(517l) Designing Sustainable Supply Chains in Light of Planetary Boundaries: A Case Study of Bioethanol Production from Sugarcane in Argentina
In this context, the planetary boundaries (PBs) concept provides a theoretical basis to evaluate systems referring to the absolute carrying capacity of the Earth, i.e., to assess whether the Earth is able to cope with environmental burdens from human activities. In essence, the PBs framework identifies a set of critical environmental processes and their respective maximum perturbation limits which altogether define the so-called safe operating space (SOS), which can be used as the absolute sustainability reference. In this work, we incorporate the PBs concept into the design of sustainable SCs by relying on a recently proposed set of life cycle assessment (LCA) characterization models which allow expressing all impacts and burdens of the SCs in terms of the control variables of the PBs. The proposed modelling framework allows finding the optimal solution for the whole network minimizing the transgression of the PBs, which need to be previously translated to the regionally-operating scale of the SC using distributive fairness principles. The overall approach, therefore, allows quantifying the performance of SCs in terms of maximum thresholds, thereby providing information on their absolute sustainability level.
To demonstrate how the proposed framework would work in practice, we apply it to a case study which considers the optimal design of the bioethanol production from sugarcane in Argentina to satisfy an increased blending mandate in the transportation sector. To do so, we modified our previously developed mixed-integer linear programming model by incorporating the PBs framework. Our results show that, due to the stringent downscaled PBs imposed, there is no SC configuration capable of satisfying all planetary boundaries concurrently. However, the transgression to critical PBs such as climate change and acidification would be significantly reduced. We hope that our work opens up new avenues for research and business applications to operationalize the design of future SCs in light of PBs towards decision-making aligned with absolute sustainability.