Journal of Cleaner Production 10 (2002) 479–493 www.cleanerproduction.


A life-cycle framework to analyse business risk in process industry projects
P.N. Sharratt ∗, P.M. Choong

Environmental Technology Centre, Department of Chemical Engineering, UMIST, Manchester, UK Received 25 October 2000; accepted 20 December 2001

Abstract The chemical and related process industries are particularly exposed to high environmentally related costs arising from normal operation and accidents, not only of their own processes but also other processes in their supply chains. A methodology (Process environmental risk assessment—PERA) is presented for the assessment of all such risks during the design of new processes. This can be seen as a project-centred risk assessment that seeks potential problems along the whole supply chain. Each activity, resource use or waste source along the supply chain represents a potential interaction between the supply chain and the environment. These potential interactions are identified systematically using a life-cycle based assessment. To assess the risk to the project or process supply chain arising from those interactions the relevant stakeholders must be identified. Their likely response can then be considered and ranked according to the risk it poses. The methodology facilitates the management and communication of risk, and is illustrated by application to some aspects of the manufacture of PVC. The method could equally be applied to the assessment of existing processes.  2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Risk; Process design; Life cycle; Stakeholder

1. Introduction The scope of environmentally-related issues that impact on business performance is growing. In the chemical and petroleum process industries, it is not only proven environmental impact that is costly, the perception of harm can also cause problems. This leads directly to the need for more holistic approaches to risk assessment during the process design, when the decisions that affect environmental performance are taken. The decisions taken during process design include not only decisions that affect on-site environmental performance, but also, through the selection of feedstocks, suppliers, energy sources and transport systems, the indirect environmental impacts are determined. Clearly, the consideration of these broader issues needs to be carried out in a timely manner—alongside the process design activity—so that any business risks can be identified and


Corresponding author. Fax: +44-161-200-4399. E-mail address: (P.N. Sharratt). Now at Croda International, Goole, Humberside, UK

managed. Indeed, the project team that is usually assembled to design new plants and processes is uniquely placed in the skills it has (process engineering and chemistry, health, safety and environmental assessment, business oversight etc.) to address the problem in a coordinated way. The chemical process industries are unusual in that they are particularly exposed to actions arising from accidents and incidents as well as pressures on the expected environmental impacts of their ongoing activities. For example, safety legislation in major hazard chemical sites has been driven by the incidents at Flixborough and Seveso [1]. Further, the health, safety and environment risks associated with these industries often attract a ‘dread’ response from lay people. The potential impacts on business performance arise through the actions of a wide range of stakeholders— customers, governments, pressure groups, regulators, neighbours, shareholders and the financial services sector, to name some of the more important ones. The impacts can arise in a number of ways, for example Changes in ongoing operating costs arising from

0959-6526/02/$ - see front matter  2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 9 5 9 - 6 5 2 6 ( 0 2 ) 0 0 0 0 3 - 3


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Nomenclature BD block diagram; CFCs chlorofluorocarbons; EDC ethylene dichloride; FMEA failure mode and effect analysis; FS flowsheet; G environmental pressure groups; HAZOP hazard and operability study; IPPC integrated pollution prevention and control; LCA life cycle assessment; P the general public; PID piping and instrumentation diagram; PERA process environmental risk assessment; PVC poly vinyl chloride; R local residents; VCM vinyl chloride monomer.

(environmentally-related) action from government or regulators Loss of license to operate as a result of unacceptable ongoing or accident-related harm Higher cost of borrowing Difficulties in waste disposal Loss of image and thus customer confidence as a result of accident(s). These impacts can affect not only the process being designed but also other activities in the supply chain over which the designers have much less direct control. Nevertheless, the problems can propagate both down and up the supply chain, both in terms of tangible issues such as cost, and intangible issues such as public perception. A methodology is proposed to identify and assess the risks in a project that arise from environmental issues. A life-cycle framework is used to identify (but not necessarily quantify in the initial stages) the mass and energy flows associated with the activity throughout its life cycle. For each activity in the life cycle the relevant environmental problems are identified. These fall into two categories—those that arise from planned emissions and resource use and those that could arise from accidental events. The method recognises that the impact on a company arises not directly as a result of an event or situation, but to the actions of the company’s stakeholders in response to that event. For each environmental problem, the relevant stakeholders are identified and their potential response(s) considered. By ranking the importance of the responses and their seriousness, it is possible to prioritise the identified risks in order of importance to the company. The methodology has been designed to work alongside a typical process design methodology insofar as it

can produce useful insights in the early data-lean stages of design. As design progresses, more detailed information can be used to refine and update the picture provided by the method.

