International Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW)

Bioeconomy

Key indicators for an integrated evaluation of biomass value chains

Due to the significantly increased utilization of biogenic raw materials in recent years, a social controversy and discussion of acceptance of biomass cultivation has emerged. This project makes a proposal how bioeconomy can be sustainably designed and thought and on which ethical basis this should be done.

Project leadership

Associates

Duration

July 01, 2014 – October 31, 2017

Funding

Project description

Due to the significantly increased utilization of biogenic raw materials for material and energetic utilization in recent years, a social controversy and discussion of acceptance of biomass cultivation for these purposes has emerged. Since biomass is a limited resource, the establishment of a sustainable bioeconomy requires careful consideration of the future utilization of biomass. This project makes a proposal on how BE can be sustainable and on what ethical basis this should be done.

The aim of the project was to identify technical, ecological and socio-economic indicators for biobased product systems and to reflect them ethically. The indicators should support the establishment of a sustainable bioeconomy by carefully and holistically analysing its basis - the product systems. Furthermore, recommendations for the life cycle-based modelling of biobased product systems were developed.

Methodological and conceptual recommendations for action for a sustainable bioeconomy were developed, e.g: (Selection and summarized presentation)

  • The sustainable design of the bioeconomy should be based on an inter- and transdisciplinary approach. In addition, product systems should be considered holistically, i.e. "from the cradle to the grave", including coupling and cascade products as well as a cyclical perspective, i.e. "from the cradle to the cradle".
  • The bioeconomy should be oriented towards the principles of sustainable development. This can only succeed with an integrative approach.
  • The operationalization of an integrative concept of sustainable development for the bioeconomy should be based on fundamental ethical principles. From the obligation to justice towards all present and future human beings, the obligation to resilience and consideration for the earth's basis of existence are systematically deduced as consistent conclusions.

Various analyses, evaluations and models of biobased product systems have been developed, e.g: (selection and summarized presentation)

  • The multifunctionality of biomass should be adequately considered in the modelling of product systems. This can be done by the analysis and evaluation of displacement and substitution effects. A "decision-oriented life cycle based modelling" is proposed as a suitable method.
  • The methods "decision-oriented Life Cycle Assessment", "Societal Life Cycle Costing" and material flow analyses offer an adequate framework for the analysis and evaluation of the sustainability strategies of Huber (1995) (normative orientation) of product systems.
  • The key indicators for the consistency strategy of biobased product systems are to be determined using the "decision-oriented life cycle assessment" method. The selection should be based on the critical biophysical processes of the Earth system (Rockström et al. 2009; Steffen et al. 2015).
  • Social responsibility is to be incorporated into the integrative sustainability analysis and assessment of the product systems. According to the sufficiency strategy, this can be done by including consumption (biomass fluxes from producer to consumer).

Particular importance was attached to ethical reflection as a cross-sectional task. It was integrated into every step of the work to the extent that the ethical criteria inherent in NE, such as inter- and intragenerational justice, responsibility, non-harm, and social minimum standards, were explicitly incorporated into the development of all recommendations for action and evaluation.  The main finding is that sustainable development for the bioeconomy is to be understood as a dynamic, living, evolving process.

The project was carried out by the Institute of Energy Economics and Rational Energy Use (IER) of the University of Stuttgart in cooperation with the International Centre for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW) of the University of Tübingen. The IER works and conducts research in the field of systems analysis and technology assessment in the overlapping fields of energy technology, economy, environment and society. The IZEW has carried out numerous interdisciplinary projects on application-related questions of bioethics and environmental ethics, most recently on questions of land use and sustainability in the context of climate change as well as on the ethics of food security.

Publications

  • Kröber, B.; Potthast, T.: Bioeconomy and the future of food – ethical questions. In: Dumitras, Diana E., Ionel M. Jitea, & Stef Aerts (eds.) Know your food – Food ethics and innovation. Wageningen Academic Publishers, Wageningen 2015, p. 366-371 (peer reviewed).

Conference contributions

Presentations
 
  • 29/05/15: Potthast, T.: Bioeconomy and the future of food – ethical questions. Vortrag auf der 12th Conference of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics: “Know your food – Food ethics and innovation”, Cluj/Rumänien
  • 13/06/15: Potthast, T.: Werte, Würde, Preise – Philosophische Erkundungen zwischen Naturqualitäten und quantifizierender Ökonomik. Vortrag auf der Tagung „Ökonomische Bewertung der Umwelt und Umweltethik“. Evangelische Akademie Hofgeismar und Evangelische Akademie Frankfurt, Hofgeismar.
 
Posters
 
  • September 25/26, 2015 Kröber, B.; Matiz, N.; Härdtlein, M.; Eltrop, L.; Potthast, T.: Was ist und was will Bioökonomie? Perspektive der Ethik. In: KTBL (Hg.): Biogas in der Landwirtschaft. Stand und Perspektiven ; FNR/KTBL-Kongress vom 22. bis 23. September 2015 in Potsdam. Darmstadt: Kuratorium für Technik und Bauwesen in der Landwirtschaft e.V. (KTBLSchrift, 508), S. 471–472.
  • October 29, 2015 Matiz, N.; Kröber, B.; Potthast, T.; Härdtlein, M.; Eltrop, L.: Evaluating Bioeconomy Perspectives. Integrated assessment of biomass utilization pathways. 1. Statusseminar Bioeconomy in Baden-Württemberg, Universität Hohenheim.
  • November 25/26, 2015 Matiz, N.; Kröber, B.; Potthast, T.; Härdtlein, M.; Eltrop, L.: Making Bioeconomy measurable. In: The German Bioeconomy Council (Hg.): Conference Proceedings. For a Global Sustainable Bioeconomy. Global Bioeconomy Summit. Berlin, 25.-26. November. The Federal Chancellor. Berlin, S. 74.
  • October 13, 2016: Zwischenevaluation und 2. Statusseminar Bioeconomy in Baden-Württemberg, Universität Hohenheim: - Kröber, B.; Potthast, T.: Ethical Reflections on Biomass Use in Bioeconomy. - Matiz, N.; Härdtlein, M.; Eltrop, L.: Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment of Agricultural Cascades – a Framework.
  • September 13, 2017 Matiz, N.; Eltrop, L.; Härdtlein, M.; Böhm, M.; Kröber, B.; Potthast, T.: Integrative life cycle based sustainability assessment of multifunctional product systems in the bioeconomy; 2. International Bioeconomy Congress Baden-Württemberg.
  • January 08, 2019 Potthast, T.; Kröber, B.: Bioökonomie nachhaltig gestaltet - Konzeptionelle und ethische Grundlagen; 4. Statusseminar Bioeconomy in Baden Württemberg, Universität Hohenheim.