Challenges and Next Steps

Currently there is no common global approach to hotspots analysis; nor has there been any effort to bring together or share best practice amongst those organizations or initiatives currently developing and using these methods. There is also no accepted guidance on how to translate and apply the results of hotspots analysis into meaningful sustainability information and insight for use by industry, governments and other stakeholders.

Recognizing that this situation may result in a range of negative impacts, including a lack of consistency in the methodological approach, difficulties in comparing the results of hotspots studies and the potential for conflicting sustainability information in the marketplace; the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative established Flagship Project 3a to address these and other issues as noted in the introduction to this chapter.

The primary focus of this project is to identify existing methodologies, tools and resources that can or could be applied at three scales or levels of detail, namely at the national, sector or product category-level. A secondary research objective is to seek to determine the potential use, adoption or adaptation of these methodologies by developing countries, emerging economies, SMEs or for use at the city-scale. During the first phase of the project, the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative conducted a study to map existing hotspots analysis methodologies and studies world-wide (Barthel et al. 2014).

Phase 2 of this flagship project is seeking to respond to the urgent timeframes and requirements of a number of implementation programs within the UNEP's 10 Year Framework of Programmes on SCP (10YFP), and the 10YFP Secretariat's need to provide national-level hotspots analysis guidance to National Focal Points to help them prioritize their SCP policies and programs.

The second phase will involve a series of rapid-prototyping workshops in one designated geographical location, supplemented with regional webinars to solicit input and feedback from key experts and stakeholders from around the world that were identified during Phase 1 of the project. These workshops and webinars are intended to meet the ultimate objectives of this project, to facilitate the rapid development and refinement of:

1. A common methodological framework and global principles and guidance for hotspots analysis that is capable of being used at different scales or levels of detail (national, sector, product category and city)

2. Best practice guidance for the appropriate use and communication of sustainability information derived from hotspots analysis and other life cycle approaches

These workshops will also be used to test with stakeholders the feasibility of a number of options to bring together the findings, data and information from existing hotspots analysis studies to provide a richer, more global picture of the sustainability hotspots in society and the economy.

With its Flagship 3a, the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative continues to address these issues on its way towards developing “Global principles and guidance for hotspots analysis” in the second Phase of the project.


Barthel M, Fava J, Harnanan C, Valdivia S, Khan S, James K, Smerek A (2014) Hotspots Analysis: mapping of existing methodologies, tools and guidance and initial recommendations for the development of global guidance. UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative-Flagship Project 3a (Phase 1) v.5.2. UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative website. wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Flagship3a-Hotspots-Mapping.pdf

ISO 14040 (2006) Environmental management – life cycle assessment – principles and framework. A copy of this standard can be purchased.

UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative (2011) Towards a life cycle sustainability assessment: making informed choices on products. United Nations Environment Programme website.

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