Economy in circles

July 29, 2020 by Bo Weidema

Circular Economy (CE) has become a hot topic. A new ISO Technical Committee, ISO TC323, will now seek to standardise the terms and measurement indicators for CE, and its four Working Groups have started drafting text for new standards. From 2.-0 LCA consultants, we are taking active part in this international standardisation work, as we have previously done for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

One of the topics that are now debated is the relationship between LCA and CE. This month, the UNEP Life Cycle Initiative published a position paper on this topic.

The position paper reminds us that Circular Economy (CE) originally was a concept coined by Pearce & Turner (1990) as an economy where wastes are recycled into resources, either through a technological feedback mechanism or through a natural ecosystem feedback mechanism, so that the stock of resources is constant or increasing over time. In other words, a circular economy is a sustainable economy. However, in the current interpretations and implementations of CE strategies, a narrower view is sometimes taken, focussing on specific physical resources, assuming that these resources are the most valuable area of protection, ignoring other resources or impacts. 

LCA has the intention to avoid burden shifting between different life cycle stages or between different resources or impacts. It can therefore be argued that LCA applied to CE strategies should be able to prevent CE strategies from overlooking potential upstream and downstream impacts, and looking beyond specific resources to a more holistic assessment of the biophysical, social and economic effects of a decision.

However, also LCA is often applied with a too narrow perspective, and the position paper highlights a number of preconditions for LCA to play the desired role:

  • Consistent accounting for changes in stocks of resources respecting mass balance principles.
  • Consistent modelling of open recycling loops.
  • The inclusion of all relevant resources and impacts, i.e. a full economy-wide Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment perspective.
  • Transparency of assumptions, reliability of data, and critical interpretation of results and trade-offs between a globally agreed numbers of impact categories, e.g. through valuation, as suggested in ISO 14008.

For both LCA and CE, it may be more economical to circle back to the original intentions and definitions, than to spiral down blind alleys of simplified interpretations and applications.


Pearce D W, Turner P K. (1990). The economics of natural resources and the environment. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf London 378 pp.

Claudia Peña C, Civit B, Gallego-Schmid A , Druckman A, Caldeira- Pires A , Weidema B, Mieras E , Wang F , Fava J , Milà i Canals L , Cordella M, Arbuckle P, Valdivia S, Fallaha S , Motta W (2020). Using Life Cycle Assessment to achieve a circular economy. Position Paper of the Life Cycle Initiative, July

SDG education performance

June 10, 2020 by admin

We are proud of our hosting University, Aalborg University (AAU), where both Jannick Schmidt and Bo Weidema work part time as researchers.

AAU takes the impressive lead position with respect to quality education (SDG 4) on the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2020 and a number 10 in relation to sustainable energy (SDG 7). Overall AAU scores the 23nd place among 766 universities from 85 countries.

Well done AAU!

The ranking is a global performance table that assesses universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using calibrated indicators to provide comparisons across three broad areas: research, outreach and stewardship.

Read more:

20 years

May 31, 2020 by admin

Our company, 2.-0 LCA consultants, celebrated its 20 years birthday on May 1st 2020 by issuing a quiz, where the below text had blanks instead of years, and the task was to fill in the correct years.

Out of the 12 blanks, the year that turned out to be most difficult to get correct was 2014, the year our sponsorship for BONSAI begun. In fact, only one person got that right, namely our winner.

The winner, with the largest number of correct answers, 10 out of 12, is Guillermo García-García, University of Sheffield, who has chosen as his prize a EUR 2400 voucher towards the course fee for his next course at the International Life Cycle Academy.

A prize was also drawn by lot among all who participated. The lucky winner of this prize is Daina Romeo, EMPA, who has chosen as her prize a free membership of the 2.-0 SDG club.

Thank you to all that quizzed with us.

