Connecting LCA Value to User Needs

Project Background

Despite the fact that Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) has a history of over 30 years of method development, sound technical underpinnings, and standardization under the ISO scheme, uptake and application of LCA has not achieved full market penetration. Over the past several years it has become apparent that there is a gap between LCA providers and results users. One obvious gap is that the results of LCA studies do not align with the characteristics (functional attributes and features) of next generation and innovative products. Another is that LCA is not understood to be a demanded and critical component of decisions. Not many organizations have what we term “translators” as intermediaries between LCA providers and users who are not LCA experts. A survey conducted with both practitioners and users revealed that the Interpretation component of LCA is often a contributor to lack of use or limited value of results.

To address these gaps, a multi-phase project, jointly supported by SETAC, ACLCA, and FSLCI, has been developed. The project is led by Jim Fava (FSLCI) and Bruce Vigon (SETAC) who are managing an international group of experts who have come together to work on this project.

Ongoing Activity

Designing LCA for Application – Rapid Prototype

After initial scoping and some requested input from the community, it was decided to conduct a short-term pilot study known as a Rapid Prototyping (RP) exercise. This RP effort has two main elements: first, identification, evaluation, and critical analyses of cases studies that have overcome (successes) or failed to overcome (lessons learned opportunities) the barriers and second, outreach to key members of the provider and user community to add additional insight and to help create stories to articulate how to more effectively use LCA results. Aspects could include data visualization and enhancement of an LCA interpretation framework.

Results will develop guidance and implementation plans for this application area as well as plans for future phases that address additional applications that contribute to sustainability. Our vision of success is an increased relevancy and demand for LCA results. Initial results of the RP exercise are expected to be completed in mid-2021.

A recording of the project presentation during the virtual ACLCA 2020 conference can be accessed below:

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