Life Cycle Thinking as a Basis for Sound Business Decisions!

100 billion to be spent annually on sustainability until 2025

Over last few decades, the need to transition into a more sustainable society has become more and more evident and pressing. In return, global efforts to address sustainability challenges have also significantly increased.
In this regard, 2015 has been the year of sustainability! It did not only see the global agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but also the Paris Agreement which includes a collective mobilization goal of 100 billion US$ per year up until 2025!
The momentum to focus on and invest into sustainability efforts is also not only driven by governments around the world, but welcomed and supported by various multinational companies and key organisations such as the Word Bank Group, the International Chamber of Commerce or the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Life Cycle Thinking is crucial to ensure sustainability done right

Given the push to invest into sustainability, it is more important than ever to integrate a life cycle perspective into decision making processes around the world! Only a good understanding of life cycle thinking enables decision-makers to understand a decision’s impacts along the full life cycle of a product or service and thus prohibits unintended sustainability impacts elsewhere in the system.

Life Cycle Approaches have successfully matured over the last decades and provide science-based answers to various sustainability questions. They are applied already by many companies to help them become front-runners in enhancing the sustainability performance of their businesses. But to affect tangible change, life cycle thinking has to be applied on a much larger scale.

Knowledge is key to changing minds

Unfortunately, the life cycle community has so far only had a rather limited influence on key debates around how to implement successful strategies to achieve a more sustainable society. This limited influence can be attributed to a significant lack of basic awareness and understanding of life cycle thinking among the general public as well as decision-makers.

However, decisions taken based on incomplete knowledge or understanding of their consequences along the life cycle may not only cause significant sustainability impacts due to unwanted burden shifting, but also result in the misuse of already limited available public and private resources to address sustainability challenges.

In addition, due to a lack of basic awareness, companies are struggling to communicate to their stakeholders about the results of life cycle assessments and thus are less likely to apply life cycle methodologies and information. Finally, the lack of basic awareness is also a key barrier to enhancing the availability and accuracy of life cycle data from suppliers along companies’ value chains.

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