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Sustainability Assessment Frameworks

To assist in the assessment of sustainability various frameworks have been developed. These stress an integral view and focus on measuring sustainability as a basis for certification and improvement initiatives.
A six-part continuous flywheel diagram of Hassini, Surti and Searcy's sustainability framework. The six parts are labelled: 1) Sourcing; 2) Transformation; 3) Delivery; 4) Value proposition; 5) Customers and product use; 6) Reuse, Recycle, Return.
© University of Twente

To assist in the assessment of sustainability various frameworks have been developed. These stress an integral view and focus on measuring sustainability as a basis for certification and improvement initiatives.

Sustainability Assessment Framework – An Example

As an example we take the framework that Hassini, Surti and Searcy have built based on a literature review (full reference below). They propose to adopt sustainable practices and metrics in six key functions: sourcing, transformation, delivery, value proposition, customers and recycling.

Here’s a summary of the six areas they present (for the full paper see the reference below):

  • Sourcing and Transformation. The focal company in the supply chain can force its upstream suppliers to adopt and adapt technology and practices that result in more efficiently and environmentally friendly material sources, engage in labor practices that are considered ethical and result in lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as low impact on the environment.
  • Delivery. The choice of location such as offshore vs. onshore, close to the customer vs. close to the raw material source can have a significant impact on the GHG emissions. The choice of mode of transportation is an important decision to GHG emissions, however, at the same time the need to have the product delivered on time quickly and cheaply is a key concern for any business. One of the least investigated issues in sustainable practices is the choice of inventory management policy. For example single period and multi-period models aim to lower the total stock out, backorder and salvage costs and do not incorporate sustainability criteria in the decision making framework.
  • Consumer and Value Proposition. Many businesses that sell environmentally friendly, green or sustainable, low carbon emission products tend to cost more. This cost is usually passed onto the consumers in the form of higher prices. Often, as in the case of consumers buying carbon offsets, these are tangential decisions independent of product purchase decisions. In order to successfully market and sell green or sustainable products, many businesses will have to not only quantify the benefits but justify the value proposition to the customers.
  • Customer and product use. Based on life cycle assessment of many consumer goods, such as cars and computers, a significant proportion of emissions comes from the consumer’s use of products. Making goods more energy efficient is certainly a key objective of any enterprise.
  • Reuse, Recycle and Return. The reuse, recycle and return (3R) is a well-researched issue in the literature on closed-loop supply chains and reverse logistics. The idea being that the product will eventually be disassembled and components reused, re-manufactured or recycled into a source of raw materials.


Hassini, E., Surti, C., & Searcy, C. (2012). A literature review and a case study of sustainable supply chains with a focus on metrics. International Journal of Production Economics, 140(1), 69-82.

© University of Twente
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