As the environmental, social and economic impacts of a product over its entire life cycle receive increased attention, many companies are wondering about conducting a life cycle assessment (LCA). Should they conduct an LCA? And if so, when and how?

CAMX presenters , Mike Levy, senior director of Life Cycle Issues for the American Chemistry Council (ACC), and Gary Jakubcin, president and general manager of B&G Jakubcin & Associates LLC, said the answers to these questions can be found in the International Council of Chemical Association’s 20-page publication, An Executive Guide: How to Know If and When it’s Time to Commission a Life Cycle Assessment.

“The document is not just for executives,” said Levy. “Many companies are bringing on board young, new engineers and designers who have never done an LCA. We want design and manufacturing organizations to be able to hand them this book and get them started.”

Levy and Jakubcin provided a quick A to Z overview of what constitutes an LCA, its benefits and limitations, types of LCAs, commonly used metrics and the interpretation and communication of results.

LCA is standardized in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14040 series as a technique for assessing the environmental aspects and potential impacts associated with a product. Originally developed more than 40 years ago, life cycle analysis has since evolved to its current practice of using four basic, interdependent stages – goal and scope; inventory analysis; impact assessment; and interpretation. Commonly used metrics include:

  • Cumulative energy demand
  • Global warming potential
  • Ozone depletion potential
  • Acidification potential
  • Eutrophication potential (also known as nutrification potential)
  • Photochemical ozone creation potential
  • Water footprint, including consumptive water and water emissions
  • Eco and human toxicity assessment
  • Direct and indirect land use