2. Environmental risk management A Europe-wide survey of major European organisations by Ernst & Young [2] revealed that although risk management is on the agenda of most companies, its implementation is ‘patchy and unmonitored’. They report that, unlike in the past when risks were largely financial, future difficulties lie in the management of non-financial risks—of which environmental risk is one. However, cost awareness is an impelling reason to assess environmental risks. A case study in the chemicals sector [3] showed that although risks might technically be within acceptance levels, the financial and reputation impacts of those risks could cause considerable damage to a firm. As environmental risk management is gaining importance in firms, lenders and insurers are increasingly taking an interest in the matter [4]. Poor environmental performance and risk management can undermine a firm’s financial position and reduce stakeholders’ confidence in the firm. Like their clients, the financial sector strives to develop strategies to cope with environmental risk. Examples of such strategies for lenders are discussed by Dennison [5]. The insurance sector’s initial exposure to environmental risk issues occurred in tandem with the lending community’s growing interests in environmental issues [6]. The concerns of a process extend beyond the site’s boundaries. Recently, it has been shown that environmental problems can arise away from the manufacturing site and are linked to other parts of a product supply

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chain or life-cycle. For instance, the liabilities that Shell incurred over the Brent Spar incident [7] prove that disposal is an important issue that reflects the ‘ecoefficiency’ of a process. Fluorinated materials, developed as fire extinguishants to replace materials banned under the Montreal Protocol, have been discovered to be contributors to environmental damage, not only through use of the products themselves, but also through several steps in the manufacturing process [8]. The life-cycle concept is becoming more popular as governments and industry increasingly recognise its value. The US and UK governments are encouraging the evaluation of environmental impacts throughout the lifecycle stages of a product [9]. The Body Shop [10] and Belfast City Council [11] have applied the life-cycle concept by imposing environmental selection criteria on their suppliers. Although the value of the life-cycle concept has been established, it is not widely used in the chemical process industries to measure environmental performance [12]. These observations indicate that the combination of risk-based principles and life-cycle considerations are beneficial to environmental management, may it be at the corporate level or a process project level. The review also shows that environmental issues are the interest of a range of stakeholders associated with a company. 3. Elements of the methodology The PERA methodology is built on three ‘building blocks’—risk concepts, stakeholders and life-cycle assessment (LCA). It is intended for decision support rather than pointing to a single definitive answer—ultimately the decisions taken during design will be based on judgement as to the balance of risk and against the context of company strategy. PERA aims to help collection, processing and communication of the data required to have an appropriate appreciation of the environmental context of a decision. Decisions are continually being made from the conception of a project through to its termination. Decisions pertaining to environmental issues are just one of many that have to be considered. Since environmental issues are many and varied, the environmental perspective has to be evaluated in relation to other factors such as the health, safety and economic aspects of a project. The ideal is to achieve a desired balance of all the issues surrounding a project and to make decisions according to this balance of priorities. The needs of a process project evolve with time. Hence, process data that are used to make decisions also change in terms of quality and quantity. This implies that decision-makers utilising decision tools would either need a combination of tools that have different levels of data requirement, or a single tool that accommodates changing data levels.

The methodology recognises that it is essential that stakeholder perspectives be incorporated into the decision-making process for well-informed decisions. Their interests and perceptions are input into the methodology by using the stakeholders as prompts to identify risks. The methodology supports Schaltegger et al.’s [13] definition of a stakeholder of a company as an individual or a group who has an interest in the company because he can affect, or is affected by the company’s activities. Of the stakeholders, the most ‘manageable’ ones are those having the most straightforward and predictable interests. These stakeholders have direct connections with the company and, to a certain degree, their potential actions and reactions can be estimated. Their concerns lie within the company itself or in the immediate vicinity of the process plant. Examples of such stakeholders are shareholders, regulators, managers, employees and local residents. Less manageable are those who are able to affect the company indirectly as well as directly. The firm is capable of responding to stakeholders who have direct dealings with it, but have less control over the indirect effects. For instance, customers and suppliers who encounter environmental liabilities in their businesses can influence the firm directly or indirectly. The stakeholders that are least manageable are those who have diverse interests that span the industry. For instance, the media, environmental pressure groups, the national government and the general public tend to view industry as a whole and have little reason to discern between different processes. The firm is most exposed to these stakeholders as it has little direct contact with them. It is usually not perceived as an individual company, but collectively, with other companies, as an industry. This is potentially risky. For instance, consider corporate image; the firm’s image is often displaced by the image of the industry. The PERA methodology uses the stakeholder concept systematically to identify the environmental issues to which a firm is exposed. These issues can be connected to relevant stakeholders and prioritised according to the degree of stakeholder importance. The response of a company to its stakeholders’ interests depends on the relative importance of a particular stakeholder to the company’s overall strategy. The prioritisation of stakeholders would allow management to decide which environmental problem to resolve and when. This will lead to a more effective management of the firm’s risks and a better utilisation of the firm’s resources. Stakeholders’ interests are not the only factor that needs to be considered in risk assessment and management. Another factor is the perception of stakeholders concerning the risks involved in environmental issues. Apostolakis and Bell [14] report that stakeholder


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involvement is the “first and most important step in effective risk assessment and management”. According to Kolluru and Brooks [15], decisions that are needed to manage risks appropriately should be based on the assessment of risks as well as on the way people think about risks. A practical, holistic and useful environmental risk assessment for the process industry should not exclude any of the human, environmental and economic components surrounding the process. Having a scope that is not solely focussed on natural ecosystems, PERA then has a broader scope than environmental risk assessment. Nevertheless, the term ‘environmental risk assessment’ is retained. PERA has been developed primarily with the needs of the process industries in mind, and in particular the assessment of new investments. However, it could equally be used to review existing processes for their exposure to risks arising from environmental issues (both real and perceived). The method could also be adapted to assessment of other complex systems—for example agricultural production—that are exposed to risks throughout a complex supply chain. LCA, in a variety of forms, is a widely used and familiar tool. However, the use of the LCA in association with a risk assessment has not been established in industry.

into the methodology with the intention of allowing PERA to support a project throughout its life-cycle.

