Your company has taken on the sustainability path to create greener products. You have started your Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) activities and are well on your way to understanding and communicating your insights internally. You have also utilized your product’s LCA results to improve their environmental friendliness. You have gotten 3rd party verifications or/and EPDs for your product LCAs. Now what? How do I leverage these insights to full effect?
You want to start utilizing LCA insights in your Marketing, External Communications and Branding. But how? Here is a great example case you can follow! Note that all the numbers, calculations and impacts in my blog post are exemplary and are not connected to any actual LCA. This post’s purpose is only to give you an idea of how to format communications on your products sustainability. This case is an adaptation from Son of a Tailor’s LCA post, utilizing their format. Note that I do not utilize any of the actual numbers or calculations in my text or illustrations. You can find the original post here - https://www.sonofatailor.com/t-shirt-footprint
STEP 1 - Write an Impactful Headline
Make a catchy headline preferably with an illustration. Showcase an impressive number that you compare for e.g. to the industry average number. It may be beneficial to use a metric that the industry or consumer is familiar with, such as CO2eq. The industry average number can be created utilizing background data from e.g. Ecoinvent. Here it is important to take note that we recommend doing a 3rd party verification for the LCA model of your specific product, and the LCA model for the industry average product. This is done to make sure that your numbers are credible, and you are not in risk of conducting greenwashing. Obviously, my header here is very generic since I am not using an actual product, but it conveys the idea.
STEP 2 - Illustrate the difference you are making in a graph along with a short bit of storytelling
In this section, you can detail your company’s sustainability vision and actions in a few words. Then outline what was utilized in the comparison of your product vs. industry average product. You can also utilize other value propositions that your product might have in comparison to your competition. In this section if might be a good idea to include a link to your full scientific report, if you wish to increase the credibility of your statements. This section could look something like the following.
"At our company, we are committed to delivering products that are of high quality and beautiful design. We want to serve our clients, while also serving the environment.
We are committed delivering value to our clients, and to save the environment to next generations. How are we doing it? We did the calculations our product X. Download our full report here"
STEP 3 - Go into detail with each product life cycle stage illustrated in numbers
In the next section, you can outline the specific steps of a product life cycle, to illustrate which parts the total impact number is constructed of. If you are better than the industry average at each step, that’s great! But if you are not, that is ok too. What you don’t want to do is try to massage the numbers to look better than they actually are. If you cannot achieve lower impact numbers than the industry average at each step, maybe you need to conduct some design for environment activities in those areas. Outline how your production, logistics and other product life cycle steps achieve a better result than the industry average. Here’s how you could arrange this part.
"The key difference in our supply chain is that we focus on procuring materials from suppliers with sustainable sources and that are situated close to our production facilities to minimize logistics impact. Our production facilities utilize 100% sustainable energy and optimize for energy efficiency at all our locations. Our production processes have also been designed to utilize minimum amounts of environmentally harmful chemicals. We also utilize low energy consumption processes in all our locations. Our entire supply chain is located in close proximity to minimize logistics impact on environment. At end of life, our products are recycled at a higher rate than the industry average."
"In both models, raw materials and material processing stages are the most resource intensive. Our product's impact is lower due to more sustainable raw material suppliers and more efficient production processes."
STEP 4 - Show the total positive environmental impact of your company's activities
In this section you can use your per product impact numbers and multiply them by the volume of your production of this specific product. You can use for example the volume of your last year's production. This is a nice touch to give your clients an idea of the magnitude of impacts reductions.
"The impact in 2022
In the year 2022, we made more than 100 000 pieces of product X. By utilizing optimization and design for sustainability we reduced CO2 emissions. By how much? 167 424 KG CO2e saved."
Step 5 - Include other significant impact categories that you have reduced your impacts in
These impacts may include different categories according to your chosen methodology. The benefit of LCA is that not only does it calculate the CO2e impacts, but also all other impacts on environment. You may want to include descriptions of these impact categories, since they may be lesser known to many clients. This section could look something like the following.
"There is more to environmental impacts than Global Warming Potential.
beyond saving in global warming potential, our product saves 30% in water scarcity, 28% in freshwater ecotoxicity and 24% in land use compared to the industry average."
STEP 6 - Include the fine print - make sure you include the scope and assumptions
Make sure that you include information about how you have come to these conclusions and numbers, and which standards were used. Do also include information about whether these results have been third party verified and anything else that the reader should know. It could be something to the following effect.
"A Life Cycle Analysis (often shortened to LCA) is a scientific method to assess a product's environmental footprint throughout its entire life cycle, in this case from raw material to end of life and excluding the use phase.
This Life Cycle Analysis compares the footprints of two different models: our product X as well as a fictional model of the industry average based on Ecoinvent data.
The LCA is based on ISO 14040 and 14044, and has been third party verified."
Many companies struggle with how to communicate to their clients about results of their Life Cycle Assessment and thus turning them into a valuable tool in marketing, communications and branding. The purpose of this blog post is to illustrate one way of communicating LCA impact results in a easily understandable way and help companies understand how these insights could be utilized in communications.
Please note that the impact numbers used in this blog post are not based on real LCA models but are illustrative in nature to convey the format of communication. The post has been based on the Son of a Tailor report on their custom made t-shirt footprint report. You can find the original report here: https://www.sonofatailor.com/t-shirt-footprint