Sustainability Research

International research consortium on Life Cycle Assessment and Sustainable Transition

Sustainable Consumption Chair

International research consortium on Life Cycle Assessment and Sustainable Transition

The Consortium’s research program aims to provide scientifically robust information and tools to support informed business and societal decisions for a sustainable transition towards a net-zero economy. Our research activities will be deeply rooted in the continued improvement and development of life cycle and sustainability metrics and tools. It will also provide a deeper understanding of complex systems to reveal and anticipate optimal transition pathways and thus guide partners’ strategic and operational decisions in a net-zero context.

Led by the CIRAIG, the Consortium will benefit from the research expertise of several research institutions.

Scientific Program

The research program is articulated around three interconnected research axes.

To meet the challenges of reaching a net-zero future while limiting vulnerabilities and impact shifts, robust indicators are required to quantify the consequences of different courses of action and sort out which should be prioritized.

With this in mind, the first research axis aims to consolidate and further develop metrics and tools to assess sustainability in value chains, in particular with regard to environmental and social life cycle impacts. This axis builds on the experience and outcomes the CIRAIG helped develop in recent years. It is resolutely focused on pushing the boundaries of methodological advancement and establishing innovative approaches to pursue the development of robust, relevant and cutting-edge analysis, metrics and tools. Furthermore, the Consortium will continue to contribute to methodological development, consensus building and harmonization in environmental and social life cycle assessment by playing an active role in different international initiatives (ISO, UNEP, WBCSD, etc.) and collaborative projects.

This axis is divided into four main research themes.

  1. Improving flow modelling in value chains to model more representative and flexible life cycle inventories.
  2. Developing relevant environmental indicators by modelling the environmental mechanisms of emissions and resource consumption. 
  3. Developing relevant social metrics and creating effective cross-linkages with other fields and applications.
  4. Improving carbon neutrality roadmaps through life cycle thinking

Our global economy is a complex system that includes and extends beyond industrial value chains. Understanding how the system and humans within it react and directly impact business activities and policy decisions is key to a sustainable transition. Focusing on this complexity is necessary to reveal optimal sustainable transition pathways and understand the dynamics of change by assessing sustainability beyond individual products and embracing a system perspective that encompasses production and consumption activities. Because the life cycle approach is critical to identify potential impacts along value chains, there is a need to improve our understanding of the interconnections of complex systems at different scales (process, industry, society) by considering competing activities under constraints to reveal optimal solutions that account for scaling and rebound effects and anticipate trends with prospective modelling.

This research axis sheds light on the roles of the energy-material-impact nexus and renewables (materials and energy) in a changing environment to assess risks and opportunities for businesses with regard to optimal sustainable transition pathways. 

  1. Assessing the role of resource- and material-focused circular economy strategies to achieve sustainable decarbonization This theme aims to develop robust methodologies to measure the impacts and benefits of material-focused strategies and reveal optimal transition pathways toward a global circular economy.
  2. Assessing the role of energy to achieve a net-zero economy. This theme proposes research developments to explore opportunities to change the supply, demand, and connections between energy carriers.

Organizations are facing increasing pressure to achieve a sustainable transition towards net-zero while ensuring other interconnected sustainability challenges such as limiting biodiversity loss, managing resource scarcity and preserving their social licence to operate are addressed. Innovative applied and operational research, as well as analysis and tools that address the challenges faced by decision makers are key to support this transition.

This research axis aims to provide operationalized research to make the knowledge, tools and metrics that are developed useful to stakeholders to support strategic decision making, operational decisions and innovation. It includes two components:

  • Operational research closely connected to the partner’s needs
  • Applied analysis and tools for decision making

Working group

Co-directors

Affiliated professors

Sustainable consumption chair

It is key to democratize robust scientific knowledge on sustainability metrics, both for citizens who need to adopt more sustainable behaviours and for those who accompany them in this process (governments, responsible businesses, NPOs).

 

To this end, one of the projects at the heart of the Chair is the creation of a sustainable compass, based on a life cycle inventory database of consumption in Quebec, as well as on the creation of a calculation interface that allows for individual environmental footprint calculations integrated into a range of tools that will shed light on the consumption choices and behaviours of Quebecers in a pedagogical and entertaining way.

 

These tools will allow individuals and those who accompany them in their sustainable transition not only to better understand the most relevant sustainable innovation strategies concerning their direct consumption, but also to understand all the indirect consequences of their choices in terms of environmental impact from a life cycle perspective.

 

The Chair will allow the creation of tools with a strong transformative potential in terms of the citizen’s transition towards a low-carbon society.

Built on the solid expertise of the CIRAIG – Prof. Cécile Bulle (UQAM) and Prof. Anne-Marie Boulay (École Polytechnique) and the OCR (Observatoire de la consommation responsable) – Prof. Fabien Durif (UQAM) and its research infrastructure, the GreenUXlab (FCI Research Laboratory on New User Experiences and Eco-Responsibility), the Chair on Sustainable Consumption will allow the linking of knowledge and the creation of new synergies between lifecycle analysis and responsible consumption.

