LCSA database and method

September 28, 2022 by admin

This summer we published our new fully quantitative Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) method and database, all open access. We call it the 2021 Social Footprint method. Social as in welfare economics: ‘An accounting that encompasses the entire societal economy’, not limited to Social as one of the triple bottom lines. And 2021 to signal a significant update from the first 2018 publication.

This month, I presented the method at the 8th International Social Life Cycle Assessment Conference in Aachen, and you can now view the presentation on our YouTube channel. Some important highlights:

  • The impact categories are now based on the ‘capitals’ approach, which ensures complete coverage of impacts on all global assets: natural, manufactured, intellectual, human capabilities, and social networks, while still being quantifiable in the same unit of Quality-Adjusted person-Life-Years (QALYs).
  • Data are available for 163 countries (> 99% of the World in terms of GDP, population, and impacts), bounded by the subjective wellbeing data from the annual UN Happiness reports.
  • Low requirement for company-specific data.
  • 78% of the global impacts are related to inequality in income, which means that results are very easy to interpret and act upon: The more even the income levels are in the product life cycle, the better the social footprint. Once you have identified the hotspots in the life cycle in this way, the database provides ample options for identifying which impacts contribute the most to social impacts in each country, so that you can target your improvements towards the most important problems (and even quantify them).

Consequential social event

May 18, 2022 by Bo Weidema

Yesterday we hosted a very enjoyable Consequential LCA social event in relation to SETAC in Copenhagen for 60 engaged LCA practitioners.

We took this opportunity launch the new playlist on our Youtube channel. So over yummy food, strawberry cakes and wine (including seriously good non-alcoholic alternatives) we shared the new series of 10 videos on Consequential Modelling – in Life Cycle Inventory Analysis.

This series is a small part of an on-going effort to provide the LCA community with freely available education materials on very specific details of Life Cycle Assessment. We regularly teach on-site university courses at Aalborg University (Denmark), at the International Life Cycle Academy (Barcelona), and at in-house courses for companies, where this series of online lectures provides the foundation for QA sessions and targeted exercises.

Below video begins the series:

Consequential LCA is the new trend

April 25, 2022 by admin

During the last two years, we have experienced an exponential increase in the demand for consequential Life Cycle Assessments. This is a welcome development, since we have always regarded consequential LCA as the most efficient way to achieve real improvements in environmental impacts. We pride ourselves of a history of more than 20 years of active contributions to the development of the research field of LCA.

Since it appears that consequential is the new trend in LCA, we are currently seeking new colleagues for our offices in Aalborg, Amsterdam, Barcelona, and Copenhagen, both at entry level and with challenges for the more experienced management consultants. We work in small teams, so we all learn on the job as we continually strive for excellence in all we do. Does this sound like you? Check out our generic page for job openings and see a small selection of our recent projects.

Consequential LCA social event

If you happen to be in Copenhagen at the time of the SETAC conference, and you have a strong interest in consequential LCA, why not come and meet us for a snack and a drink at the Consequential LCA social at the Copenhagen Campus of Aalborg University (close to the conference venue) on Tuesday 17th at 19:00-21:00? The event is sponsored by 2.-0 LCA consultants together with the Danish Centre for Environmental Assessment.

Open data for Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment

February 20, 2022 by Bo Weidema

4½ years after starting the crowdfunded SDG club we can now present the first complete set of open data for Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment. The results have been made possible by the support from our business partners, including ArcelorMittal, Corbion, Novozymes, and Janus, with funding from the UNEP Life Cycle Initiative SDG project.

The data files include quantitative impact data for 76 impact categories for 163 countries covering more than 99% of global population, GDP and impacts. By applying the ‘capitals’ approach to defining the Areas of Protection, we ensure the 76 impact categories provide an exhaustive coverage of all social, ecosystem and economic impacts. Another unique contribution of our method is the use of sustainable wellbeing (utility, measured in Quality-Adjusted person-Life-Years, QALY) as a comprehensive summary indicator. This allows to quantify relative importance, trade-offs, and synergies across impact categories, and to compare business decisions, performance, and improvement options across industries.

The data files include impact pathways descriptions structured under 17 topics, largely mirroring the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), however restructuring the indicators so as to avoid overlaps and gaps. The data files include the links between the 17 impact pathway topics and each of the 244 official SDG indicators. Characterisation factors are still under development for each specific impact pathway, linking back to the pressure category indicators, which have been defined to allow for aggregation and disaggregation at any level of geographical, organisational, and product detail.

We find that 31 of the 76 impact categories, representing 78% of all wellbeing impacts, are related to missing governance at the country level, ultimately linked to economic pressure indicators of inequality, notably ‘underpayment of labour and taxes’ and (insufficient) ‘voluntary transfers’. The insight that a large part of the overall impacts (here 78%) come from the same limited set of pressure indicators was used as basis for developing the ‘social footprint’ methodology (Weidema 2018), which has now been updated with these latest method and data improvements. Another 28 impact categories, representing 13% of all wellbeing impacts can be described as having ‘data reasonably available’, including those related to global warming, leaving only 17 impact categories, representing 9% of all wellbeing impacts, with poor availability of pressure category indicators.

The further work on characterisation factors and methodological and data improvements will continue via the crowdfunded Social and Sustainability LCA club where members have early access to updates and support for implementation of the current method in their own case studies.