Life Cycle Assessment
What is it?
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a method for the quantitative determination of all the environmental, economical and social impacts which occur during to the life cycle of a product or service. The complete life cycle of a product/service should include, more or less, the phases of raw material extraction, production, manufacture, distribution, use and final disposal to the environment. A complete knowledge of all the impacts which derive from the various phases of the life cycle helps us identify and efficiently manage the most important of them.
Why is it important?
LCA is one of the most important management tools for the sustainability of an organization/company or a specific product, because it uses quantitative impact estimations, which allow their comparison and therefore efficient management. Moreover, LCA is very important since it offers a full assessment of all the impacts, related to the various phases of the life cycle. This fact, combined with the capacity of a visual representation of the impacts and their relations, makes LCA a very effective and essential decision support tool for an organization/company.
LCA is also the basic approach and tool for the implementation of other sustainability management practices such as Carbon and Water Footprints, Eco-design and Sustainable Construction. Moreover, an LCA study is an essential prerequisite for an organization/company to obtain some of the most significant Ecolabels, such as EPD, etc.
Close the Loop conducts LCA studies on two implementation levels, depending on the particular needs of the organization/company:
Level 1 – Internal LCA
This level assists the organization/company to obtain a quick view of the most important impacts of its products/services, as well as determine the life cycle phases at which these occur. The results of the Internal LCA may be used as a management tool in order to identify the “hot spots” which provide the best opportunities (easy wins) for minimizing financial costs, reducing environmental impacts and improving the overall company performance.
Level 2 – External LCA
At this level, the results derived from the Internal LCA are used in order to communicate the sustainability performance of the organization/company to its stakeholders (e.g. through a sustainability report). Also, the External LCA is performed as a necessary step in the acquirement of an Ecolabel. The LCA study at this level is much more detailed and thorough and follows the specifications and requirements of the specific Ecolabel.
Gain competitive advantage of product/services
Rational and economical use of resources
Discovering opportunities for significant cost savings
Increase of efficiency (eco-efficiency)
Support of Green Marketing efforts
Safeguard against Greenwashing practices
Establishment of the organization as a leader in sectorial and international levels
The life cycle of a product/service comprises of much more phases, than just “production” and “use”. It starts with the extraction of the raw materials for the production of primary resources and ends up with the final disposal of the product (e.g. landfill disposal or recycling). An LCA study may include all or some of these phases, have different levels of detail, involve many assumptions (e.g. end of life scenarios) and be based on actual or literature data. This means that an LCA study:
- is a complex study and specific for each case,
- must be performed with a specialized scientific approach, based on international standards, in order to guarantee the validity of its results,
- must be performed using a specialized software,
- must be based on reliable data.
Close the Loop follows the ISO14040 standards series, which determines in detail all the necessary steps to conduct a valid LCA study. ISO 14040 methodology is a systemic and circular process, which requires specialized knowledge and abilities from the scientist. Moreover, we use the lead LCA software in the market supported by scientifically valid databases, which are regularly updated.
In all its endeavors, in all its projects, Close the Loop adopts the internationally acknowledged approach of the International Project Management Association (IPMA); it is a management approach that ensures life-cycle impact and costing consideration, fulfillment of the objectives within preset time and cost restraints, respect of environmental and social obligations and, mainly, stakeholders’ satisfaction.