How to make your LCA results relevant for other departments
LCA studies often end up unused at the bottom of a pile. This is a waste of valuable information that could benefit all departments, from marketing to R&D. The challenge of the LCA practitioner is to make other departments understand the value of LCA studies for their work.
Putting their goals first
The first thing you must realize is that LCA is not a goal in itself, but a valuable tool to support other departments. Before you start an LCA, we always recommend you start a dialogue with various departments. What are their sustainability KPIs? What would they like to communicate, reduce, or be transparent about? By understanding their ambitions, you can formulate a plan for your LCAs to support these goals. The LCA will then center on their needs, ensuring that the results are relevant for them.
Using a collaborative approach
Often, we see that such a dialogue is the starting point for moving from doing LCAs on an ad-hoc basis to a more collaborative approach. When you understand that a department has the ambition to reduce CO2 by 10% for each new market introduction, your LCA department can facilitate this goal. By translating it to product level, do a baseline study or facilitate easy assessment of new products by eco-design tools.
Supporting the needs of a department also ensures that its members gain a growing understanding of the value of LCA and the insights it can offer.
But can we make such bold statements?
Often, organizations make bold statements about targets such as climate-neutral growth. An LCA department would tend to argue against the feasibility and reality of such bold targets. They want to assure scientific soundness and validity of the results. The truth of the matter is that organizations often make these ‘bold’ statements anyway, without understanding their scientific soundness and validity. Most departments don’t really care about uncertainty and don’t have the time for extensive studies. This can put the LCA department in a dilemma. Being an LCA expert in a company will always be a balancing act between scientific soundness and available time and resources.
Taking your place in strategic discussions
If you start the dialogue, support departments in their goals and show LCA results in an understandable way, you help pave the path for a more strategic discussion: how can we formulate and measure sustainable KPIs in a smart and achievable way, together? By having these conversations, the LCA department will become more of a sparring partner on sustainability issues. Instead of being seen as an island that produces LCA studies, the LCA department will slowly become a real business partner involved in formulating strategy.
This won’t happen overnight – it is an ongoing process requiring constant dialogue – but it is a worthwhile goal to work towards. We believe that LCA departments are valuable sparring partners in the company-wide sustainability discussion; we just need to work on our visibility in organizations.
Anne worked for PRé from 2012 to 2021. As a Senior Consultant and excellent program manager with a hands-on background in sustainability metrics, she helped a wide range of organizations, including SMEs, multinationals and policy-makers. By focusing on the user perspective, Anne helped develop better tools for both technical and non-technical users. Her areas of expertise include product social footprinting, impact measurement and valuation, measuring supply chain sustainability and sustainable business performance.