Learning outcomes of the course unit
The greater interest of companies for the theme concerning environmental sustainability requires experts able to measure, manage and communicate, through voluntary certification tools, the environmental impact of organizations and products. The purpose of the course is to provide the student with a series of operational skills to support companies in the adoption of voluntary environmental certifications at an organizational and product level. The student will acquire knowledge on the administrative and management procedures necessary to adhere to the various environmental certification schemes and will learn to apply the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) technique to assess the environmental impacts under the ISO14044 standard. The discussion of case studies and the opportunities to meet companies and experts in the environmental certification will complete the student's training.
Course contents summary
The course aims to provide the student with the regulatory and operational tools useful for applying environmental, organizational, and product certification systems in firms and public bodies. The course is divided into four parts. The first part of the course deals with the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a new strategy for improving the economy-environment nexus and for integrating a dimension of environmental ethics into economic processes, the lack of which it often causes impacts, even irreversible ones, on the environment. The second part of the course defines the reference framework for the environmental certification, which mainly includes the European Union's Green Deal strategy and the United Nations 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The third part will explore the topic of voluntary environmental certifications applied to the entire company organization, as a tool for detecting, monitoring, improving, and communicating the environmental performance of the entire company organizational system. The procedures for obtaining and maintaining the environmental certification will be analyzed together with the European EMAS scheme (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) and the ISO14001 standard (Environmental management systems). The fourth and last part of the course deals with environmental product certifications ensuring the environmental performance of a product or service. These certifications are widely used to improve the efficiency in the use of environmental resources and to communicate to consumers (intermediate or final) the environmental performance of a given product or service. The environmental product certifications are part of Green Public Procurement (GPP), which is a public expenditure approach aimed at reducing the environmental impacts in the supply chain of the public bodies. Specifically, the student will learn to measure the environmental impact of a product or service in compliance with the ISO14044 series standards, on the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), at the basis of important environmental product certifications, such as the EU Ecolabel and the Environmental Product Declaration (EPD).
1) Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental Management (EM)
• Reasons for CSR: principles and drivers of CSR
• Historical perspective of the EM
• EM strategies and competitiveness
2) Environmental certification within the framework of sustainable development strategies and actions
• United Nations 2030 Agenda
• The Green Deal for an ecological transition of the European Union economy
• “From Farm to Fork” strategy for a new sustainable dimension of agri-food systems
• Green Public Procurement (GPP) as a lever to reduce the environmental impacts of the supply chain of the Public Administration
• The Circular Economy as a tool for improving the environmental footprint of the economic system
3) System environmental certifications
• Organization and product certifications
• EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme): principles, reference standards and procedures
• ISO14001 (Environmental management systems): principles, reference standards and procedures
4) Environmental product certifications
• Type and classification of product ecolabeling
• The European Ecolabel: definitions, domain of application, reference standards and procedures
• The Environmental Product Declaration (EPD): definitions, domain of application, reference standards, and procedures
• Life Cycle Thinking and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
• The phases of an LCA study (ISO14044): objectives and scope, inventory, life cycle impact assessment, analysis of results, and improvement
• LCA through the use of dedicated software and environmental databases
• Application of the LCA technique to the assessment of the environmental impacts of products and services
Hauschild, M. Z., Rosenbaum, R. K., Olsen, S. I. (2018). Life cycle assessment (Vol. 2018). Springer International Publishing, Cham.
- Knowledge: lectures (face to face and via Teams), seminars held by sector experts, and company visits.
- Ability to apply knowledge: training on the use of LCA software and environmental databases; exercises via PC.
- Independent judgment: during the course, students will be encouraged to develop analytical skills and critical evaluation of the themes and tools proposed.
- Learning skills: the student will apply the knowledge acquired through scheduled exercises.
- Technical language: during the course, the meaning of the terms commonly used in the context of environmental certifications and life cycle analysis will be illustrated.
Assessment methods and criteria
The exam is in written form and divided into two parts. The first part (2 hours) proposes to the student two questions with open answers, aimed at verifying the knowledge acquired on the subject of environmental certification. The second part consists of the presentation of a working paper on the analysis of the life cycle of a product or service chosen by the student. Each part contributes equally to the final score.