The UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change is a highly innovative, internationally acclaimed research group that explores matters related to products and the environment. It was set up by an agreement between ESCI-UPF and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) signed on 17 December 2010. Coordinated and managed through the Environmental Management Research Group (GiGa), it was the first of the UNESCO Chairs worldwide to explore life cycles, including carbon and water footprints in relation to climate change.
The UNESCO Chair aims to promote research and education, set up collaborative networks and create documents to encourage the sustainable development of products and processes at an international level. This makes it possible to bring about substantial improvements in all life-cycle methodologies applied to climate change, as well as taking action and adding value to the present state of the art. The Chair has a clear international vocation and seeks to promote activities in a transnational context by forging ties between internationally renowned researchers and teaching staff at universities and other institutions in Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and other parts of the world.
The Chair aims to work towards environmental sustainability by creating a pool of knowledge on Life Cycle Management, honing skills and supporting and disseminating interdisciplinary research projects that integrate economic and social aspects, as well as governability in environmental management.
It creates a solid four-year platform for international academic cooperation and applications for national development. It provides ESCI-UPF with:
- Experience in ecodesign, life-cycle analysis, environmental communication and product-orientated environmental management systems.
- Innovative drive by forming part of the most prestigious scientific communities and by carrying out ambitious European R&D projects.
- Convening power in permanent dialogue with state, business and civic organisations.
- The necessary international scope to find global solutions to environmental problems.
It is based in a business school that has a statutory requirement “to provide educational and research services linked specifically to international relations, business, environmental management and sustainability”. Its research focuses on the following areas:
- Analysis of policies, model development and good practice to adapt to different countries, markets and products.
- Assessment of the environmental impact of international trade policies and activities.
- Definition of environmental, social and economic indicators to inform decision making.
- Development of environmental policies for products compatible with market demands, financial limitations and social expectations.
- Design of business tools to meet environmental requirements and at the same time create new market opportunities.
- Knowledge transfer not only to communities represented by future business but also to those involved in cooperation and development.
Projects and publications
The Chair’s research activity focuses on applying environmental management to the area of products and services. Its research lines are rooted in the concept of the life cycle and in integrating the three pillars of sustainability.
The Chair has taken part in and/or coordinated a number of Spanish and international projects that analyse life cycles, ecodesign (in markets such as recycling, electronic toys, packaging and construction products), green purchasing and environmental product communication (ecolabelling), carbon and water footprints and environmental management governance, and that explore how to integrate social and economic aspects into environmental assessments. Funded by public and private organisations, these projects provide solutions to match market demands, social expectations and respect for the environment.
Several projects have received prestigious awards, including the Catalan Government’s Environmental Award (ecotoys), the European Commission’s Europe Innova Award (Depuis) and Most Relevant Scientific Contribution at the 2009 LCM World Conference on Life Cycle Management (Progric).
The Chair is a member of the UNEP–SETAC Life Cycle Initiative and leads the Green Dot Observatory on Packaging Life Cycle. It places great emphasis on communicating the findings of research to both the scientific community and the media and the general public.
The team is made up of an international group of researchers led by Dr Pere Fullana i Palmer, a pioneer in developing and implementing the methodology of life-cycle analysis and a leading national and international figure in this field. He was named director of the Chair in May 2011. The research team is assisted by a head of administration, and the Chair regularly welcomes professional collaborators in accordance with the needs of the research projects being carried out. The Chair uses four European working languages.