Community-Driven Life Cycle Inventory

The Community-Driven Life Cycle Inventory initiative (CDLCI) is on a mission to help create and distribute high-quality (consistent and reliable) regional and sectoral data for sustainability practitioners across the board. It’s a broad-based effort that’s already brought together some of the leading specialists and companies in life cycle assessment (LCA). But given the scale of our ambition—we have our fingers in a lot of pies—we’re always on the lookout for specialist help and support, and new ideas.

Wanted: ever-higher-quality data

Over the past 30 years, the LCA community has done two remarkable things: it has created an overview of all relevant supply chains, and every step of the way it has collected data on environmental impacts. The resulting insights are of great value for all areas of sustainability practice.

However, the lack of credible, consistent, and reliable data is still a huge problem for practitioners. There is a lot of data, but the landscape is fragmented and inconsistent and not easily accessible.

There is thus an urgent need to make more-consistent, higher-quality data available, and to update it annually. Good databases are built by domain experts, and as things stand there is no shared foundation they can build on. A common framework and flexible, transparent licensing schemes are essential if modular, region- and sector-specific databases are to flourish and offer a common standard.

Introducing CDLCI: a winning team determined to make a change

The Community-Driven Life Cycle Inventory initiative (CDLCI) aims to meet this need. Started in 2016, CDLCI is an ambitious social initiative whose goal is to facilitate the creation and distribution of high-quality data on specific regions and sectors. Revenues come from membership fees, financial and in-kind contributions, and usage-based fees paid by database and tool providers. Those revenues will be used primarily to develop and maintain core data, to support the process whereby data is reviewed, and to update the initiative’s methodologies.

We have already brought together some of the leading specialists and companies in LCA, and they’ve committed to working with us to making the initiative a success:

  • Blonk Consultants and IDEA will be offering their domain-specific databases. They will contribute their domain-specific expertise and their experience creating datasets. Currently they are working on archetypes for transport and electricity. (An archetype is a parameterized model that database developers can use to create more-specific data sets that they need for their databases.)
  • Ecoinvent will contribute core data and a methodological toolkit (on which see below). The core data, which will be updated regularly and made region-specific, will be used for annual updates to ecoinvent’s database.
  • PRé will contribute its knowledge of digitization. It is also working with other partners on archetypes for transport, biodiesel, concrete and steel, and it will also cover the initial separate costs involved in setting up the initiative.

This initiative is open to all software brands, and not just SimaPro. In addition, the SimaPro partner network will be able to contribute regional data.

This support means that this initiative is community-based from the start. It also ensures that a large user base is connected to CDLCI.

Having this critical mass is essential to the success of the initiative: scale matters when it comes to generating more-specific data.

Enabling community-driven data to flourish

CDLCI wants to offer more-specific data, not in the traditional way by starting a database itself, but by empowering the LCA community to share the data that is already out there. We’re convinced that there’s a lot of unused potential in that community. Our ambition is to make the most of this crowd wisdom by creating and maintaining a platform that provides the means to make available LCI and other data that’s both consistent and credible. This platform includes:

  • Core data on energy, transport, waste, and base materials
  • A shared methodological toolkit covering such topics as nomenclature, Data Quality Rating, documentation, quality guidelines, data collection, metadata, flow properties, allocation properties, and production volumes
  • Unambiguous licensing and pricing conditions
  • Support for database developers and end users
  • An IT system to manage, buy and download data
CDLCI guidance and governance handbook chart

‘Great idea, but now what?’

This is quite an undertaking, of course, and not something that can be done overnight. Bringing all these different actors together and creating a shared vision will take time. But we’re already making good progress. For instance, we’re currently working on a list of 2,000 to 3,000 data sets that are free to everyone and that can also be used to build other region- or sector-specific databases.

Moreover, we’re developing the first archetypes for the core data. We will be creating archetypes for electricity, transport, waste and some base materials. We’ve started with archetypes for transport, electricity, concrete, steel and biodiesel, and more will follow. The main advantage of these archetypes is that they can be easily updated and made more specific. But most importantly, they will allow database developers and others to build on each other’s work.

In the meantime, we’re also contributing our knowledge and experience to a related initiative: three of the core members are working on the development of data for 8 out of the 10 newly tendered lots for the environmental footprint transition phase. That will help ensure that CDLCI is well aligned with that initiative. And we’re involved, too, in the development of a number of national databases, such as for the NorEnviro project. These projects will not be contributing directly to CDLCI, but they will help create momentum for this bottom-up movement.

How to support or join the CDLCI initiative

If you’re developing a regional or sectoral database and would like to find out more, or an LCA practitioner who’d like to lend a hand, we’d love to hear from you. Or perhaps you have a few ideas on how to take the initiative forward in new ways. Either way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Eric Mieras.

Eric Mieras

Managing Director

Sustainability is all about impact. Positive impact makes you meaningful. But first you have to know where you are making an impact and where you can create shared value. That’s where PRé comes in. Pinpointing your impact is an essential starting point for taking joint action with people and organisations in your ecosystem. The combination of sustainability and social business can make a real change in the way we do business.

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