The challenges of applying planetary boundaries as a basis for strategic decision-making in companies with global supply chains

Roland Clift, Sarah Sim, Henry King, Jonathan L. Chenoweth, Ian Christie, Julie Clavreul, Carina Mueller, Leo Posthuma, Anne Marie Boulay, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Julia Chatterton, Fabrice DeClerck, Angela Druckman, Chris France, Antonio Franco, Dieter Gerten, Mark Goedkoop, Michael Z. Hauschild, Mark A.J. Huijbregts, Thomas KoellnerEric F. Lambin, Jacquetta Lee, Simon Mair, Stuart Marshall, Michael S. McLachlan, Llorenç Milà i Canals, Cynthia Mitchell, Edward Price, Johan Rockström, James Suckling, Richard Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

The Planetary Boundaries (PB) framework represents a significant advance in specifying the ecological constraints on human development. However, to enable decision-makers in business and public policy to respect these constraints in strategic planning, the PB framework needs to be developed to generate practical tools. With this objective in mind, we analyse the recent literature and highlight three major scientific and technical challenges in operationalizing the PB approach in decision-making: first, identification of thresholds or boundaries with associated metrics for different geographical scales; second, the need to frame approaches to allocate fair shares in the 'safe operating space' bounded by the PBs across the value chain and; third, the need for international bodies to co-ordinate the implementation of the measures needed to respect the Planetary Boundaries. For the first two of these challenges, we consider how they might be addressed for four PBs: climate change, freshwater use, biosphere integrity and chemical pollution and other novel entities. Four key opportunities are identified: (1) development of a common system of metrics that can be applied consistently at and across different scales; (2) setting 'distance from boundary' measures that can be applied at different scales; (3) development of global, preferably open-source, databases and models; and (4) advancing understanding of the interactions between the different PBs. Addressing the scientific and technical challenges in operationalizing the planetary boundaries needs be complemented with progress in addressing the equity and ethical issues in allocating the safe operating space between companies and sectors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number279
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by the author.

Keywords

  • Biodiversity
  • Business
  • Chemical pollution
  • Climate change
  • Planetary boundaries
  • Water use

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