Technical University of Denmark: New centre assesses absolute sustainability

There is much talk about sustainability these days, but we talk about it in many different ways and often adopt a relative perspective—is it more sustainable to do something different to what we are doing today? If we are to look seriously at how effective, our technology must be before it supports a sustainable lifestyle, we must also assess its sustainability in an absolute perspective—how good must it be before it is good enough?

Overall, sustainability is about avoiding starving the planet’s resources and leaving a world for the next generations that gives them the same or better opportunities than us. This is not that simple, because there are countless factors that affect the individual product and the individual person’s behaviour. This is where the DTU Centre for Absolute Sustainability comes in.

Climate change is a very important concern for the transition to sustainability, but it cannot stand alone. To develop a sustainable society, we have to meet the needs of current and future generations within the tolerance thresholds that apply to our vulnerable planet and its ecosystems.

The road to a greener planet
The DTU Centre for Absolute Sustainability will develop models for calculation of the absolute sustainability of products and behaviour based on the volumes of resources available on the planet and the levels of impacts that the planet can withstand in relation to climate, biodiversity, and toxicity—and then develop technologies for creating improvements and strategies to implement them.

With leading researchers in technology, sustainability assessment, and innovation, the centre will not only highlight the problems, but also indicate the solutions and show the way to achieve them. This will give us insight into the sustainability consequences of our consumption patterns and lifestyles.

“We will focus on the scientific work aimed at establishing how we can help the Danish and international communities achieve absolute sustainability. This will be done through a number of activities, including the development of measuring methods and technology. A very important task for the centre will be to reach out to the surrounding society through collaboration with businesses to map their path to absolute sustainability,” says Michael Zwicky Hauschild, who is the head of the centre.

The centre houses some of the world’s leading experts, who provide scientific advice on value-creating technologies for sustainable change.

Centre for Absolute Sustainability
The centre will be inaugurated on 14 June 2022.
The focus will be research and development of absolute sustainability in technology development.
The centre is based on DTU’s academic fields and the researchers who work with sustainability within these fields.
Partners such as businesses gain access to DTU’s expertise and talents in absolute sustainability.
DTU Centre for Absolute Sustainability

Absolute sustainability
Absolute sustainabilty involves using the tolerance thresholds of nature as a measure of how much we can allow our products and actions to impact the climate and the environment.

The tolerance thresholds define limits, and we only have the total limits of the planet for our activities. Within the leeway set by these limits, we must all have food, clean water, shelter, transportation, etc.

By assigning our activities their share of these limits, we get an idea of when they will be exceeded and how efficient we must be in our performance of the activity before it is good enough.