Nature conservation in life cycle assessment – new method and case study with the palm oil industry

Schmidt J (2015)

Publication info

Extended abstract for presentation at the SETAC2015, Barcelona 3-7 May 2015


In agriculture and forestry, an important means for mitigating impacts on biodiversity and climate change is nature conservation. However, this is seldom included in life cycle assessment (LCA) and most LCA and footprint guidelines prescribe that such off-setting shall be excluded from the system (e.g. ISO 14067; PEF guideline; ILCD guideline; PAS2050; the GHG protocol). Obviously, there are good reasons for excluding off-setting in the guidelines, however in some cases the distance between the studied product system and a mitigation option (offset) is very short, and the industry managing the product system may be the (only) one who is able to conserve high value biodiversity and carbon stock areas. This is the case of companies operating in countries where the frontier between product systems and high conservation value nature is moving.

The purpose of this paper is to describe how the most recent research within indirect land use changes (iLUC) can be used to creating a cause-effect based method for quantifying the life cycle implications of nature conservation. The application of the method is demonstrated with a case study LCA of palm oil production at United Plantations Berhad in Malaysia and Indonesia. With their recent expansion of the plantation area into Central Kalimantan Indonesia, United Plantations has voluntarily set-aside more than 8000 ha of high value conservation and high carbon stock land for permanent nature conservation. The findings are used to recommend how LCA and footprint guidelines should be revised in order to enable for the inclusion of important mitigation options.

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