The Quiz (with correct answers)

Our work with IO- and hybrid-LCA databases began in year 2000 with an International workshop in Copenhagen financed by the Danish EPA. Already then, the idea of a global multi-regional hybrid LCA database was aired. The work resulted in a Danish LCA database and later several EU projects, notably FORWAST, CREEA and DESIRE, culminating in the latest hybrid version of Exiobase 3. The work is currently continued in our Exiobase Update club.

Our work with Social LCA began in year 2002 with a presentation in conjunction with the ISO TC207 meeting in Johannesburg. The presentation concluded that “The principles of life cycle impact assessment are also relevant for social impact assessment”. From 2004, we contributed with a vice-chair to the work of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative cross-cutting “Task Force on Social Aspects in LCA”, which resulted in the 2009 Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products. The work is currently continued in our Social LCA club.

Since 2004 we have offered privileged access to a range of working documents and tools to members of our Executive club.

Our work on monetary valuation as part of Life Cycle Impact Assessment began with a project for the EU JRC in Ispra. Based on the year where we finished this project, the resulting monetary valuation method was baptised Stepwise2006. Later, we participated in drafting the ISO 14008 on monetary valuation, published in 2019, and now we continue the improvement of the scientific quality of the method in our Monetarisation club.

Indirect land use change has been on our agenda since 2007, and we continue to develop the quality of the data and models through our iLUC club.

Since 2011 we have sponsored the International Life Cycle Academy, to ensure the continued provision of high-quality training opportunities in quantitative sustainability assessment.

Since 2014 we have sponsored BONSAI, with the aim that all data, software and algorithms to produce “product footprints” are maintained as open source

Consequential modelling has always been indispensable for our work with LCA. During the years, we have given a lot of advice to developers of standards and guidelines, and in 2015 we collected much of this as a free web resource:

In 2017, we launched the SDG club, a crowd-funded project to place each of the indicators for 169 targets of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals into a comprehensive, quantified and operational impact pathway framework. Since 2018 this project runs under the auspices of the UN Life Cycle Initiative.


Politicians listen: Biomass is not CO2-neutral

February 18, 2020 by admin

A government hearing on biomass in the Danish Parliament has being going around social media lately, not so much because of the content, but because American star-journalist Michael Grunwald tweeted about the sober way the politicians behaved during the hearing: “I couldn’t tell which pols were in which party or what biases any of them had about the topic being discussed. It really seemed like they were there to learn. And by the end it was clear they had.”

We are proud to say that our CEO, Jannick Scmidt was an invited expert witness at the hearing, alongside foreign expert witnesses such as Searchinger. In his allotted 10 minutes, Jannick managed to clarify the intricacies of direct and indirect land use consequences as well as the overall climate consequences of burning biomass for energy. The take-home-message to the politicians were: If you ask if biomass is climate neutral, then a resounding ‘no’ is the only possible answer.

Then, Jannick explained why: When you burn forest biomass you release CO2. The re-growth of the forest takes time, so the uptake of CO2 from the air happens over a long time compared to the instantaneous release when burning. This difference in timing of the release and uptake of CO2 is important because less CO2-emissions are needed now, while a reduction in CO2 has less importance if it happens later. Secondly, if the biomass is grown in biomass plantations, then the land cannot be used for food production, and this will in the end lead to expansion into nature as well as increased fertilizer use on other land. This mechanism is called indirect land use change (iLUC). Globally, according to IPCC, CO2 from deforestation contributes with around 11% of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, even if biomass is harvested without affecting the cultivated land, for example, when tree tops, smaller branches, and forest debris are removed as part of a forestry operation and used as fuel, this leads to CO2-emissions now, instead of the slower decomposition on the forest floor with a more gradual CO2 release. So when the politicians decide to allow burning of forest residues, this leads to CO2 emissions and subsequent environmental impact right now, on their watch.

We can only hope that Michael Grunwald is right that the politicians listened. At least the message is clear.


The meeting (in Danish) is recorded and can be found via this link, as can the Danish abstract

Michael Grunwalds tweet about the Danish hearing on Threadreader