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Scalable Life Cycle Assessment: A Step-by-Step Guide

By Simo Suurkuukka (3min read)



Life Cycle Assessment process

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a crucial tool for businesses to evaluate the environmental impact of their products or services throughout their entire life cycle. LCA provides valuable insights into the resource consumption, emissions, and potential environmental impacts associated with each stage, ranging from raw material extraction to production, use, and disposal.

Conducting a comprehensive LCA can be a complex process, especially for businesses aiming to adopt a scalable approach. To help sustainability professionals and business professionals navigate through this process, we have prepared a step-by-step guide that outlines the key stages involved in conducting a scalable Life Cycle Assessment.



Scalable Life Cycle Assessment for Manufacturing Companies

The perception of Life Cycle Assessment activities in many companies without internal LCA capabilities are as follows: You pay a large amount of money to a consultant. They take the money and 6 months, and come back with a report paper that outlines your total impacts for a single product. This is hardly useful, actionable or scalable. How we aim to address this issue is:


1. Making exploring environmental impacts data accessible and easily understandable to anyone within the LCA tool.


2. Easy to understand and pinpoint the biggest contributors to environmental impacts in the product's life cycle.


3. The ability to create LCAs for entire product categories at once. This is what we call "TEMPLATE BASED LCAS". Template based LCAs allow you to scale your LCA activities 10x-10 000x. How is it possible? Let's discuss this in the following section.



Scaling LCA activities through Template Based LCAs

Traditionally LCAs have been created on a per product basis. This is hardly scalable and does not address the needs of the green transition especially for manufacturing companies with large portfolios of modular products. So how do we scale LCA activities to meet the demand. The answer is Template Based LCAs. But what exactly is a Template Based LCA? Template based LCA is a process where an entire product category gets an LCA for each product simultaneously. Template Based LCA is constructed of 3 main parts and utilizes the functionalities of modern LCA software. The next points will explain the steps to creating a Template Based LCA.


1. Creating a 'database' of materials, processes and other ingredients that make up the products in this product category.

Often products within a product category are made of mostly similar materials, processes and parts, but in different amounts, sizes. Creating all the materials and processes within Earthster makes them available within your own 'database', so they can be easily found and used over and over again in the product LCAs.


2. Creating the LCA structure for the product category.

In this step, the structure within which the previously created materials and processes are fitted. Often product categories might have Product Category Rules (PCRs) according to which the structure of LCA has to be created in order to meet the standards.


3. Importing Product Bills of Materials En Masse

Now that all the ingredients of the products within the product category have been created, and the LCA structure to which these materials will be fitted into are ready, is time for the last step. Mass importing the Bills of Materials into Earthster. In this step you will take your Bills of Materials for each product within the category. The details of each product are connected between the ingredients of the LCA and structure of the LCA to create an LCA for each product in the product category at the same time.



Congratulations, you have just scaled your LCA activities up 10 - 10 000x

You have now created tons of LCAs like never before. Great! But the journey does not stop here. With this newfound insight into your products you can start identifying possibilities for improvements in materials, production processes and suppliers. Having all these insights to your current environmental impacts can help you set plausible goals for improvements and making sure that you can reach them. At the same time you have a power tool for communications, marketing and branding, while making sure you are not mistakenly engaging in green washing. Now that you have verifiable environmental impact results for each product, you can even calculate impact totals per customer. This can easily be done with PARAMETERS. Parameters allow you to calculate in real time e.g. how much total impact the product has, when delivered from a specific plant to a specific customer's door. I will talk more about parameters in the following blog post.


Conclusion

A scalable Life Cycle Assessment is the future of bottom up environmental impacts calculations. It is a valuable tool for businesses to evaluate their environmental footprint and drive sustainable practices. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you can effectively conduct a scalable Life Cycle Assessment that aligns with their corporate sustainability initiatives. Through continuous exploitation of environmental impacts data the company can create greener business, better practices, more effective communications and more deals won.




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