LCA standards and guidelines: an overview

Numerous standards and guidelines have recently been developed by public and private organizations in order to meet society’s needs for credible and comparable environmental metrics at the product and organization level.

A centralized overview of standards can help companies to better understand the developments of global and regional reporting standards and guidelines, which are applicable to their company or products. By being better informed, companies can determine the most appropriate standards and guidelines to follow, and how to best meet the relevant requirements, enabling organizations to maximize the benefit of their sustainability investment in a realistic, timely, and cost-efficient way. In addition to this article, you can download the whitepaper Standards & Guidelines (see below this page).

Concerning products, the leading standards for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) are ISO 14040 and ISO 14044. These international standards focus mainly on the process of performing an LCA, following a product’s impact from cradle to grave. There are other permutations including ISO 14024 (Type I label), which is a voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third-party program developed for a specific product or products; ISO 14021 (Type II label), for any written or spoken environmental claim; and ISO 14025 (Type III label), which concerns Product Category Rules (PCRs) and Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs). Meanwhile, the GHG Protocol product standard is largely in compliance with ISO 14040/44, but is specifically focused on greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting.

Across the globe, countries have formulated different versions of standards and guidelines. The U.K.’s PAS 2050 was the first carbon footprint standard and has been applied by many companies worldwide. In France, the BPX 30-323 law Grenelle laid the framework and general methodology for French environmental product labeling. And both Japan and South Korea are working to evaluate products’ carbon footprints.

For corporate standards and guidelines, ISO 14064 specifies principles and requirements for the reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at both the organizational, and more specifically, the project level. There are also GHG protocols providing standards and guidance for companies and other types of organizations preparing a GHG inventory for scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.

In the U.K., the GHG accounting guide assists organizations of all sizes in reporting their GHG emissions, either voluntarily or to satisfy the requirements the Companies Act 2006, giving companies the opportunity to be proactive in the management of their carbon emissions. Meanwhile, in France, Bilan Carbone, a GHG accounting guidance document and tool for any organization interested in their greenhouse gas emissions, has three distinct modules: companies, communities, and territories, making this tool applicable to a wide range of entities from private companies to communities interested in urban planning.

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