Published:
Last updated:
April 11, 2024

Life Cycle Assessment

What is Life Cycle Assessment?

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a comprehensive method used to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product, service, or process throughout its life cycle. This means assessing every stage, from the extraction of raw materials, to manufacturing, and use, to disposal or recycling. This can uncover environmental issues within product systems, which informs mitigation strategies, helping businesses to develop more sustainable products, while also keeping them compliant with regulations.

What is the Life Cycle Assessment process?

Conducting an LCA typically involves four key steps:

1. Goal and Scope Definition

This initial phase outlines:

  • The LCA's purpose
  • The product or service to be analysed
  • The functional unit (what the product provides)
  • The system boundaries (what's included in the study)

This sets the direction for the assessment, ensuring it aligns with the company's sustainability objectives.

2. Inventory Analysis (LCI)

The Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) involves gathering data on:

  • All inputs (e.g. raw materials and energy) of the product system.
  • All outputs (e.g. emissions and waste) of the product system.

This comprehensive data collection covers the entire life cycle, from raw material extraction, to disposal or recycling, providing a detailed picture of the product's environmental effects.

3. Impact Assessment (LCIA)

In the Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) phase, the potential environmental impacts of the inputs and outputs identified in the LCI are evaluated. This step assesses how each element contributes to environmental issues like climate change and resource depletion, identifying key areas for impact mitigation.

4. Interpretation

The final phase involves analysing the LCA data to draw conclusions and recommend actions. It translates the assessment's insights into strategic decisions for environmental improvement, identifying opportunities for reducing impacts and informing stakeholders about the product's environmental performance.

Navigating Regulations and Standards

Understanding the regulatory landscape is essential for navigating your company's net zero journey. LCA can help comply with environmental regulations and standards, such as the as the ISO 14040 and 14044, which provide guidelines for conducting LCAs. These standards ensure that LCAs are performed consistently and transparently, making it easier to report on sustainability efforts and compare them against industry benchmarks or regulatory requirements.

Leveraging LCA for a Net Zero Journey

Checklist for preparing your net zero business case

An LCA offers a roadmap for achieving net zero by identifying the most significant sources of emissions within your company's value chain and pinpointing areas for improvement. By integrating LCA into your sustainability strategy, you can prioritise actions, invest in the most effective solutions, and demonstrate tangible progress towards your net zero goals. Moreover, it enables you to engage stakeholders with data-driven insights, reinforcing your commitment to sustainability and future-proofing your business in a rapidly evolving regulatory environment.

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