How to become an environmental superhero with LCA?

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Ecology is a key topic and firms must take their responsibility. The LCA, (Life Cycle Assessment) is an evaluation method that has many benefits and can be deployed in many cases.


The LCA, (Life Cycle Assessment) is an assessment method that is recognised as being robust. It is the subject of international standardisation of the ISO type (ISO 14040 to 14043). Depending on the product/service concerned, it draws up a multi-criteria and multi-scale environmental assessment over its entire life cycle.


What is the purpose of an LCA?

LCA consists of analysing the life cycle of a product/service in order to become aware of the pressure it exerts from an environmental point of view.


For the consumer(s)

Consumers will compare different products/services with each other in order to choose the most sustainable one. They will also be led to reflect on the future of the product (end of life of the product), so that the materials are used in the best possible way. Also, the way a product is used and maintained will influence its durability.


For companies

Companies use LCA for their purchases of raw materials. This LCA makes it possible to assess the impact of each material on the entire process and to compare the different materials.

As part of continuous improvement, companies use LCA to identify possible steps in their processes that have an impact on the environment. In this way, they will be able to intervene on several identified factors throughout the product life cycle.



Recommended for you. Download the infographic "Analysis of the life cycle of a product in 3 steps" for free.

What are the different stages of LCA?

LCA is defined according to four main stages:


Step 1: Definition of objectives and scope of application

In this first step, the scope and objective of the study must be defined: a description of the life cycle must be drawn up, the limits of the study, the target population and the quality of the data required must be determined. It is at this stage that we speak of the Functional Unit (FU): the ISO 14044 standard defines the Functional Unit as "a quantified description of the performance of the product systems, for use as a reference unit” in an LCA.


If I wish to compare two paintings with each other, I must define a common FU for the two products being compared. In this example, it is therefore the FU: "to cover 1 m² of plaster wall with an opacity degree of 0.99 and for a lifetime of 8 years".


Step 2: Life cycle inventory phase

The second stage is the longest and most time-consuming of the LCA. It makes it possible to count all the incoming and outgoing flows of our system (materials, processes, energy used, etc...). To carry out this accounting, we can refer to invoices linked to consumption, or use documents such as CB (Cost Breakdown) or DEP (Diagnosis of Energy Performance).


Step 3: Life cycle impact assessment

This step enables the inventory of previous flows to be translated into environmental impacts. We therefore obtain a first “raw” LCA result.


Step 4: Life cycle interpretation phase

During this last stage, the results obtained are interpreted in order to carry out a possible reconsideration of the choices made in the previous stages. Indeed, some stages may be challenged for multiple reasons: difficulties in collecting data; unsatisfactory results; project drift over time; poorly defined initial hypotheses, etc...


Carry out an LCA using digital

In order to save time in the process, it may be useful to use a digital tool. For example, to carry out your environmental analyses, the field data from sensors and probes can be processed automatically.


Digital forms also allow you to carry out on-site inspections (environmental visits), with the possibility of taking photos or videos to complete your observations. All the statistical data are then processed by the digital tool, making it easier to calculate your LCA analysis.


Thus, LCA is one of the most successful methods of environmental impact assessment. To offload HSE services, it is possible to use digital technology to perform this analysis. 


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Recommended for you. Download the infographic "Analysis of the life cycle of a product in 3 steps" for free.