Sustainability 101 Toolkit

Using sustainability concepts and tools in engineering, architecture and planning has become increasingly important. The 'Toolkit' includes brief summaries of some of these concepts and tools, certifications and software that can advance sustainability in your research, work, and projects.



    ISO Standard 

    ISO develops and publishes International Standards. ISO doesn’t provide certification or conformity assessment. You’ll need to contact an external certification body for that.

    ISO14000 Environmental management:

    The ISO 14000 family addresses various aspects of environmental management. It provides practical tools for companies and organizations looking to identify and control their environmental impact and constantly improve their environmental performance. (Source: ISO)

    ISO 26000 Social responsibility:

    ISO 26000 provides guidance on how businesses and organizations can operate in a socially responsible way. This means acting in an ethical and transparent way that contributes to the health and welfare of society. (Source: ISO)

    SA 8000 Standard

    One of the world’s first auditable social certification standards for decent workplaces, across all industrial sectors. It is based on conventions of the ILO, UN and national law, and spans industry and corporate codes to create a common language to measure social compliance. (Source: Social Accountability International)

    Norme BNQ 21000

    BNQ 21000 offers a normative guide (« BNQ Standard 21000 ») and an application methodology (« Method BNQ 21000 ») intended to guide and empower organizations of all types in the gradual adoption of sustainable management practices and help formalize a dialogue with multiple stakeholders | L’Approche BNQ 21000 propose un guide normatif (Norme BNQ 21000) et une méthodologie d’application (Méthode BNQ 21000) et a pour but de guider et d’outiller les organisations de tous types dans l’adoption progressive des pratiques de gestion durable, ainsi que d’aider à formaliser un dialogue avec leurs multiples parties prenantes. (Source: bnq21000)

    Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

    The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organization that promotes economic sustainability. It produces one of the world's most prevalent standards for sustainability reporting — also known as ecological footprint reporting, environmental social governance (ESG) reporting, triple bottom line (TBL) reporting, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) reporting. GRI seeks to make sustainability reporting by all organizations as routine as, and comparable to, financial reporting. (source: Wikipedia , Globalreporting)

    Ecological Footprint Reporting:

    The ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's ecosystems. It is a standardized measure of demand for natural capital that may be contrasted with the planet's ecological capacity to regenerate. It represents the amount of biologically productive land and sea area necessary to supply the resources a human population consumes, and to assimilate associated waste. (Source: Wikipedia)

    Environmental Social Governance (ESG) Reporting:

    Environmental, social and governance (ESG) refers to the three main areas of concern that have developed as central factors in measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a company or business. Within these areas are a broad set of concerns increasingly included in the non-financial factors that figure in the valuation of equity, real-estate, corporations and fixed-income investments. (Source: Wikipedia)

    Triple Bottem Line (TBL) Reporting:

    The TBL is an accounting framework with three dimensions: social, environmental (or ecological) and financial. The TBL dimensions are also commonly called the three Ps: people, planet and profits and are referred to as the "three pillars of sustainability." (Source: Wikipedia)

    Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reporting:

    Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is defined as the voluntary activities undertaken by a company to operate in an economic, social and environmentally sustainable manner. (Source: Government of Canada)

    CSA Sustainability Mark

    The CSA sustainability mark tells retailers, regulators, and consumers that your product has met defined environmental performance requirements and corporate responsibility requirements as outlined in CSA Group sustainability standards. To display the CSA Group sustainability mark, product must be assessed against criteria and attributes including: materials of concern (toxic or hazardous materials); material efficiency (product recycled content, packaging recycled content, de-materialization or efficient use of raw material resources); energy consumption during product use; manufacturing and operation processes (environmental management systems, greenhouse gas emissions reporting, water management, pollution prevention, corporate sustainability); product performance (functionality, reliability, reparability); end of life management (recyclability, design for recycling, landfill diversion programs). (Source:

    Certifications from Living Building Challenge

    Living Building Certification:

    A Living Building is a demonstration that the built environment can actually help restore the natural environment.  A project achieves Living Building Certification by attaining all Imperatives assigned to its Typology

    Petal Certification:

    While achieving Living Building Certification is the ultimate goal, meeting the Imperatives of multiple Petals is a significant achievement in and of itself. For this reason, the Living Building Challenge offers Petal Certification. This certification option provides a platform for a project to inform other efforts throughout the world and accelerate the adoption of restorative principles.