5. The project life-cycle A chemical process project’s life-cycle begins at conception and ends at the decommissioning of the plant [16]. This work concentrates on the initial stages of the life-cycle, that is, the consideration of the project as a capital investment proposal and the design and development activities of the process. The design and development activities have been divided into three stages (Fig. 2): the Block Diagram stage (BD), the Flowsheet Stage (FS), and the Piping and Instrumentation Diagram (PID) stage. The stages were categorised by the outputs of the design and development activity, rather than on the type of activity. The PERA methodology could be worked through at any of these stages—indeed, for projects carrying serious concerns, the methodology would be applied at each of the stages—each time using the more refined data available to produce a clearer picture of the project environmental risk. Depending on the possibility of end-of-life environmental liabilities, the method could also be applied to activities envisaged at the decommissioning phase. 5.1. Stage 1: Definition of objectives and planning

4. Overall structure of methodology The PERA methodology consists of four stages, as illustrated in Fig. 1. The bold arrows indicate progression between the stages. The iterative loops between Stages 2–4 allow for the return to a previous stage in the event of a refinement to the assessment. The dotted arrow between Stage 4 and Stage 1 shows the completion of an assessment at one design stage and the beginning of the next assessment at the following design stage. This feature was integrated

The main purpose of this stage is to focus the risk assessment on the intended outcome of the methodology. As well as understanding this in the context of the full set of decisions (economic, safety, commercial) that surround the planned investment, objectives specific to current stage of the project’s life-cycle should be identified (eg selection of feedstock).

Fig. 1. Overall structure of the methodology.

Fig. 2.

The process project life-cycle.

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With objectives defined it is possible to plan the assessment activity. The outcomes of Stage 1 are The scope of the activity Allocation of required resources—costs and time Involvement of personnel, including number and quality of the staff involved. 5.2. Stage 2: Data collection The data that are eventually collected result from a compromise between time, level of detail achieved and data collection costs. At the start of the methodology, not all the information needed for detailed risk estimation and risk evaluation exist or can be procured. Thus, the data collection, risk estimation and risk evaluation stages are iterative until enough information is obtained for the assessment activities to be conducted effectively. 5.3. Stage 3: Risk assessment The main activities of the risk assessment lie in Stage 3. Fig. 3 shows a flowchart of the procedures for this stage. Two types of risks are being assessed by this methodology—incident risks and steady-state risks. The flowchart illustrates how the risk estimation activity continues into risk evaluation and eventually leads to the point where risk management can occur.

This assessment phase is described in more detail below. 5.4. Stage 4: Decision-making, management action and appraisal The results of the risk assessment are used to aid the decision-maker to fulfil the objectives stated in Stage 1 of the methodology. A review of the results should assess the effectiveness of the methodology and look for any areas that need further refinement in the next cycle of design. 6. Risk assessment procedures A first step in the risk assessment is the establishment of an Estimation Profile. The Estimation Profile summarises a company’s criteria for risk acceptance. The main objectives of generating the Profile are to categorise issues by severity and to support prioritisation for further action. Table 1 shows an example of a qualitative EstiTable 1 A typical estimation profile LIKELIHOOD Low Insignificant Tolerate Significant

IMPACT Low Medium High

Medium Accept Tolerate Significant

High Accept Tolerate Significant

Fig. 3.

Risk assessment and management stages.


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mation Profile. The divisions show the acceptability criteria of the risks, which will then be used to suggest a level of risk management effort. 6.1. Procedures to assess incident risks Industry-standard hazard identification techniques [1,16] such as checklists, HAZOP and FMEA (Failure Mode and Effect Analysis) are already widely used in the process industries identify and rank the risk of abnormal operation and accidents (Table 2). Relevant results from these would be used directly as an input to the methodology. Of course, if it was not planned at a particular stage of design to carry out a study to obtain the relevant information, PERA would identify the need. The outputs of the risk estimation activity are then compared with the criteria on the Estimation Profile to generate a Priority List of Hazard/Consequences. Note that this list does not yet fully assess the stakeholders’ views on the possible incidents. Typically, only the regulatory authorities’ views would be considered, and then only in the context of the process to be built on the operator’s site. Although it is not a complete assessment of the risk, this is the stage at which most process industry assessments end. PERA continues by identifying the relevant stakeholders. Note that one of the main stakeholders affected by incident risks is the natural environment. Treating the natural environment/ecology as a stakeholder to the process allows the assessment of toxicological effects on ecology to be put into context of this risk assessment methodology. The identification of stakeholders and their reactions can be supported by the use of checklists. Example checklists (modified from [17] and [18]) are presented in Table 3 and Table 4. The list of stakeholders is prioritised by importance to the company under criteria relating to company policy.
Table 2 Selection of commonly used tools for process assessment during design Impact type Function Category Identification Checklist What-If Analysis HAZOP FMEA FTA & ETA Checklist

For the risk evaluation activity, the outputs are a Priority List of Stakeholders and an Evaluation Profile. The priority lists show the importance of the stakeholders to the company and the degree of attention given to a consequence arising from a hazard. The incident risk assessment procedure is summarised in Table 5. 6.2. Procedures to assess steady-state risks The steady-state risk assessment aims to evaluate the exposure of the process to environmental issues, assuming that the process falls within regulatory constraints for normal operations. Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool that is able to identify potential issues throughout a product’s life-cycle and provide qualitative/quantitative data to support the steady-state risk assessment. The overall methodology is summarised in Table 6. The outputs of the assessment are a Priority List of Stakeholder/Consequences and an Evaluation Profile. 6.3. Evaluation profile The Evaluation Profiles for Incident and steady-state risks summarise the importance of the consequence against the importance of the stakeholder to the organisation. The Evaluation Profile identifies Who is affected by the hazard/consequence The importance of the hazard The value of the stakeholder to the company. 6.4. Information required Overall, the risk assessment relies on three types of information,

