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Potential for Mainstreaming Life Cycle Sustainability Management in Developing Countries: A Global Status Assessment

The term “mainstream” can be understood as “ideas, attitudes, or activities that are shared by most people and regarded as normal or conventional” (Oxford Dictionaries 2015) or as “products and services readily available and appealing to the general public, as opposed to being of interest only to a very specific subset of the public” (Business Dictionary 2015). The authors acknowledge that the connotation of mainstreaming can be negative if the ideas, attitudes, products or activities ignore the individual and group values that are essential in free societies or, in a broader sense, that become obstacles in a path toward sustainable development. In order to reach substantial socio-economic changes in societies, mainstreaming is a key instrument, but cultural diversity and different backgrounds need to be taken into account before designing and implementing measures.

To illustrate the existence of different mainstreaming perceptions in a country and the ways to implement changes, the case of India is described as follows.

In India, value systems that discourage non-conventional behavior are still “mainstream”, but this is changing as being conventional and as weak and conformist. A need for mainstreaming social reform has been recognized in India and is being implemented through provisions in the Constitution and various laws. The social reform currently in place is questioning many traditional practices such as those perpetuating inequalities based on gender, caste or economic class. Although the social reform in India has legal support, substantial changes are still far behind. While mainstreaming life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSM) in industrialized countries focuses on effective communication between opinion leaders and consumers on life cycle thinking, in developing countries it is capacity-building of companies and governments. Information-sharing platforms and demonstration projects are essential in developing countries.

Methodology and Criteria for the Assessment of Mainstreaming Conditions

The focus of the assessment of mainstreaming conditions concerns 18 rapidly growing and emerging economies that were selected according to geographical balance (Table 19.1).

Aside from gender, the criteria used to assess the mainstreaming conditions status of LCSM/LCA were inspired by the survey from AIST (2006) to analyze the situation of LCA implementation in selected countries, including Brazil, Malaysia and Australia. The following criteria were applied:

(a) LCM and LCA training activities in place. Results in Table 19.1 are interpreted as follows: 0 is equal to “not at all”; 1 to “only on LCA”; 2 to “multiple on LCM/LCA”; and 3 to “many good quality ones on LCM/LCA”.

(b) LCA studies available. This implies that local data exist and that organisations start to implement LCSM. The scores have the following interpretations: 0: not at all; 1: few studies; 2: some, mainly by academics; and 3: many, by academics and big companies.

(c) National LCA database operating. This is the basic infrastructure needed to have the potential to mainstream LCSM. Three cases are considered: 0: there is no database; 1: a database is under development; and 2: local database is available for core sectors in the country.

(d) Active national life cycle network(s), including information on size of the network and gender balance aspects (Buckingham-Hatfield 2002). In general, these networks can function as a major multiplier for applications of LCSM by organisation. The first part (d.1) indicates the existence (“1”) or not (“0”) of a network in the country; 0/1 means that there is neither agreement on the existence of a network nor a website available. The second part (d.2) refers to the size of the network and the last part (d.3) to the percentage of women.

Table 19.1 Mainstreaming conditions criteria in selected rapidly growing and emerging countries (a–d.3) and status of the market for LCA professionals (e)

Country

(a)

(b)

(c)

(d.1)

(d.2)

(d.3)

(e)

Training activities

LCA

studies

LCA

database

LC

network

Size

Gender

Market for LCA

professionals

Latin America

Argentina

2

2

0

1

10–50

73 %

1

Brazil

3

2

1

1

50–100

31 %

1

Chile

2

1

1

1

10–50

38 %

1

Colombia

2

1

0

1

50–100

44 %

1

Peru

2

2

0

1

10–50

61 %

1

Mexico

2

2

2

1

100–250

37 %

1

South East Asia

China

3

2

2

1

1000

42 %a

1

India

2

1

1

1

250–500

23 %

1

Indonesia

1

1

0

0/1

5–10

13 %

1

Malaysia

2

1

2

1

10–50

40 %

1

Philippines

0

1

0

0

0–3

nr

1

Thailand

3

3

2

1

100–250

56 %

1

Africa

South Africa

2

2

1

1

10–50

35 %

1

Egypt

1

1

0

0

5–10

13 %

0

Morocco

1

1

0

0

0–3

nr

0

Eastern Europe

Russian Federationb

0

1

0

0

0–3

nr

1

Turkey

2

2

1

0/1

5–10

24 %

1

West Asia

Saudi Arabiab

0

0

0

0

0–3

nr

0

Total 18

nr not representative. No more than three persons have been identified in that country; hence, the result cannot be considered representative

aInfo estimated by Ping Hou, China

bOnly one response was received from this country; hence, the results cannot be considered valid

(e) A market for LCA professionals. In this case, an answer equal to 0 means there is no market at all, 1 means that the market is still developing and 2 means that the market is fully developed. The authors conclude that the existence of training activities, LCA studies, LCA databases and life cycle networks are conditions for mainstreaming.

Between 2013 and 2014, a global and a Latin American survey took place (Sonnemann et al. 2015; Valdivia et al. 2014), which were the basis for the assessment (see results in Table 19.1). About 80 responses were received from the life cycle national networks. Gender was analyzed based on the 2000 followers of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. A discussion of the main findings is presented in the next sections.

The analysis of progress in the use of LCA in policies (see Sect. 2.7) could not be completed, due to insufficient information. Nevertheless, Sect. 2.7.1 on “LCA in policies” illustrates the situation in Thailand, China, Brazil and Mexico.

 
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