    Net Zero Energy Building Certification:

    Net Zero Energy Building Certification recognizes building projects that achieve the Energy Petal, along with subset of Imperatives within the Place, Equity and Beauty Petals. Certification for Net-Zero Energy building projects is simple, cost effective and critical for integrity and transparency. (Source:

    Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM)

    BREEAM is the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method for buildings and large scale developments. Popular mainly in Europe currently, it sets a high standard for practice in sustainable design and has become a widely used measure used to describe environmental performance of buildings and communities.

    Environmental Product Declaration (EPD®)

    An Environmental Product Declaration, EPD®, is a verified document that reports environmental data of products based on life cycle assessment (LCA) and other relevant information and in accordance with the international standard ISO 14025 (Type III Environmental Declarations). (

    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system that is recognized as the international mark of excellence for green building in over 132 countries. LEED professional credentials demonstrate current knowledge of green building technologies, best practices, and the rapidly evolving LEED rating systems. (Source: Canada Green Buiding Council)

    Evaluation tools and software

    Carbon Accounting/Bilan Carbone

    Carbon accounting refers generally to processes undertaken to "measure" amounts of carbon dioxide equivalents emitted by an entity. It is used inter alia by nation states, corporations and individuals. (Source:Wikipedia)

    For example, Canada’s forest carbon reporting system (

    Online tools:
    Personal “Bilan Carbone”: (French)
    Persona Carbon Footprint Calculator:

    Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)/ Analyse du cycle de vie (ACV)

    Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool for the systematic evaluation of the environmental aspects of a product or service system through all stages of its life cycle. LCA provides an adequate instrument for environmental decision support. Reliable LCA performance is crucial to achieve a life-cycle economy. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a world-wide federation of national standards bodies, has standardized this framework within the series ISO 14040 on LCA.(Source: also :

    Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCCA)

    Life-cycle cost analysis (LCCA) is a method for assessing the total cost of facility ownership. It takes into account all costs of acquiring, owning, and disposing of a building or building system. (Source: (See also:

    Material Flux Analysis (MFA)

    In some cases, the understanding and knowledge about the material fluxes within the system or between the system and its environment are crucial for case analysis and management. In the ETH-UNS case studies, material fluxes of energy, substances, goods, products, waste, and emissions within the case region and between the case region and other compartments often create a simplified basic quantitative model. (Source:

    Environmental Impact Assessment

    Environmental assessment is a process to predict environmental effects of proposed initiatives before they are carried out. An environmental assessment is a planning and decision-making tool. The objectives of an environmental assessment are to minimize or avoid adverse environmental effects before they occur and to incorporate environmental factors into decision making. (Source: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency,

    For more info about Canadian Environmental Act, 2012, visit:

    Phase I/II Environment Site Assessment (ESA)

    Environmental Site Assessments (ESA) address contaminated property issues which are prevalent concerns for parties involved in such activities as Property Transfer Evaluations (PTE) and construction on undeveloped land. Environmental Site Assessments generally are performed in two stages, Phase I and Phase II, with remediation following if deemed necessary following the completion of both phases. (Source:

    Other Terms/Concepts

    Circular Economy

    The term encompasses more than the production and consumption of goods and services, including a shift from fossil fuels to the use of renewable energy, and the role of diversity as a characteristic of resilient and productive systems. The circular economy is a framework that draws upon and encompasses principles from Biomimicry, Industrial Ecology, Cradle to Cradle and Blue Economy. (Source: Wikipedia)

    Systems Thinking

    Systems Thinking is a holistic analysis approach that focuses on the way that a system's basic parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems. It is a framework based on the premise that the way to fully understand why a problem occurs and persists is to understand the "part" in relation to the "whole." Engineers seeking to achieve systems thinking are expected to understand the linkages and interactions among the elements of their system or enterprise and its connecting entities. The benefits of systems thinking as opposed to scientific reduction is that it maximises the outcomes achieved and minimizes the impact of unintended consequences while managing uncertainty, risk and opportunity. (Source: Wikipedia

     Watch this simple video to learn more.

    Green GDP/PIB Vert

    The green gross domestic product (green GDP) is an index of economic growth with the environmental consequences of that growth factored into a country's conventional GDP. Green GDP monetizes the loss of biodiversity, and accounts for costs caused by climate change. (Source: Wikipedia)