Option-Selection What-If Analysis Relative Ranking

Assessment of Final Design Checklist FMEA FTA & ETA QRA Checklist ELF ENVOP EB BPEO Impact Vector Value Engineering Emission Factors



What-If Analysis Relative Ranking ELF ENVOP BPEO Impact Vector EB OD

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Table 3 Checklist of stakeholders and their concerns Stakeholder Environment General Public, Geographical Neighbours, Employees Possible Direct/Indirect Consequences to the Firm Harmful effects to possible environmental receptors Damage to human health—acute and chronic effects to physical and mental health and well being (may include access to amenity benefits of the environment) Loss of life—prompt and delayed fatality Loss of employee morale and confidence—negative effects on work performance Commercial effects—loss of production, sales or market share Loss of stakeholder confidence—damage to company image and credibility Loss of financial standing—incur costs of accidents/other damage, cost of capital increases, loss of stakeholder confidence Damage to assets—damage to plant equipment and infrastructure Loss of management time—diversion of management from key functions Loss of management credibility Incur fines, liabilities (environmentally—related areas or not), law suits...etc Attract adverse attention and pressure—damage to company image, allocation of resources for response actions Implementation of tighter environmental policies Obedience to voluntary agreements and code of practices

Suppliers, Clients Insurance Companies, Creditors, Shareholders Management Regulators Media, Environmental Pressure Groups National Government, Voluntary Groups

Table 4 The environment as a stakeholder—checklist of possible effects Receptors Air and Atmosphere Water Resources Water Bodies Soil Geology Landscape Climate Energy The Cultural Heritage Other Living Organisms Aspects Air quality, composition of atmosphere, visibility, odour Freshwater (surface and underground), sea water, marine resources Size and situation of water bodies, e.g. lakes, rivers, reservoirs Classification and/or quality, risk of erosion and landslides, water run-off, potential for contamination (waste disposal..etc) Rock types, mineral resources Characteristics and quality of rural and urban landscapes Temperature, windflow, rainfall...etc Changes in electro-magnetic radiation, light pollution, noise, vibration Urban and rural conservation areas, built heritage, historic and archaeological sites Birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, aquatic and terrestrial vegetation

Table 5 Incident risk assessment process 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Identify hazards Identify potential consequences Identify magnitude and frequency for each of the consequences Prioritise the consequences using Estimation Profile Identify affected stakeholders Use what-if scenarios to generate consequences to stakeholders and their likely reactions Estimate impact on project/business and likelihood of the consequences Use Priority List of Stakeholders and Priority List of Hazard/Consequences to generate an Evaluation Profile

Table 6 Steady-state risk assessment 1. Carry out LCA to appropriate level (ranging from identification and approximate inventory construction at BD level, to complete at detailed design) Identify stakeholders affected by the business activity (the process) Identify consequences to stakeholders (by use of what-if scenarios, checklists etc) Estimate impact on the process/business and likelihood of the consequences Prioritise the consequences based on the Estimation Profile Use Priority List of Stakeholders and Priority List of Stakeholder/Consequences to generate an Evaluation Profile

2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Information regarding the process itself (BD, FS or a PID) Information regarding the product’s life-cycle Information regarding the stakeholders of the process.

The method does not define the methods by which the information should be collected or generated, but rather provides a means of identifying what is needed and coordinating its analysis.


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7. Application to design The design activity begins soon after a proposal for a new process/product emerges. If the project is part of the investment-seeking activities of a company, it is probable that the initial stages of the project’s life-cycle overlaps with the investment selection activities of the company’s capital budgeting process. It is worth noting that a project’s life-cycle would begin even before the proposal is fully approved. Most environmental impacts of a process are the result of decisions that are made during the initial stages of design [19]. Decisions taken at the BD and FS stages of a project’s life-cycle (Fig. 2) are strategic decisions that are usually costly to modify at the PID and operating stages of the project. The focus of environmental considerations for process design has widened to include issues involving both upstream and downstream processes and products. For example, energy usage along the product life-cycle chain, impacts of raw material acquisition and disposal methods of end-products are just a few issues that need to be considered by the design team. This is increasingly driven by legislation, for example the IPPC directive [20] requires consideration of direct and indirect emissions. The effect of these issues on the design of the plant’s operating systems may not be direct or apparent. However, they are issues that are related to the environmental performance of the process when considered as a part of the firm’s business portfolio, or as a member of the life-cycle chain that can affect or be affected by industry. The changing criteria of ‘green’ designs could also be attributed to the growing involvement of stakeholders in environmental issues. The consideration of stakeholders’ interests during process design reduces the exposure to stakeholder-related problems when the process is in operation. To integrate stakeholders’ concerns into design decisions, the need arises to understand what the interests are and the appropriate timings to do so within the design stages. For instance, shareholders and creditors would be interested in the on-going operation of the process (steady-state)—information on which is available at approximately the FS level. The local residents and the natural environment are example of stakeholders whose (environmental, health and safety) concerns need to be considered right from the beginning of design, that is, at the BD level. The comparison of risks can be used to help make decisions regarding design options PERA could be used, for example, to characterise the environmental performance of a design option, allowing cost-benefit decisions to be taken on risk control. The design and development phase can be considered under two categories: the mainstream design activity and the design of auxiliary systems. Mainstream design con-

centrates on the development of the process and plant itself. The design of auxiliary systems focusses on details such as plant layout, on/off-site transportation requirements and material inventory and storage. Auxiliary systems should be constructed with equal attention from the early stages of design, rather than as an afterthought. Leiss [21] cites an instance when the inventory of an operational plant had to be redesigned after a risk assessment was carried out at the site. This would have been avoided by early risk assessment.

