LCAs measure the environmental impact of a product throughout its life. Discover why conducting an LCA is beneficial for your company and the environment.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in sustainable and environmentally responsible practices among consumers, governments, and corporations. One key aspect of sustainability is the life cycle analysis (LCA) of products, which assesses the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire life cycle. In this article, we'll explore why conducting an LCA is beneficial for companies, the environment, and society as a whole.
A life cycle analysis is a tool used to assess the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire life cycle, from raw material extraction to disposal. This analysis takes into account all stages of a product's life, including production, distribution, use, and disposal. The goal of an LCA is to identify opportunities for reducing a product's environmental impact and improving its overall sustainability.
The scope of an LCA refers to the boundaries of the analysis and what stages of the product's life cycle are included. Cradle-to-grave LCA has the broadest scope, while gate-to-gate LCA has a narrower scope.
The level of detail in an LCA refers to the amount of information and data that is collected and analyzed. Cradle-to-grave LCA requires the most data and is the most detailed, while gate-to-gate LCA is less detailed.
Different types of LCAs can be used to compare the environmental impact of different products or stages of production. Cradle-to-grave LCA provides the most comprehensive comparison, while gate-to-gate LCA provides a more specific comparison.
We will talk about different concepts of the product life cycle in just a moment, but generally, the product life cycle consists of five phases:
The 5 Steps of a Product Life Cycle (Cradle to Grave)
Based on the stages you’re interested in or have data available on, you can choose to leave in or take out phases. There are usually 4 product life cycle models you can choose for your LCA.
A cradle-to-grave LCA assesses the environmental impact of a product from the extraction of raw materials to the end of its useful life and disposal. This type of LCA is the most comprehensive and provides a complete picture of a product's environmental impact throughout its life cycle.
A cradle-to-gate LCA assesses the environmental impact of a product from the extraction of raw materials to the point where the product leaves the factory gate. This type of LCA is useful for comparing the environmental impact of different products at the point of production.
A gate-to-gate LCA assesses the environmental impact of a product from the point where it enters the factory gate to the point where it leaves. This type of LCA is useful for assessing the environmental impact of a particular stage of production, such as manufacturing.
A product category LCA assesses the environmental impact of a group of products that have similar functions, such as all types of packaging materials. This type of LCA is useful for identifying opportunities for improving the sustainability of an entire product category.
There are three other LCA concepts that are used for special requirements.
Well-to-wheel is used for the Life Cycle Assessment of transport fuels and vehicles. Because there are a lot of steps in between – the “Well-to-tank” and “Tank-to-wheels”, this approach is more precise in calculating and assigning greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage for the different stages.
The EIOLCA aggregates industry data with the goal to create impact data for specific sectors within the economy. These averages are sometimes used when no exact data is available. They don’t provide an exact picture of the impact but help to fill blanks. However, an EIOLCA is not precise enough to make decisions on a product level.
Environmental Impact Assessment is an analysis that is often conducted in the public sector, to look at the potential impact of a new construction project.
How does implementing an LCA benefit my company you might be asking yourself?
For starters it allows companies to have a tighter control of their production chain, which translates into 4 major benefits:
An LCA allows companies to identify the stages of a product's life cycle that have the greatest environmental impact. This knowledge can help companies prioritize sustainability initiatives and make informed decisions about product design, material selection, and manufacturing processes.
Discover how Lefrik reduced their water usage by 38% and cut their emissions by 50% by conducting an LCA of their products.
An LCA can also help companies identify cost-saving opportunities, such as reducing energy and resource use, improving supply chain efficiency, and minimizing waste. Implementing LCAs allows companies to reduce production costs while improving their envirnomental impact.
Pozzi Industries saw up to 80% reduction of time and money in their environmental management with the Dcycle Software
Increasingly governments are enacting regulations to promote environmental responsibility. Conducting an LCA can help companies meet these requirements and stay ahead of the competition.
Ticnova leveraged two product LCAs to improve their regulatory scores in record times
By demonstrating a commitment to sustainability, companies can enhance their reputation and brand value. This can lead to increased customer loyalty, improved employee morale, and greater investor interest.
Find out how Blue Banana became the first Carbon neutral fashion brand in Spain while increasing their sales by taking advantage of LCA.
Dcycle allows you to be transparent with your customers by sharing the impact of your products by giving you the impact impact distribution by material, impact area and supplier; allowing you to identify materials with the highest impact and giving you the data to design lower impact products in the future.
Ready to take control of your sustainability?