Highlights of the 6th international Life Cycle Management conference 2013

The 6th International Life Cycle Management Conference (LCM 2013) took place in Gothenburg from 25th to 28th August. PRé attended this conference and contributed with some presentations. Here are our highlights regarding what we heard and learned during the three days.

PRé at LCM conference 2013: the highlights

This biannual conference focuses on the application of life cycle assessment in business and tries to ensure a balance between the science behind life cycle assessment and the application to commercial situations. It brings the opportunity of implementing life cycle approaches into business strategy and decision-making, aiming to improve the sustainability performance of production and consumption. The LCM conference offers a platform where sustainability professionals from academy, industry, NGOs and public bodies bring extensive experience on how to transform sustainability into business value.

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Sustainability metrics for assessing complex value chains: different frameworks and tools used

A number of large companies focused their presentations on the implementation of smart tools used to manage the value chain and the sustainability issues encountered. Many have developed their own in-house tools to measure and communicate their sustainability performance. It seems like a general trend across business whereby such tools companies to facilitate the integration of metrics more effectively across their organizations and value chains.

Teijin presented a tool built in Excel used to show clients the sustainability benefits of using lightweight constructions. AkzoNobel has developed the internal metrics initiative ‘Eco-Premium Solutions’ (EPS), an incentive to drive continuous environmental improvement of the product portfolio. Using life cycle assessment as a core assessment approach, EPS are products that do not have a larger impact across all indicators and have a lower impact in at least one compared with the most common alternative solution on the market. Peter Saling presented BASF’s sustainability evaluation toolbox to manage sustainability in an effective way and to support decision-making processes.  Quick Scan tools provide a basic overview of the impact, whereby comprehensive tools such as Eco-efficiency, SeeBalance and AgBalance are used where more detailed is needed. Danone uses two internal tools for their assessments, DanPrint for carbon footprinting and the DROP (Danone water Resources Optimization Program) tool for water assessment. The latter is currently assessing water scarcity and should evolve in the future to also assess water degradation. Nicole Unger presented the approach taken by Unilever to use life cycle assessment on a corporate/global, country, product category and product type level. Having one of the largest product portfolios in the world, the approach taken by Unilever is to move from a broad scope with aggregation to a more narrow scope with increasing detail. This is essential to identify focus areas for improvement and thus work efficiently with the best results. The need for smart and integrated tools was also reinforced by PRé’s Product owner Michael Moore. His presentation of the new SimaPro software tool currently in development, SimaPro Easy, provided insight into the need for effective data collection, sharing and scenario analysis functionality currently being requested by PRé’s clients.

The role of communication in life cycle sustainability

Bradley Ridoutt from CSIRO discussed the multitude of so-called ‘footprint’ indicators that are used nowadays. Together with Stephan Pfister, they stress the need for one universal footprint definition to enable life cycle assessment to successfully take advantage of the community interest in comprehensible footprint indicators.

Recently, a shift has been observed from EPDs meant for B2B communication to EPDs targeted to consumer products. Joakim Thornéus from the Swedish Environmental Management Council raised the question of whether EPDs are the best communication media for consumers. This is given the multitude of indicators reported in an EPD such as eutrophication, terms that a consumer does not understand and consequently cannot use for purchasing decision making.

Critical reviews were adopted as a requirement for life cycle assessments used to support external communication according to ISO 14040. Bo Weidema suggested three elements to radically reduce the costs of panel critical reviews: a fixed panel for all reviews, an already critically reviewed background database, and a software-supported review procedure.

New developments in LCM software tools

Andreas Ciroth proposed the integration of life cycle assessment tools with CAD (computer-aided design) and Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) tools as a solution for meeting green product design through life cycle assessment at low costs. There is a test project linking OpenLCA (and indirectly SimaPro) environmental data to decision-making capabilities of Enovia VPLM, a new CAD, workflow and product life cycle management tool.

Conference participants were interested in the new SimaPro 8 release and particularly how the transition from ecoinvent version 2 to 3 will be made in SimaPro. Two sessions entitled ‘What is new in SimaPro 8’ were held by PRé, both of which were well attended. The possibility to calculate water footprints with SimaPro 8 and the ability to better understand the differences between ecoinvent 2 and 3 data were welcomed with great enthusiasm.

LCM 2015 in Bordeaux

What will be the topics chosen at LCM 2015? Will we have obtained answers to some of the questions and issues now expressed? Some I would be very much interested in would be the insights into the pilot phase of the Environmental Footprint initiative led by the European Commission, the need to facilitate sustainable innovation, the need for stakeholder engagement for successful sustainable development in businesses and the need to continue improving communication between technical, commercial and consumer audiences. Well, at least we’ll all be able to enjoy a nice glass of wine or two!

Marisa Vieira

Principal Consultant

The time of the industrial revolution is over. Now it is time for the green revolution to go full steam ahead! Everybody needs to be involved in this process, therefore I aim to guide individuals and businesses in understanding the trade-offs between impacts. This will help them make informed decisions, which will truly help sustainable living thrive."

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