8. Case study—PVC PVC is an inert, non-toxic material [22] that is commercially manufactured by the polymerisation of vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). PVC currently has widespread applications in the transport, packaging, electrical/electronic and health-care industries, among others. Due to its versatile technical properties, PVC can be used to manufacture a variety of different products. For instance, its low permeability to gases makes it ideal for packaging, and its inertness is essential for contact with food, water and medical products. Additionally, PVC’s mechanical strength and chemical resistance makes it suitable for the construction industry. Further examples of PVC applications and associated userindustries are listed in Table 7. PVC has come under tremendous scrutiny by environmental pressure groups, governments, trade bodies and public interest groups which question the health and environmental effects of PVC. In continental Western Europe, campaigns against PVC have been most intense in Scandinavia and German-speaking countries [23]. Among the environmental lobbying and campaign groups Greenpeace aggressively focuses on anti-PVC and anti-chlorine issues [23,24]. As PVC has no known toxic effects, the issues of
Table 7 Uses of PVC in Western Europe [46] Application Pipes and fittings Rigid profiles Film and sheet Cables and wires Bottles Flexible film and sheet Flooring Coatings Flexible tubes and profiles Footwear Records Other uses % 27 14 11 9 9 8 6 4 4 2 1 5 End-Use Industry Building and construction Packaging Wire, cable, electrical Transport Leisure Furniture, office equipment Clothing and footwear Other uses (none more than 1%) % 50 18 10 4 3 3 3 9

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interest are usually related to its residual monomers or other materials associated with its manufacture, use and disposal [22]. They usually fall under the categories of concerns on PVC identified by Titow [25]—the environmental and health effects of VCM and some constituents of PVC compositions, the toxicity of PVC combustion products and the problem of PVC waste. The debate concerning the use of certain phthalates possessing endocrine-disrupting properties as PVC plasticisers is still very much a topical issue. Another concern is the content of heavy metals in PVC products, which are present as stabilisers and pigment additives. Although the current legislative and political positions on such stabilisers are favourable, their use still provokes controversy. The presence of hydrogen chloride and chlorinated hydrocarbons in combustion flue gases has also fuelled the discussion surrounding PVC products and their methods of disposal. At present, incinerating PVC remains a sensitive topic though experts, for example Titow [25], emphasise that the incineration of waste PVC is not among the significant causes of atmospheric pollution. Process-related concerns revolve around the environmental performance of processes that are associated with PVC production. Attention is placed on emission levels of substances that have potential environmental and health effects. For example, NCBE [26] summarised the key issues associated with the manufacturing processes of PVC blends, which are: the formation and of ‘dioxins and furans’ and their potential release to air, water and in solid or heavy residues the release of ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride and other light chlorinated organic materials the release of ethylene and other hydrocarbons the production of liquid and solid chlorinated residues the release of mercury from chlorine manufacture the release of copper (from catalysts) to water the release of PVC dust to air and water releases associated with the manufacture and processing of organic and inorganic additives. The above indicates that the potential effects of such environmental issues on the PVC industry are numerous and diverse. Although a vast majority of the issues are not about the PVC polymer itself, the resin manufacturing process is indirectly affected by impacts on the upstream and downstream stages of the PVC chain. Indeed, LCA has been known to show that most of a manufacturing firm’s environmental impacts occur outside the product manufacturing activities [27]. For PVC, these issues have implications on the types of risks and potential consequences that affect not only the design and operation of the polymer’s manufacturing process, but its management as a business activity involving other stakeholders.

In this case study, PERA is illustrated as a tool to aid decisions for a new process development. Note that this evaluation is for the purpose of illustration only, and its results and conclusions would not necessarily be reproduced should a PVC manufacturer undertake a similar study. A Company X has decided to expand its operations by investing in a new process to manufacture PVC solid resins. Design is at the very early stages. The aim of PERA is to produce an initial risk profile to assist in the decision-making activities in the early stages, and to identify areas where communication with stakeholders is necessary. At these initial stages of project review, it is assumed that the proposal would not be developed in detail and the quality of information available regarding the project would be, at best, at the block diagram level. Hence, PERA utilised block diagram data and information available from the literature for the case study. The scope of PERA for this study has been limited to the evaluation of the risks that may adversely impact upon the business and the image of Company X. Assuming that the process can be designed to regulatory standards, PERA assesses the vulnerability of the process to environmental issues arising from external sources—concentrating on the assessment of steady state risks. The consideration of accident risks is omitted to save space and because as it is more familiar to the industry. 8.1. The scenario The PVC plant is being designed to produce solid PVC resin in batches for a wide range of applications, and is to be operated as a 24-hour plant. Although siting for the plant is usually not confirmed at this stage, there are a few reasonable assumptions that can be made: local community exists within sight of the plant residents look to the plant as a source of employment Company X has a moderate public profile and is established in industry there are no highly sensitive environmental receptors surrounding the plant, such as forest reserves and wildlife parks there are no publicly known contamination issues regarding the previous usage of the site. 8.1.1. Data collection Based on studies of the PVC life-cycle by EVC [28] and Hydro [29], Fig. 4 was developed to model the lifecycle of PVC. Feedstock recovery is only technically demonstrated at the pilot scale at present, and is represented by dotted lines. PVC recycling is currently not widespread and is indicated by a dashed arrow. The lifecycle was divided by activity (or stage) and each activity analysed for potential issues that might impact on the


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Fig. 4.

