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What to know before starting a Product Life Cycle Assessment?

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The GHG Protocol Scope 3 and Product Standards both involve a value chain or life cycle approach to GHG accounting. This report focuses on the practical guidance for conducting a product LCA project and provides you with the key items to consider at the start.

A life cycle assessment of a product quantifies all material and energy use, all environmental releases, and the potential environmental impacts over its entire life cycle from raw material acquisition through to ultimate recycling and/or disposal. It intends to support performance tracking of a product’s GHG inventory and emissions reductions over time.

Some describe Product LCA as “a closer look at products”. The process of a LCA could be painstakingly complicated but also achievable, and often necessary for product development and key to product design.

Product Life Cycle Carbon Footprint 101

A product's carbon footprint is the total amount of direct and indirect greenhouse gases released by a product (or service) over its lifetime. Corporate greenhouse gas (GHG) emission accounting and product lifecycle carbon footprints share some overlap in the field of carbon accounting.

A product lifecycle carbon footprint refers to the total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted over the full life cycle of a product, from extraction of raw materials to manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal. It provides a granular understanding of product-level environmental impacts.

Notes:    Scope 1: Direct GHG emissions from owned or controlled sources.

Scope 2: Indirect GHG emissions from the generation of purchased energy.

Scope 3: All other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.

By quantifying and managing both corporate-level GHG emissions and product life cycle carbon footprints, companies can identify hotspots for emissions reduction, optimise their processes, and make significant strides towards achieving their sustainability goals.

Top Ten Things to consider before starting a product LCA:

  1. LCA Regulation Outlook

  2. Goals and Targets for the LCA Studies

  3. The Underlying Product (every single steps of its lifecycle)

  4. The Scope & Boundaries of the LCA

  5. Supply Chain Engagement

  6. The Granularity of Data Collection

  7. Methodology for Allocation and Data Presentation

  8. Internal Database Preparation & Data Management in the Long-Run

  9. Emission Factor Database and Platform adoption & The Availability of LCA Databases

  10. Product LCA Certification and Labelling

Product Carbon Labelling Is Trending:

Product LCA Certification and Labelling

There is a range of product carbon footprint labels or certifications available for different markets and different industries. Environmental labelling such as product carbon footprint ought to be connected to an LCA or a comparable environmental valuation method to offer consistent comparable information for customers or purchasing managers to make informed decisions based on the certificate or label.

As a way to verify the result acquired from the product LCA process, certification and labelling can be done either by a qualified third-party or self-verification following the specific rules and industry standards. The creditability can thus vary depending on the level of verification.

As a way to communicate the product footprint and claim reductions, product LCA certificates and labeling are highly dependent on the objectives of the underlying product LCA projects. This is also one of the reasons why setting clear goals and targets up-front of an LCA project could go a long way.

ISO/TS 14027:2017 Environmental labels and declarations — Development of product category rules are developed to provide principles, requirements, and guidelines for developing, reviewing, registering, and updating PCR within a Type III environmental declaration or footprint communication program based on life cycle assessment (LCA) according to ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 as well as ISO 14025, ISO 14046 and ISO/TS 14067. It also provides guidance on how to address and integrate additional environmental information, whether or not it is based on LCA in a coherent and scientifically sound manner according to ISO 14025.

For instance, Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) is one of a third-party verified report of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) results. As carbon efficiency and transparency increasingly drive investment and procurement choices, EPD continues to be one of the most influential supports for decision-makers. EPDs use life-cycle assessment (LCA) to quantify and then communicate the lifetime environmental impact of a product. They are third-party verified and based on international standards, so provide an objective, credible and neutral assessment. In creating an EPD, a manufacturer is not making claims of low impact, but rather showing a commitment to measure and transparently declare environmental impact in an accessible format.

More ESG Research and Insights are Available from GC Insights Contact: for more information.

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