfaces area is artificial (8.8 % France). Despite the loss of industrial activity over the past 50 years, Northern France remains the third largest industrial region in France with the fourth largest economic turnover. It is also a significant transport and logistics hub, with the densest road

Fig. 7.1 The northern France region

network in Europe and significant rail and canal infrastructure (Nord-Pas de calais Regional Council 2013) (Fig. 7.1).

The Northern France region has been actively pursuing a transformation towards more sustainable economic models for many years. The non-for profit organization cd2e was established in 2002 to support this “eco-transition”. As early as 2007, cd2e and their partners identified Life Cycle approaches as a needed decision-making tool to help local industry to implement Life Cycle Management. Cd2e created the [avniR] platform in 2009 to bring together multiple stakeholders around this challenging issue. This collective approach was needed to foster the supply and demand for LCA at the same time and has evolved from a focus on assessment to the support of companies in their efforts to improve their sustainability performance using LCM. On the LCM demand side, [avniR] works with industry clusters and public authorities to explain life cycle approaches and develop collaborative projects ([avnir] 2015). On the supply side, [avniR] provides training and a “hub” for academics and consultants to improve their capacity in Life Cycle Assessment, ecodesign and LCA based communication (Bjørn et al. 2013). Over 300 people have been trained in LCA/LCM through the platform, and more than 90 individual projects have been directly and indirectly supported.

Key milestones for the [avniR] platform include:

• 2011: first annual international [avniR] conference organized in Lille

• 2012: first ecodesign prize organized with different regional actors, in partnership with the Institut de Développement de Produits and Novae in Québec

• 2012: sectorial LCM studies launched in the textile, seafood, packaging and mechanical sectors

• 2014: launch of a new governance based on different working groups to strengthen collaboration between the different stakeholders within the platform

The sectorial approaches launched in 2012 have the ambitious objective of moving beyond applying LCA studies in an isolated fashion, to mainstreaming life cycle management across entire sectors at the regional level, including the numerous SMEs present. The first “wave” of four sectors in 2012 (textile, seafood, packaging and mechanical) enabled the development of a common methodology to establish strategic action plans to mainstream LCM into business, education and research organizations. A second wave of sectors (food, wood, building and recycling/ end-of-life) undertook the process in 2013 and the renewable energies sector is developing their strategy in 2015.

This chapter presents the overall approach and the first results obtained in the mainstreaming of business Life Cycle Management practice and public Life Cycle Thinking awareness in a region through this, to our knowledge unique sectorial approach, whilst developing the necessary competence to transform awareness into action by stakeholders at different levels of influence.

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