Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) for dummies

As industries and societies strive to reduce their ecological footprint, the need for comprehensive tools to evaluate and mitigate environmental impacts has become paramount. One such pivotal instrument is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).  

What is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)?

LCA is a methodology used to evaluate the environmental impacts of a product or service throughout its entire life cycle including raw material extraction, production/manufacturing, distribution/transportation, use/operation, and end-of-life management.  It offers a holistic perspective, examining the environmental repercussions. By providing an in-depth analysis of energy and material flows, LCA enables decision-makers to identify sustainable practices and opportunities for improvement, ensuring that efforts toward environmental stewardship are both effective and informed. 

Multi-criteria Impact Assessment

An LCA study considers factors like resource use, energy consumption, toxicity, and other potential environmental burdens.  

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Specific approaches under Life Cycle Assessment concept

LCA is occasionally applied in a more constrained context. These focused applications may seem new but are grounded in the broader, fundamental principles of LCA. They emphasize the importance of considering the entire life cycle, from cradle to grave, to fully understand and mitigate environmental impacts. Despite their specific lenses, these approaches maintain the core LCA objective: to assess and reduce the environmental burdens associated with all stages of a product’s life or an organization’s activities. 

Such applications include, but not limited to:  

Scope 3 accounting​ 

LCA is used by businesses, governments, and organizations to better understand the environmental consequences of their products or services, enabling them to make more informed decisions about product design, process optimization, and supply chain management to minimize environmental burdens. ​

ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 represent the primary standard guidelines issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) concerning LCA. These guidelines establish a standardized approach and framework for conducting life cycle assessments, promoting global uniformity and reliability in their implementation and understanding.

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) involves four primary phases:

  • Definition of Goals and Scope: This initial phase sets the LCA’s objectives, delineates the system boundaries, identifies the subject of the research, and establishes the functional unit (FU), creating a comprehensive framework.
  • Inventory Analysis of the Life Cycle (LCI): At this stage, data pertinent to the functional unit (FU) and system boundaries are systematically gathered and arranged. This encompasses details on the procurement of raw materials, manufacturing processes, transport, usage, and disposal.
  • Assessment of Life Cycle Impacts (LCIA): In this phase, the data from the LCI phase is evaluated, and appropriate impact assessment categories and metrics, such as Global Warming Potential (GWP), are chosen to measure environmental impacts.
  • Interpretation: The final phase involves presenting the findings of the assessment, providing insights to help decision-makers comprehend the outcomes and make informed choices.




Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

From the industry, for the industry

eolos aims to pride our clients with science-based and future-oriented LCA to support the product design and business strategy decision-making. We also assist customers to go through the “data jungle” for accurate computation and comprehensive declarations.

Potential applications of LCA:

  • In Product Design and Enhancement: LCA serves as a tool to evaluate the environmental impacts of various product designs, guiding manufacturers in selecting eco-friendlier materials and methods in the design stage. Through comparison of different design options, it’s feasible to minimize the use of resources, waste, and energy consumption, improving the product’s environmental credentials.


  • Within Supply Chain Optimization: LCA is instrumental in examining the environmental effects throughout the supply chain, from obtaining raw materials to production, distribution, usage, and disposal. This enables companies to pinpoint and ameliorate critical points in the supply chain, fostering sustainable sourcing and manufacturing practices.


  • For Policy Making and Regulation: LCA is utilized by governments and global entities to craft environmental policies and standards that encourage sustainable growth. Offering scientifically backed environmental insights, LCA aids policymakers in devising more impactful regulations and nudging industries towards greener practices.


  • In Marketing and Consumer Decision-Making: Manufacturers can leverage LCA-derived data to highlight their products’ green features, appealing to eco-aware consumers. Similarly, consumers can use LCA insights to make more environmentally conscious purchasing decisions, favoring greener products.


  • As Part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): For companies committed to CSR, LCA is an essential instrument. It allows businesses to quantify their products’ environmental impact, streamline operations, mitigate ecological footprints, and bolster their societal and market standing.

eolos contributors to this article

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