Life cycle assessment (LCA)
How do you know if a product is truly sustainable?
Environmental awareness is growing quickly. Different brands, labels and lifestyles compete to illustrate consciousness and care for the world around us, because more and more consumers demand sustainable products to fulfill their daily needs. But what is a sustainable product? And how can you tell what the difference is between a sustainable product and a less sustainable alternative?
This question haunted PRé founder Mark Goedkoop when he was working as an eco-designer, back in 1990. Since then, our drive has always been to make sustainability more fact-based.
Robust, factual assessment tells the difference
Our method of choice is life cycle assessment (LCA). It’s an established, science-based method to assess the environmental impacts related to a product or service. LCA is objective, it can handle a wide variety of environmental problems and it looks at all life cycle stages: raw material extraction, manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal.
This wide view prevents accidentally shifting the burden or saying a product is ‘sustainable’ because it performs well in a specific life cycle stage or on one impact type while overlooking other stages of impact. Still, if focusing on one environmental problem is the right choice, LCA is flexible enough to do that too.
Create better products with LCA
After assessing the whole life cycle of your product, you’ll know the environmental performance of your products and the drivers for this impact. For instance, you’ll know which materials and emissions put a large burden on the environment. Then, there are many ways you can use this information. More sustainable product development and improvement, strategic planning, policy making, marketing and more.
You might also encounter life cycle assessment through a branch association. Many of them champion sustainability initiatives based on LCA, to help improve sustainability, comparability and reporting throughout the sector.
Nike has worked with PRé on a number of LCA studies over the years and have found their work to be highly professional, detail-oriented, and well managed. I am impressed with the final work product that met our needs and level of engagement from PRé to support us in understanding the implications of the LCA study, the uncertainties, and recommendations. In addition, I’m pleased that PRé collaborated with another life cycle consultancy to provide a third-party review of their LCA for external communication leading to a top quality end product produced with great teamwork!
Senior Manager, Sustainable Business and Innovation,
PRé delivered an LCA and a Material Circularity Assessment of hand drying systems and other sanitary supplies. The work delivered was of high quality. The study was very data-intensive and there are a lot of references in the report. For me, this type of assessment was new. Yet, the report is clear and understandable for laymen. It fully met the expectations and we can really use the results in practice. The goal of the study was to support our decision for sanitary supplies. It is interesting to see that, based on this study, we are now going for a different choice than we had anticipated beforehand. This study helped us in making and substantiating a choice. I expect that we will frequently use this study to explain the choices we have made.
Category Manager Cleaning Services,
Dutch Central Government
PRé delivered an LCA comparison between the Magic Eraser and a range of other common cleaning products. The collaboration went very smoothly. The data collection, which is always a difficult task, went well. Misperceptions were quickly cleared up. The expectations were very clear from the start. We did not have many iterations. The delivered report is a good LCA report in line with what we hoped and in line with what we think is important. We got what we wanted in a very few steps!
Procter & Gamble