Flowchart of PVC life-cycle.

solid resin production. Table 8 identifies the main material and energy input/output streams for the stages in the life-cycle. Short profiles were compiled regarding a few stakeholders. A variety of methods such as questionnaires, focus groups and interviews could have been used to compile the profiles. For this case study, the profiles were developed using literature sources and Internet websites. The profiles are general in nature and serve as references to enable probable scenarios to be identified for the steady-state risk assessment in PERA.
Table 8 Main input/output streams of the PVC life-cycle Process Unit 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Ethylene Plant Chlorine Plant EDC/VCM Plant PVC Resin Production Formulation Production PVC Product Manufacture Product Lifetime Incineration Feedstock Recovery Landfill Main Input Streams

8.1.2. Stakeholders In this case study, the stakeholders identified were the ones with interests in the early stages of capital investment decisions. The stakeholders that have the most concerns with capital investment decisions are identified to be: employees and management shareholders lenders

Main Output Streams ethylene, propylene and other HC by-products chlorine, sodium hydroxide by-product VCM, chloro-hydrocarbons to incinerator PVC, solid waste, process emissions and effluents PVC formulations plastic products solid waste electricity to national grid, steam for local use, residues to landfill residues to landfill leaching of additives

natural gas salt, electricity ethylene, chlorine, hydrogen chloride from incinerator VCM, steam, gas, electricity PVC, additives, steam, electricity PVC formulations plastic products solid waste solid waste solid waste, residues from incineration and feedstock recovery

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the national government and local authorities the public. The following paragraphs present example profiles of each stakeholder. Employees and management Employees and management have long been important considerations in capital investment decisions. According to Pike and Neale [30], major projects create structural changes in the workforce and ignored ‘people problems’ can contribute towards the failure of a project to meet original expectations. The increasing recognition of the importance of cultural and behavioural aspects of safety management can be extended to issues concerning the environment. The risks that employees perceive as threats to their wellbeing depends less on predicted physical outcomes than on their values, attitudes, social influences and cultural identity [31]. According to social studies, feelings of familiarity, dread and control, amongst others, are factors that can influence risk tolerance [31,32]. For instance, workers tend to underestimate risks from tasks that they perform regularly and overestimate the risks of infamous, infrequent and unfamiliar operations. Risk perceptions are very much a part of ‘people factors’ and are important in achieving a holistic assessment of a new project proposal. By understanding how their workforce think and feel about risks, a firm is in a better position to predict events that might arise and adversely affect their employees as well as the process. Shareholders The owners of a firm are primarily interested in the status of assets and the performance of the business. Shareholders, are exerting pressures on companies to improve their environmental performance in relation to production processes, products and logistics [33]. The choice of investment projects indicates a company’s future profitability and environmental performance and thus, to an extent, is influenced by the preference and satisfaction of the shareholders. Shareholders can, and have, expressed their dissatisfaction on company practices through formal enquiries, demands for environmental reporting, dialogues, protests, and the withdrawal of funds when their expectations are not met. For instance, Shell, RTZ and Prudential have all faced shareholder protests regarding the companies’ environmental policies and practices [34]. Ethical and ‘green’ investment funds are also gaining popularity among ‘environmental investors’ who are targeting companies with effective environmental management practices. These funds use financial and environmental criteria for portfolio selection and are now establishing a growing presence in the overall market [35]. Lenders Financiers are concerned with key areas such as historical contamination, operations compliance, spills and emergencies and third party liability— all of which can be assessed as a steady-state or incident risk. These risks can have direct or indirect impacts on the financier. Direct impacts occur when the lender becomes responsible for the environmental costs of a site belonging to a client. The lender is also affected indirectly when the borrower faces difficulties paying the loan, due to its weakened financial position caused by environmentally-related issues. There is also a possibility of damage to the reputation of the bank due to its association with projects and borrowers who are thought to be ‘environmentally unfriendly’. To protect themselves against such impacts, lenders are imposing more stringent conditions on their loan selections. The rejections of loans that are feared to result in environmental liabilities are not uncommon. An increasing number of banks—the Cooperative Bank is a notable example [36]—have adopted policies of refusing loans to businesses/projects that are suspected to be ‘environmentally unfriendly’. The PVC life-cycle involves the oil and gas, chemical, consumer manufacturing, utilities and transport industries, all of which have been categorised as high environmental risk industries under the Chartered Bankers’ [37] categories. Hence, it is probable that creditors could be especially cautious in their evaluation of Company X’s PVC process proposal. This implies that in the event of dept finance and depending on the size of the loan, Company X needs to be responsive towards the requirements and actions of its creditors in order to minimise the risk to its cost of capital. The national government and local authorities The national government and local authorities are two stakeholders who have the ability to impose constraints on a process through economic and regulatory instruments. A company intending to invest in a long-term project needs to take into account the current legislative environment and anticipate for future policies and standards. Such foresight is needed to minimise the risk of exposure to ‘externalities’ that are beyond the control of the company. Economic instruments [38] can be used to adjust the cost of a natural resource, receiving environmental medium or a product to be environmentally beneficial. Economic tools that can be used as cost adjusters are environmental taxes/charges, tradeable quantity restrictions/tradeable permits, subsidies and depositrefund systems. Regulatory instruments take the form of quality and quantity standards for resource usage and releases to receiving environmental media. The potential impacts of such governmental intervention on the design and operation of a new process are evaluated by PERA as steady-state risks. The costs of


