Q&A: What do you do?/What’s your research about? (February 2018)

My main research aims to provide companies in the local bioeconomy with tools to assess and increase the sustainability (environmental, economic, social) of their products, processes and services while still growing their business.

We are looking at sustainability through Life Cycle Assessment (LCA – environmental component), Life Cycle Costing (LCC – economic component) and Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA – social component). In order to understand local bioeconomy companies, we model their along and across the value chain and we model all adjacent actors (both in terms of activities but also geographically). This allows us to see if there are any inefficiencies in the system and if there aren’t any missing “connections” (e.g. industrial symbiosis) and also pinpoint sustainability hotspots that should be dealt with. We also look at consumer behaviour because ultimately even a very innovative product or service is no good if it is no one buys or uses it.

While many companies know their business very well, they usually do not have access to simple simulation of the system they are in and how changing this or that impacts the sustainability of their products, processes or services and that’s what we’re working on providing them.

Currently I am working on making as precise of a model of the local construction wood business as possible. I use a special software where I can enter the different “actors” and then I have to understand and quantify (ideally through equations) how one actor impacts on another and how each impacts sustainability. Sometimes it’s impossible to have a neat equation so I have to find published historical data or collect my own and use that in the model. Once that’s done, companies can validate which aspects of the model are good and where more work needs to be done. Later on we will also model how consumer behaviour tends to change in Finland when innovative products and services appear on the market and what types of actions were taken by companies to promote those products or services.

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