A framework of criteria for the sustainability assessment of nanoproducts

Marco Cinelli, Stuart R. Coles, Omowunmi Sadik, Barbara Karn, Kerry Kirwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Nanotechnology applications (nanoproducts) have entered the market or are expected to do so in the near future. Robust and science-based criteria are required to appraise and manage their sustainability. This paper describes the approach used to develop a comprehensive and reliable framework of criteria, which was missing until now, for evaluating the sustainability of nanoproducts. A literature review of the frameworks and tools employed to assess nanoproducts sustainability implications was firstly performed to select an initial set of criteria. A survey of experts in the sustainable nanotechnology domain was then conducted to elicit their knowledge in terms of completeness, reliability and validity of the criteria set. Ranking and correlation analyses completed the research by identifying the parameters of major interest as well as the links and dependencies between them. A total of 54 and 65 experts replied to the pilot and main survey, respectively. The reliability and validity of the criteria was assessed with the responses from both questionnaires, whereas the answers from the main survey were used to calculate the relative index of the criteria as well as their correlations. This research resulted in a framework composed of 68 criteria, which are structured into six main areas: (i) economic performance; (ii) environmental impacts, (iii) environmental risk assessment; (iv) human health risk assessment; (v) social implications and (vi) technical performance. This study helps to broaden the understanding on the identification of criteria for sustainability assessments. It also provides those interested in evaluating nanotechnology implications with the basis for real case studies, possibly by integrating available information with the stakeholders using tools that support decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-287
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
StatePublished - Jul 10 2016
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


  • Criteria
  • Decision-making
  • Nanoproducts
  • Nanotechnology
  • Survey
  • Sustainability assessment


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