Life cycle assessment of products and services
Life cycle assessment / LCA makes it possible for you to document and explain how your product or service influences the environment.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) as a decision parameter
Many important decisions within the environmental area are based on an LCA. For instance, decisions about how we can reduce our energy consumption and climate impact, how to handle the increasing amounts of waste from households, trade and industry in the best way possible.
LCA therefore affects consumer decisions about which products to choose and consequently also affects your company, regardless if you design, produce or sell products for the Danish or international market.
Life cycle assessment (LCA) for decision making
In a life cycle assessment, a wide range of environmental impacts are calculated in a cradle-to-grave or cradle-to-cradle perspective in accordance with acknowledged methods and standards. The result ensures a solid foundation for making decisions and it documents the environmental profile.
LCA can, among other things, be applied for:
- Eco-design of products and services: What are the environmental consequences of choosing between different materials or solutions?
- Selection of focus areas: How does your product or service affect the environment in its whole life cycle? By identifying the primary environmental impacts (hot spots) in the life cycle of the products, you can prioritise your environmental efforts and understand where to best implement improvement activities that achieve the greatest effect.
- Sustainability communication: A life cycle assessment is an effective tool to document the green messages in your marketing strategy and efforts. Many types of green claims and messages may only be put forward if they can be documented with an LCA.
- Green business models and circular economy: LCA can be used to evaluate to what extent new business models and circular economy models are sustainable in the short- and long-term.
Our many years of experience within assessment of environmental properties for products and services ensures that your company receives a focused and professional analysis. Below, you can learn more about some of the many applications of LCA, what they imply for your company, and how we can help.
Our services within LCA
Our services within LCA include:
- Life cycle assessments (LCA) and Product Environmental Footprint: We perform detailed analysis and assessment of your product or service according to applicable standards – and possibly compare with competing products and services.
- Critical review of life cycle assessments (LCA review): We go through LCAs initiated by your company itself or by other consultants in order to ensure that the quality of the LCA meets internationally approved standards, and that you can apply these results for the desired purpose. We also perform third-party verification of LCA calculations which are communicated to customers as environmental product declarations (EPDs).
- LCA based tools: We develop different types of tools based on LCA, which can be used to generate results for various products and scenarios. The tools can be build for use by non-experts such as sales people or product developers. See example of an LCA based tool here (attachment with the circuit tool)
- Cradle-to-Cradle (CtC): We develop tools for solving chemistry problems and closing cycles (where waste forms part of a new cycle as a resource) in co-operation with companies and other stakeholders.
- Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs): We deliver environmental documentation in accordance with ISO and EN standards based on life cycle assessments (LCA). We comply with ISO 14025 and EN 15804, and we build up LCA models which meet standard demands for both consumer products and construction products. Furthermore, we deliver documentation that can be used for marketing purposes or for national and international schemes on environmental product declarations.
- Eco-design: We offer consultancy and development of LCA based tools in connection with eco-design enabling you to develop more sustainable products, which live up to current and future environmental requirements from municipalities, customers and other relevant stakeholders. For example, you can have comparable data for the energy efficiency of components or you can ensure that your newly developed/improved product only contains a minimum of scarce resources.
- Carbon footprint: We prepare carbon footprints where standardised methods, for instance Greenhouse Gas Protocol, are used to calculate the emission of climate gases from the product during its lifetime from production to disposal. Additionally, we can advise you on the standards that should be applied at your markets and for your specific purpose.
Our competences within LCA
We have many years of experience with development, documentation and consultancy within environmental assessment and LCA.
We participate in international standardization work, we work according to internationally approved standards and we use the newest software programs within the area. We service both private companies, public authorities as well as educational institutions.
If you have questions or want to learn more about life cycle assessment (LCA), don't hesitate to contact us.
What is the difference between LCA and Product Environmental Footprint (PEF)?
LCA is defined as “the compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle” (ISO 14040:2006).
PEF describes a specific method for carrying out an LCA, including aspects concerning system boundaries, how to handle uncertainties, calculation of environmental impacts, reporting and more.
PEF was developed with the purpose to harmonize the way LCA’s are carried out within the EU.
What is cradle-to-cradle?
’Cradle-to-cradle’ is a concept for production, consumption, planning and design, which focuses on ‘waste’ and which sees all material processes as part of a closed circuit.
The cradle-to-cradle production model shows how human products can be designed in such a way that, at the end of their useful life they will nourish the creation of something new. Either in the form of ´biological nutrients´, which are easily returned to the water or the earth without emitting synthetic materials or toxins.
Alternatively, as ´technical nutrients´, which continuously circulate as pure and valuable materials within closed industrial circuits.
How can LCA based tools be used in product development (Eco-design)?
The notion of sustainability can be considered systematically throughout a product development process from the initial idea to the finished product.LCA based tools can be adjusted to any stage of the development process.
In the beginning of a project, typically only limited information is available for calculating a life cycle assessment (but there are good opportunities for influencing the result), whereas the most information is available by the conclusion of a development project. Such an LCA based tool can be adapted to designers and others with limited LCA experience and can also be used in the development of services, systems and concepts.
Applications of the tools include making decisions, risk handling, documentation/marketing and identifying hot spots, which thereafter can be dealt with in more detail.
What are Environmental Product Declarations?
Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) declare the most important environmental properties of a product, a raw material or a service throughout its life cycle. The environmental product declaration is a ‘result sheet’ that conveys a product’s material environmental properties in words and numbers based on specific calculation methods, which are developed separately for different product categories. Typically, an LCA will form the basis for an EPD.
The declaration will be quantitative and objective, but will not include an evaluation of the products environmental impact. In this way, the environmental product declaration differs from environmental labelling schemes, which do not present environmental data, but indicate that the products environmental impact is at a certain end of a scale. An EPD can for example be used in relation to:
- Certification of buildings
- Material requirements in tenders
- Product development and production optimization
Which standards should my LCA comply with?
Several standards are available within the LCA field.
Some specify the overall conditions whereas others dictate more specific rules about how an LCA must be carried out.
The choice of standards depends among other things on the purpose, the product/service and the applicable geographic markets.
The most common and acknowledged standards in Europe are the ISO 14040 series and the EU’s Product Environmental Footprint (PEF).
When do sustainability claims require LCA based documentation?
Several types of claims can be used to express one or more aspects of a products sustainability, and within the EU there are rules about what is allowed and what kind of background documentation is required to substantiate such claims.
In Denmark, these rules are described in a guideline from the consumer ombudsman.
In general, careful consideration should precede any diffuse and ultimate claims such as “environmental friendly” or “sustainable”. If such claims are used, they should always be documented with either a type 1 environmental label, for example the Swan or the Flower, or with a full,third party verified LCA.
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