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Harness the power of the LCA community

Measuring sustainable impact has become increasingly important, which means the same is true for quantitative metrics. Without metrics to measure progress and impact, it is hard to manage sustainability. In many cases, sustainability targets are set top-down. That seems logical, as that is also how it’s done for financial targets, for instance. But that can’t be done without harnessing the power of the LCA community.

By Eric Mieras on January 30, 2019

Community power

 

In finance, there is a lot of hands-on, bottom-up experience to evaluate whether a top-down goal of, say, a 20% cost reduction is reasonable and to turn it into action steps. In sustainability, it is much harder to determine whether a top-down goal of a 20% reduction in CO2 makes any sense. The field needs to integrate the hands-on experience of the LCA community.

 

Incredible source of knowledge

A lot of hands-on knowledge, data and experience does exist in the life cycle community, on assessing products and systems from the bottom up. The community has developed something unique: a large repository of data that describes all major relevant supply chains throughout the world. This has been combined with several methodologies to translate these data into a number of social and environmental category indicators at different levels of aggregation.

 

So why does the LCA community often struggle to show the relevance of this experience and expertise? Why is there such a disconnect between top-down goal setting and what is realistic in the field? That is because data and models by themselves have no relevance if they live on their own: they are only relevant when embedded in a company- and sector-specific context. This connection is what turns the data and models into relevant, valuable information and knowledge.

 

Empowering LCA practitioners to build connections

As leading consultant and software provider, PRé Sustainability puts a lot of effort into empowering the LCA community and helping practitioners connect their work with strategic objectives and stakeholders outside the LCA community. Because we believe that our knowledge and experience is a treasure, one that is still kept hidden too often. And because we believe that LCA practitioners deserve a bigger stage. These efforts help LCA practitioners get more support from the LCA community, benefiting from the collected expertise.

 

Out of all our efforts to empower the LCA community by building connections, there are four to highlight:

 

 

  • Community-Driven Life Cycle Information (CDLCI): organized as a social enterprise separate from PRé, CDLCI aims to make it easier to develop sector- and region-specific databases and to make them accessible to a wider public. One of the goals is to make core data more available and to develop a common methodology. But even more importantly, to make sure that there is alignment within the LCA community. That’s why we brought together some of the main players in the field of LCA consultancy, including database providers and tool developers.

 

  • The SimaPro Global Partner network: a unique group of people with a shared purpose. All of them experts in LCA. This network has global coverage and brings together different areas of expertise and local knowledge, making it an unparalleled resource for LCA expertise and a strong force for embedding LCA practices in local policies and strategies.

 

  • Remodeling for the Product Environmental Footprinting (PEF) project: in the final act of the pilot phase of the PEF project, PRé is leading the effort to not only remodel all the representative products and organisations (RPs/ROs) that have been developed, but also to align software providers on how to deal with these models. With representatives from GaBi, Umberto, openLCA, RangeLCA and SimaPro, we managed to get similar results from the aggregated datasets, learned a lot about linking and made progress on extending the ILCD format to allow import and export of models.

 

We cannot do it alone

We are confident that these developments will help us accelerate and increase the use of LCA to measure sustainability in a credible and robust way, paving the way for well-established top-down goals. Not only because of the methodology itself, but also because of the sense of responsibility and commitment of LCA practitioners to make sustainability more fact-based. It is our pleasure to contribute to this thriving LCA community.

 

Would you like to join these efforts or exchange ideas? Or for us to participate in your initiative? Then don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re more than happy to explore the opportunities, as we know we cannot do this without your support and involvement.

Contact the author

‘Sustainability is all about impact. Positive impact makes you meaningful. But first you have to know where you are making an impact and where you can create shared value. That’s where PRé comes in. Pinpointing your impact is an essential starting point for taking joint action with people and organisations in your ecosystem. The combination of sustainability and social business can make a real change in the way we do business.’

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