SEI-PCS allows for fine-scale sub-national assessments of the origin of, and socio-environmental impacts embedded in, traded commodities, such as carbon emissions, local pollution, or biodiversity loss. SEI-PCS uses detailed production data at sub-national scales, information on domestic trade flows, customs data and international trade flows between countries.
Current methods linking production impacts to final consumption typically trace the origin of products only back to the country level. This can mask and distort the causal links between consumers’ choices and their environmental impacts, especially in countries where socio-environmental conditions and production impacts can differ widely from place to place. SEI-PCS permits the downscaling of current country-to-country trade analyses based on either physical allocation or input-output models (such as SEI’s IOTA).
Traditional footprinting analyses aggregate a number of dimensions of impact and commonly use national or global averages. The SEI-PCS model improves on this by allowing consumption to be linked with local socio-environmental dynamics at the scale relevant to the impacts being assessed. This is especially relevant in countries that have a large heterogeneity of environmental and social conditions.
SEI-PCS also enhances supply chain analysis and traceability by revealing links along complex supply chains back to primary producers. This makes it easier to identify supplier regions/individuals, as well as hidden risks and vulnerabilities to companies and consumers. Similarly, producers can better understand the fate of, and markets for, their commodities.
The model is also especially suited to analyze impacts linked to temporal dynamics of production and consumption, including changes in sourcing related to logistics, technology, inter-regional competition or price variations.
Other policy applications of SEI-PCS data include analyses of the trade-offs involved with increasing trade as a strategy for climate adaptation, unintended consequences and implications of trade-related policy for local communities and ecosystems in producer countries, and the coherence of consumer countries’ policies across sectors (e.g. on climate, trade, development and rights promotion).
SEI-PCS was first developed as part of a sub-project exploring the links between land-use change in tropical forested areas and the Nordic countries’ main policies on mitigating and adapting to climate change, carried out by the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research (NORD-STAR). It was first fully developed for Brazilian and Argentinian exports of globally traded commodities.
SEI-PCS is an integral part of the “next-generation footprinting” capability that is currently being developed by the SEI Production to Consumption Sustainability Initiative (P2CS). Currently a number of environmental and social accounts are being attached to SEI-PCS and the tool is being expanded to new countries.