In a time where sustainability is becoming an increasingly important aspect within every company, it is essential to understand and assess the environmental impact of a company, product, or service. One way to do this is through a life cycle assessment (LCA). LCA is a method used to calculate the environmental impact of a company, product, process, or service throughout its entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to final disposal.
What are the phases of LCA?
LCA consists of four main phases:
- Goal and Scope Definition: In this phase, the purpose of the LCA is determined, and the boundaries of the assessment are defined. Prior to conducting the LCA, it is necessary to agree on what should be included in or excluded from the assessment, unless it is specified in any relevant calculation standard.
The functional unit is also determined, which is a quantitative description of the functional goal or performance of a product or service, such as kilograms of a product or kilometers traveled.
- Life Cycle Inventory (LCI): In this phase, all inputs and outputs throughout the life cycle stages included in the assessment are identified and quantified. The possible stages include raw material extraction, production, distribution, use, and disposal.
- Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA): The quantitative data from the LCI is analyzed in this phase to evaluate the environmental impact of the product or service. This involves assessing various impact categories, such as climate change, resource depletion, and ecotoxicity.
- Interpretation: In this final phase, the results of the LCA are interpreted and communicated. This helps identify improvement opportunities and enables informed decision-making based on the LCA results.
Why conduct an LCA?
Performing an LCA offers several benefits for companies. Firstly, it helps identify key environmental issues throughout the life cycle of a product or service, allowing targeted efforts to address these issues. Additionally, it can contribute to meeting the growing demand for sustainable products and services from consumers or legislation.
Legislation, such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) in Europe, requires companies to provide more detailed information about their environmental impact. By conducting an LCA and communicating the results, companies can prepare for such regulations and gain a competitive edge in sustainability reporting.
What are the product level scopes?
Within an LCA, different scopes are used to indicate the scope of the analysis. Regarding product level scopes, the following are particularly distinguished:
- Cradle-to-gate: This scope encompasses the production phase of a product, from raw material extraction (cradle) to the point of leaving the company (gate). This includes aspects such as production processes and energy consumption.
- Cradle-to-grave: This scope goes beyond cradle-to-gate and includes the entire life cycle of a product, including its use and final disposal after its end-of-life. This means that aspects such as transportation, distribution, use, and waste are also considered.
The ultimate goal is, of course, to strive for a cradle-to-cradle life cycle, following the principles of the circular economy.
Why is a calculation standard important in LCA?
An LCA can be conducted using different calculation standards, with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol being the most well-known. Additionally, there are various ISO standards and an increasing number of European Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCRs). These standards provide a structured framework for calculating the environmental impact of products, processes, or services, ensuring consistent calculations and enabling product benchmarking.
For example, Greenhouse Sustainability now calculates the standard for floricultural products based on the initial concept of the FloriPEFCR. The final PEF from the EU is expected by the end of 2023. In the case of suppliers of floricultural producers, we ensure that the calculation aligns with the FloriPEFCR.
If no standard is available for a company or sector, Greenhouse Sustainability can assist in developing a standard. Having an LCA standard provides a solid foundation for assessing environmental impact, making informed decisions, and striving for sustainability across various business sectors.
Discover the power of LCA
By assessing the environmental impact of your company or products, you can proactively work towards reducing your environmental footprint and meeting future sustainability standards. We are happy to provide more information on how to conduct an LCA and strengthen the sustainability of your business. Together, we can make a positive impact on the environment and create a more sustainable future. Think climate positive!