LCA updates for DSM’s Eco+ program

For companies truly investing in sustainability, doing life cycle assessment (LCA) studies is not just a one-time thing. Regular updates – done in-house or by an external expert – are very valuable.

About

For companies just getting started in sustainability, doing LCAs of your products and services is an excellent first step. An LCA shows you how your product is doing in terms of environmental impact and where you can find the largest impacts, which is useful information if you want to make changes. But what is even better is repeating these LCAs at a regular interval: this shows you how the previous changes have improved your impacts and alerts you to other changes in your products’ supply chains.

Challenge

DSM is a leading innovator in the fields of nutrition, health and sustainable living. To continuously improve the environmental performance of their products, DSM regularly updates the impact assessment studies of their portfolio. When faced with a high workload for their inhouse life cycle assessment (LCA) experts, DSM chose PRé to ‘refresh’ some of the comparative studies, since we are a trusted partner. For DSM, which has established procedures for conducting LCA studies, an important issue was consistency with the internal requirements and best practices. They also wanted the guidelines for the chemical industry from the World Business Council For Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to be followed. In practice, that meant reporting few sets of results, including carbon footprint, WBCSD indicators and internal Eco+ assessment.

Solution

We updated the background datasets and product formulations in original DSM model with more recent data. In addition, we also introduced some improvements into the models. For instance, any copies of the background datasets were replaced by links to the original data sources. The benefit of this is that in the future, when e.g. ecoinvent will be updated, the DSM model will automatically link to the latest version of those datasets. This makes future updates of the LCA studies easier and quicker.

For the reporting, we followed the internal templates used at DSM, assuring that all the assessments required by WBCSD and DSM are presented and discussed in an understandable manner.

By inviting an external party to update their LCAs, DSM were able to benchmark internal processes against those of a leading external partner to identify improvement opportunities, while maintaining confidence in the robustness of the results and conclusions.

Benefits

  • Improved model: the original model was updated and refurbished by an LCA and SimaPro expert. The improvements make the future updates less time-consuming for DSM and more automated, minimizing the risk of mistakes.
  • Benchmarking: the studied products were benchmarked with alternatives in that market segment. This brought insights about their relative environmental performance.
  • Validity of previous studies: the updates made it possible to check the validity of conclusions derived from the previous studies. On that basis, product development or communication can be adjusted, if necessary.
  • Improvement opportunities: for the technical department, the updated LCA is the source of valuable information about improvement opportunities for the products. The outcomes show where eco-design can make a meaningful difference.

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