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ignoring such risks are high, and ranges from unexpected expenditures on pollution abatement technologies to the replacement of an entire plant to meet legislation. The public The public is a group of stakeholders comprising environmental pressure groups, the local community surrounding the site, the media, and the ‘general public’. The latter are members of society who do not have a direct interest in the company but are, in one way or another, consumers of PVC goods. Rapid communication and accessible resources have led society to become more informed about the problems and hazards of industrial processes and their products [39]. Using the media as a communication mechanism, these groups of ‘the public’ are able to interchange information. However, apart from the exchange of factual knowledge, there also exists the ability to misinterpret or misrepresent information—unintentional or otherwise. Local residents The perceptions of local residents to the environmental risks (and health and safety) posed by a plant is very much linked to their image of the owners of the plant. By studying the concerns of a local community living close to hazardous industrial estates, Irwin et al. [40] observed that information received from the site/company is weighed in terms of previous experience with the company and cultural evaluations. Any observed inconsistency between the reassurances given by the company and subsequent or previous pollution issues will be used by the community as a measure of untrustworthiness. It has been suggested that concern and care shown by the company results in a greater increase of a community’s perceptions of trust and credibility, over other factors such ‘knowledge and expertise’ or ‘openness and honesty’[41]. The general public The risk perceptions of the general public could be considered as the most difficult among the stakeholders to manage. Unless corporate public relation programmes actively target these stakeholders, they are generally passive receivers of information transferred via third parties like lobbyists, the media and the government. Though they are not directly linked to companies who produce intermediate products like the PVC solid resin, they are potential shareholders and consumers of end products, and thus have the ability to affect all the businesses throughout the product lifecycle. The actions of the general public depend on its perceptions of the company, its image of the product, and all materials and processes associated with the product’s life-cycle. In the PVC industry, emotive issues regarding PVC has influenced the sale and manufacture of products that enter the public domain. The design team for the Millennium Dome changed their intention to use PVC fabric roof panels for Teflon-coated glass fibre fabric,

following public outrage over the initial decision [42]. Nike and Ikea, two companies that rely on product image as a feature to secure consumer preference, have been reported to have stopped using PVC and their decisions have influenced B&Q to reassess their supply chain [43]. From these few examples, it can be seen that the general public is able to affect a PVC resin manufacture by the impacts that progress through the PVC life-cycle chain. Though they may not be of equal importance as lenders or employees with regard to capital investment decisions, it is clear that in the context of environmental issues, well-informed decisions should not fail to consider the interests of the general public. Environmental pressure groups Organisations like Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Greenpeace concentrate on lobbying and campaigning for environmental causes that arise as a result of societal activities, especially those of industry. Recent campaigns have had a significant impact on changes such as the gradual removal of lead from motor gasoline, the prohibited use of CFCs and the opposition to the use of PVC, which is part of the anti-chlorine campaign. To assess the vulnerability of a project to the actions of such pressure groups, there exists a need to understand the characteristics of the groups as well as their agendas. These organisations are effective managers of information, utilising all resources provided by the media to lobby their causes. Far from being irrational or trivial, their causes and campaign methods are based on scientific information and scientific authority. However, as their aim is to influence public opinion and motivate support for their organisation (over other environmental groups), target issues and campaign strategies need to be newsworthy and popular [44]. The groups have also been known to interpret scientific proof in an extremely precautionary manner. The scientific bases of their arguments are thus used to serve the agenda of the campaign, resulting in ‘facts’ that appear to be selective, narrow and inevitably sensational, due to the media’s preoccupation with matters that are able to attract public attention [45]. Greenpeace’s anti-PVC and anti-chlorine campaign [24] emphasise the descriptions of health and environmental effects of PVC, chlorine and related substances like phthalates, VCM and EDC. Hardly any emphasis is placed on the operational safety levels of those materials, or on the control measures taken by industry during substance handling. The information provided by these environmental pressure groups tends to concentrate on the extremes of effects and magnitude of exposures. The dimension of frequency/likelihood is not emphasised, resulting in an incomplete assessment of the actual risks of exposures to hazards. Furthermore, no attempt has been made to put the assessments into perspective for their audiences