Scientific Program

The two main objectives of the Chair are to:

  • Quantify and inform individuals about their environmental impacts
  • Accompany individuals in the adoption of more sustainable behaviours

 

These objectives will be pursued through two main components: a research component and an action component. The scientific program includes the following axes

CIRAIG Chaire Consommation Durable Programmation

RESEARCH COMPONENT

The RESEARCH component includes projects aimed at achieving the objective of Axis 1 “Quantifying and informing individuals about their environmental and social impacts”. This will be done on the one hand by improving and making more robust and comprehensive the calculation of environmental and social impacts of individuals: Improving methods and models for assessing environmental and social life cycle impacts, developing and operationalizing indicators on planetary limits (eventually allowing everyone to say “how many planets would it take if everyone consumed like me), creating life cycle consumption inventory databases that are more representative of Quebec, life cycle modeling of individual behaviors and their consequences, automating the collection of behavioral data and inferring on missing data by linking life cycle analysis and artificial intelligence… On the other hand, it will be essential to establish ethical and efficient practices to share this individual information on the environmental footprint: How to communicate to non-experts of life cycle impacts for informed decision making despite the complexity of the analyses, how to establish ethical best practices in the set of tools developed and in the management of personal data needed to perform the calculations (privacy-enabling algorithms, anonymization, development of a framework for the ethical use of individuals’ behavioural and environmental data, etc. ).

ACTION COMPONENT

The ACTION component proposes to achieve the objective of Axis 1 “Quantify and inform individuals about their environmental impacts” by developing diagnostic tools to better inform individuals about their footprint (environmental footprint calculators using individualized data from a life cycle perspective, information content for various media, etc.). These tools will eventually include the following functionalities: diagnosis of the environmental footprint through a questionnaire, presentation of the results of the footprint highlighting strengths and areas for improvement, robust generic data highlighting the most important issues (beyond the sometimes biased perceptions) based on robust and up-to-date life cycle inventory databases, programming interfaces allowing the calculation of an individual environmental footprint, user interfaces responding to different audiences and different needs. In this action component of axis 1, it is also planned to create a set of complementary diagnostic tools for those who accompany individuals in their efforts to reduce their impacts (NGOs, industries, communities and governments, especially the Chair’s partners) in order to highlight “what really matters” on the one hand, and to better position and communicate with individuals on the other.

RESEARCH COMPONENT

The RESEARCH component also includes projects aimed at achieving the objective of axis 2 “Accompanying individuals in the adoption of more sustainable behaviours” on the one hand by studying how to effectively accompany the change of behaviour of each person towards more sustainable lifestyle habits (Identification of the most effective levers and nudges for behavioural change via the analysis of data collected by the tools of the ACTION component using machine learning, personalized adaptation of advice and behaviour change objectives, identification and critical analysis of best business and governance practices to support behavioural change towards more sustainable consumption), on the other hand, how to properly communicate and democratize this complex knowledge (development of effective and scientifically robust awareness tools, reflection on the optimal level of data disaggregation, media, environmental labeling, application user interfaces, exploration of gamification) and how to do it ethically (influencing an individual’s choices, creating new social norms at the individual level regarding sustainable consumption, importance of awareness and education in the transition process, importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in the tools and approaches developed).

ACTION COMPONENT

Still in the ACTION component, the objective of axis 2 “Accompany individuals in adopting more sustainable behaviours” will be achieved through the development of several interfaces (mobile applications, website, etc.) adapted to different target audiences in order to accompany users in adopting more sustainable habits. By relying on individual learning mechanisms, these tools will make it possible to measure the reduction of environmental impacts due to the improvement of daily behaviour. They will eventually include the following functionalities: personalized and progressive commitment to quantified actions to reduce the environmental footprint, support with personalized advice, monitoring of objectives to be reached with a quantification of the reduction of environmental impacts, rewards to encourage users to continue their efforts. In this action component of axis 2, it is also planned to create a range of complementary support tools for NGOs, industries, communities and governments aimed at guiding effective action and prioritizing the most relevant levers of the citizen transition. Best business and governance practices in behavioural change on sustainable consumption will be shared with the Chair’s partners and implemented through various tools.

Co-chairs

Associated professors

  • Daniel Pearl et Andrée de Serre (Bâtiment)
  • Sergei Mikhailin, René Audet, Laure Waridel, Catherine Houssard (Alimentation) 
  • Catherine Morency (Mobilité) 
  • Marie-Ève Faust (Mode) 
  • Bouchra M’zali (Investissement) 
  • Damon Matthew, Annie Levasseur (Changements climatiques) 
  • Anne-Sophie Gousse-Lessard (Psychologie comportementale) 
  • Marie-Luc Arpin, Sébastien Gambs (Éthique des données)
  • René Audet et Laure Waridel (Sociologie de l’environnement)
  • Charles Séguin (Économie de l’environnement)
  • Sébastien Gambs (Informatique et intelligence artificielle)