Sustainability assessment program
Sustainability means living well within the limits of a finite planet. There is abundant scientific evidence that humanity is living unsustainably. More than ever, we need to find holistic and effective solutions to protect our vital life support systems and meet the needs of a growing human population at the same time. The big challenge is to find the right balance between social, environmental and economic values.
Our ambition as a team is to employ our tools and expertise to provide insight and offer solutions to grand sustainability challenges such as climate change mitigation, urban and infrastructure sustainability and transforming systems towards absolute sustainability.
Through our research and quantitative tools we aim to support governments and industry in improving their decision making with an integrated assessment framework that combines economic, environmental and social dimensions. We take an economy-wide perspective that accounts for both synergies and trade-offs.
The Sustainability Assessment Program (SAP) team includes researchers with diverse backgrounds: environmental and natural sciences, engineering, environmental management, geography and economics. We are experts in different aspects of quantitative environmental, economic and social impact assessment. We understand that decision making for sustainable development must be based on scientific methodology that is holistic, life-cycle based and comprehensive. We develop and employ quantitative sustainability assessments of policies, projects, cities, technologies, sectors, companies, and products.
Our team has expertise in scenario analysis and integrated modelling to enable policy and investment decisions that advance sustainability objectives and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We contribute to sustainability science by addressing the question of how humanity can transition to a world where human well-being is pursued while negative impacts to the planet are kept within acceptable limits.
Methods and Tools
At SAP we adopt a quantitative and holistic approach to sustainability assessment. We measure and benchmark environmental, social and economic impacts in an integrated, triple bottom line framework. We employ hybrid life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA), by combining economy-wide input-output analysis with process-specific data based on engineering knowledge. This allows us to evaluate impacts from both a production and consumption (footprint) perspective. We conduct empirical research by integrating planetary boundaries into environmental sustainability indicators and assessments. We also develop and use the iSDG simulation model, conceptualised by the Millenium Institute. This integrated assessment model enables us to explore scenarios of future development with different policy and investment settings.
We undertake innovative research of national and international significance and provide research services to industry and government. Our flexibility and versatility as a team is one of our strongest assets. We actively seek to develop methods and tools within our areas of expertise. Examples of our projects include renewable energy scenarios, embodied carbon footprint analysis of the built environment and economy-wide environmental impact assessments. We undertake scenario modelling of sustainability transitions in the built environment and transport sector.
Prominent projects include:
- Industrial Ecology Virtual Laboratory and Embodied Carbon Explorer
- Scope 3 and Carbon footprint assessments and data for cities, regions, sectors, buildings and building materials.
- Sustainability assessment frameworks and metrics
- Integrated assessment modelling of transitions towards sustainability
- Wastewater and biosolids assessment and management
- Triple Bottom Line (TBL) tool development for water utilities
- Water demand forecasting and impact assessment
Partners & networks
SAP academics collaborate extensively with university researchers, industry partners and government, both internationally and within Australia. Our partners include the University of Sydney, Queensland University, University of Melbourne, CSIRO, Sydney Water, SA Water and NTNU Trondheim.
We have received funding from the ACT Government, Australian Research Council, CRC for Low Carbon Living, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Norwegian Research Council, UNSW Digital Grid Futures Institute and US Water Reuse Research Foundation.
We are members of the International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE), the Australian Life Cycle Assessment Society (ALCAS), the International Input-Output Association (IIOA) and the International Society of Ecological Economics (ISEE). We consistently participate in national and international academic conferences to extend our knowledge and connections.
- Tommy Wiedmann (Program Leader) (since 2013)
- Hazel Rowley (2013)
- Juan Pablo Alvarez Gaitan (2013-2019)
- Judith Schinabeck (2014-2017)
- Michalis Hadjikakou (2016-2018)
- Ruth Fisher (since 2013)
- Soo Huey Teh (2018-2022)
- Cameron Allen (2020-2021)
- Shamim Aryampa (since 2023)
- Guangwu Chen (2013-2017)
- Soo Huey Teh (2014-2018)
- Bahareh Sara Howard (2015-2018)
- Man (Mandy) Yu (2016-2020)
- Cameron Allen (2017-2019)
- Mo Li (2017-2020)
- Gail Broadbent (2019-2023)
- Kylie Goodwin (2019-)
- Brad Henderson (2020-)
- Jingwen Luo (2022-)
- Sven Lundie (since 2010)
- Stephan Pfister (2016)
- Moana Simas (2017-2018)
- Ortzi Akizu (2017-2018)
- Song Wang (2017-2018)
- Jukka Heinonen (2018)
- Xue Fu (2018-2019)
- Michalis Hadjikakou (2018-2019)
- Andreas Frömelt (2019)
- Qifeng Zhang (2019-2020)
- Rajib Sinha (2020)
- Ana Maria Arbelaez Velez (2020)
- Yafei Wang (2020-2021)
- Guangwu Chen (2020-2022)
- Wiedmann, T., Lenzen, M., Keyßer, L. T. and Steinberger, J. K. (2020) Scientists’ warning on affluence. Nature Communications, 11, 3107. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-16941-y or https://rdcu.be/b43Hh
- Li, M., Wiedmann, T. and Hadjikakou, M. (2020) Enabling Full Supply Chain Corporate Responsibility: Scope 3 Emissions Targets for Ambitious Climate Change Mitigation. Environmental Science & Technology, 54, 400-411. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.9b05245
- Allen, C., Metternicht, G., Wiedmann, T. and Pedercini, M. (2019) Greater gains for Australia by tackling all SDGs but the last steps will be the most challenging. Nature Sustainability, 2, 1041-1050. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0409-9
- Wiedmann, T. and Lenzen, M. (2018) Environmental and social footprints of international trade. Nature Geoscience, 11, 314-321. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-018-0113-9 and https://rdcu.be/M0bD
- Wiedmann, T. O., Schandl, H., Lenzen, M., Moran, D., Suh, S., West, J. and Kanemoto, K. (2015) The material footprint of nations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112, 6271-6276. http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1220362110
- Hoekstra, A. Y. and Wiedmann, T. O. (2014) Humanity’s unsustainable environmental footprint. Science, 344, 1114-1117. http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1248365
For more publications please follow the links of individual researchers above.
Join the Team!
Please look out for job opportunities on the job sites of WRC and UNSW. If you want to join as a PhD student, you will need to apply for and receive a scholarship. Check out the information provided here: https://www.scholarships.unsw.edu.au.
Professor Tommy Wiedmann
Leader, Sustainability Assessment Program
P: (+61 2) 9385 0142
SAP staff and research student gathering (Nov 2018).
SAP Retreat 2014 (l-r): Guangwu Chen, Michalis Hadjikakou, Paul Wolfram, Hazel Rowley, Juan Pablo Alvarez Gaitan, Ruth Fisher, Judith Schinabeck, Soo Huey Teh, Tommy Wiedmann, Sven Lundie, Yumi Kobayashi and Prof. George (in Yumi's arms).