Harnessing impact measurements for strategic sustainability and decision-making

Hanna Pihkola,
Michael Hanf,
Annu Markkula

In today's business environment, the strategic pursuit of sustainability is not just a moral imperative but a critical driver for long-term success and competitive advantage. Organizations are increasingly recognizing that sustainability can lead to innovation, operational efficiency, and improved stakeholder relationships. Impact measurements, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA), and handprint calculations, serve as vital tools in this strategic pursuit. Impact measurements also play a pivotal role in the materiality analysis process, serving as a foundation for identifying and prioritizing sustainability-related risks and opportunities that could have financial effects on an organization.

Impact measurements – an introduction

Impact measurements provide a structured and comprehensive approach to evaluating the environmental, social, and economic impacts of products, services, or processes over their entire life cycle.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method used to assess the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product, process, or service. By considering a product's entire life cycle—from raw material extraction through materials processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair and maintenance, and disposal or recycling—LCA provides a comprehensive view of the environmental impacts and helps identify areas for improvement. For instance, an LCA might reveal that the majority of a product's environmental impact occurs during its manufacturing phase, prompting a company to seek options for reducing those impacts, and providing a basis for setting reduction targets or KPIs.

Handprint focuses on the positive impacts that a product, service, or organization can have for other organisations. It measures the benefits or positive changes that occur as a result of an entity's actions, such as energy or material savings, or increased circularity. This concept is particularly useful for organizations looking to enhance their sustainability profiles and communicate their positive contributions to stakeholders. For example, a tech company might use Handprint assessments to quantify the energy savings from their products, demonstrating the positive impact on energy consumption of their customers.

Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) integrates environmental LCA and social LCA and economic assessments (life cycle costing) to provide a more holistic view of the sustainability performance of a product or system. LCSA considers the triple bottom line of sustainability, which includes environmental, social, and economic dimensions, offering a more comprehensive understanding of the long-term impacts of strategic decisions, assessing also potential social risks and benefits This approach provides a deep-dive to product-related sustainability considerations from different perspectives. Learnings gained form LCSA can inform high-level strategic decisions by evaluating the long-term sustainability of business models and investments.

The value of impact assessments in strategic decision-making

Incorporating impact measurements into strategic decision-making allows organizations to:

  • Identify and mitigate risks: By understanding the potential negative impacts of their actions, companies can take proactive measures to mitigate risks before they materialize. For example, using LCA, a company might discover that switching to a recycled material reduces both costs and environmental impact, aligning with both sustainability and financial goals. Social LCA increases understanding about both, potential social risks an, and benefits within the value chain.
  • Optimize resource use: Impact measurements can reveal inefficiencies in resource use, enabling organizations to optimize their operations to reduce costs and improve circularity.
  • Enhance brand value and reputation: Demonstrating a commitment to sustainability can improve a company's image and strengthen its brand.
  • Comply with regulations: New European sustainability regulation require companies to assess and report on their environmental and social impacts covering their value chains
  • Drive innovation: Insights gained from impact measurements can inspire new ideas and innovations that lead to more sustainable products, services and business models.

In the context of materiality analysis, impact measurements are utilized to assess both the actual and potential significant impacts that an organization is connected to, whether directly caused or contributed to by its own operations, products, and services, or linked to the upstream or downstream value chain.

Practical implications

Incorporating sustainability and impact measurements like LCA, Handprint, and LCSA into strategic decision-making enables companies to make informed choices aligned with their sustainability goals. These tools provide a comprehensive view of operations, revealing environmental, social, and economic impacts. By integrating these assessments, businesses can identify improvement areas, set realistic targets, and communicate progress transparently to stakeholders.

Impact assessments guide product development, supply chain management, and business operations. For example, LCA identifies significant environmental impacts throughout a product's life cycle, prompting shifts towards sustainable materials or processes. Handprint assessments highlight positive contributions in the value chain and towards customers. LCSA can provide inputs for long-term sustainability considerations of business models and investments, informing high-level decisions.

Ultimately, these impact measurements are integral to the broader definition of a company's strategy, ensuring that sustainability is not an afterthought but a core driver of business success. They enable companies to not only comply with regulatory requirements but also to innovate and lead in their respective industries, fostering a culture of responsibility and forward-thinking that benefits both the business and the wider community.


In conclusion, integrating impact measurements into strategic decision-making is crucial for achieving sustainability and long-term success. Science-based tools like LCA, Handprint, and LCSA help companies make informed data-driven decisions that benefit the environment, society, and their own economic viability.

Using impact measurements allows organizations to navigate sustainability complexities with precision. These tools offer a framework for assessing and improving the sustainability performance of products and services, fostering innovation and excellence.

In a rapidly evolving sustainability landscape, companies that incorporate impact measurements are better positioned to lead and thrive. They meet regulatory demands, gain a competitive edge, inspire stakeholder trust, and drive innovation.

Further Reading:

Hanna Pihkola
Hanna Pihkola
Research Team Leader
Michael Hanf
Michael Hanf
Annu Markkula
Annu Markkula
Our vision beyond 2030

Every phase of a product’s lifecycle from raw material to end product as a part of recycling needs to be understood as well as possible. In this way, we can save important natural resources, reduce emissions and create new markets.