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by comparing the risks concerning the chemicals with more familiar hazards, say a road accident. The PVC production involves many large and complex businesses—a feature that increases its vulnerability to single-issue pressure groups. The issues that are of interest to these groups can be found in many stages throughout the PVC life-cycle. Examples of topical concerns are the use of unrenewable resources (fossil fuels), the generation of demand for chlorine and its energy intensive processes, the association with sensitive substances like dioxins, phthalates and heavy metals, the problems of recycling plastic waste and the disposal of waste in landfills and through incineration. On the whole, the ability of environmental pressure groups to affect a company’s business, directly or through other stakeholders, should not be underestimated. 8.1.3. Results To keep the illustration simple, only three stakeholders were evaluated in the risk assessment—the general public (P), environmental pressure groups (G) and local residents (R). Using the PVC life-cycle and the stakeholder profiles, what-if scenarios and their consequences were tabulated. An excerpt (for brevity) from the tabulation is presented in Table 9. Also included are the likelihood of the consequences and the impacts on Company X’s image and business. The prioritisation process was supported by the use of the estimation profile of Table 1. Table 10 prioritises the consequences and shows the intended actions of the company. The risks were evaluated against the degree of stakeholder importance to the company, which was taken to be R G P whereby R and P are respectively the highest and lowest priority. Evaluation of the results indicate that the highest priority (one) consequences result from the environmental pressure groups and are likely to impact on the company’s business. 8.1.4. Discussion of results For the excerpt of results presented, comparison of the stakeholders shows that the general public is the least ‘harmful’ stakeholder to the company. They are less likely to expose the company to situations that are beyond management’s control, and the adverse impacts of those situations upon the company are relatively low. The risks of environmental issues arising from the interests of local residents are higher. The consequences of those issues mainly impact directly on the company’s image. It is reasonable to assume that the listed scenarios in Table 9 have only an indirect effect on the process as a business activity and hence, are not taken into account. If the business is eventually affected, it would be as a result of a series of events, and not as a sole event, as described in the table. Comparing the results between stakeholders G and R,

it is observed that the potential ‘hazards’ arising from the interests of environmental pressure groups are more damaging to the company than those of the residents. The following conclusions on the three stakeholders can be drawn from the above observations. The general public poses the lowest risks to the company. It is the least important to the firm and the effect of the potential scenarios is comparatively the smallest of the three stakeholders. Efforts to manage and control the risks originating from the local residents only need to meet the objective of preserving and improving, if possible, the company’s image. The majority of the efforts would be focussed on monitoring and maintaining awareness of the risk situation. The company’s attempts to reduce risk exposure and to take into account the interests of local residents will generally be more straightforward than similar efforts towards the pressure groups. Environmental pressure groups have the capacity to cause more widespread harm to the firm than the other stakeholders. They can directly harm the firm as well as use other stakeholders, like the general public, as mediums to exert pressure on the company. The risks pertaining to this stakeholder group are hardest to diminish and it is almost impossible to reconcile their agendas with the interests of the company. In this sense, they are the ‘riskiest’ stakeholders. Most of the company’s management efforts will need to concentrate on developing strategies to cope with the risks. An example of a strategy might be to focus on the media by which these environmental groups exert pressure on the company. The firm could, for instance, obtain verifications from independent sources that are trusted by the general public. By targeting efforts towards the general public, the firm reduces the resistance of the public towards the product/process and this weakens the influence of the pressure groups. Overall, the methodology supports a holistic assessment of the ‘environmental’ problems that are likely to be faced that goes well beyond current industrial practice. This gives the opportunity for technologists to mitigate risks by designing plants, and indeed the whole supply chain, to have a better environmental performance and one that is more acceptable to its stakeholders.

8.1.5. Caveat It is important to recognise that the methods described address the perspective of an industrial company and are not necessarily optimal from the perspectives of social or public policy. A desire to meet the needs of stakeholders should not be seen as a substitute for a search for cleaner and inherently safer production methods. Priority for cleaner and safer processing is a logical outcome from the analysis, but not a unique one.


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Table 9 Excerpt from table of consequences SCENARIO/STAKEHOLDER CONSEQUENCE LIKELIHOOD IMPACT Business


General Public (P) Public demand for particular PVC products decrease


PVC related companies labelled as ‘unethical investments’ Environmental Pressure Groups (G) Campaign for sustainable resource usage (natural gas consumption)


There is a wide variety of PVC retail and Low industrial products, so the effect is selective. As a raw material supplier, the impact will be diffused. Deter potential investors and shareholders. Medium






Campaign against the chlorine industry


Campaign against PVC resin production


Reduction of the availability of ethylene gas Medium and the cost of raw materials increase, as PVC production is heavily dependent on natural gas. Selection of supplier will occur. As PVC resin production is very dependent Medium upon the chlorine Industry, raw material costs will be affected. Company’s name displayed on website/in High pressure groups’ publications.







And other cases… Residents (R) Significant increase of traffic in locality due to R1 construction/decommissioning work Increase of road accidents in locality R2 Significant increase of traffic in and out of plant (e.g. material transportation) R3

More roads built in locality And other cases…


A temporary situation that is usually tolerated by the community. Community might blame presence of plant but they have no direct evidence. Scrutiny of material inventory by residents. Might perceive it as a health and safety risk, resulting in individual approaches to the company. Impairment of landscape, resulting in passive disapproval.

High High Medium

Low Low Medium



Table 10 Excerpt from tabulation of results Stakeholder/ Consequence P1 P2 G1 G2 G3 R1 R2 R3 R4 Company Image Impact Action Low Medium Low Medium Medium Low Beneficial Medium Low None Control Monitor Control Control Monitor Monitor Control Monitor Business Impact Low Low High High Low – – – –

Stakeholder P G

Likelihood Low Medium Medium Medium High High High Medium High

Priority 4 2 3 2 2 3 3 2 3

Action None Monitor Improve Improve Monitor – – – –

Priority 4 3 1 1 3 4 4 4 4


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