What is LCA

LCA in Practice / What is LCA

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a science-based technique that takes a systematic approach to quantifying the environmental impacts of a product or service throughout its life cycle. Thus, from the cradle-to-grave approach, LCA considers all impacts of a product from the extraction of raw materials, energy consumption, manufacturing, transportation, use and maintenance, recycling to the final disposal of a product.

To provide reliability and transparency, LCA is a methodology standardized by ISO 14040 and 14044 standards of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which defines the requirements and the four steps of an LCA study:

1ª Step
Definition of objective and scope:

the product to be evaluated is defined, its function for comparison with other products, as well as the necessary level of detail.

2ª Step
Inventory analysis:

in this step the data of materials and energy consumed and the emissions generated by the life cycle of a product are collected.

3ª Step
Life cycle impact assessment:

the effects of resource use and emissions generated are grouped and quantified in the form of metrics such as climate change (carbon footprint), use of non-renewable resources, acidification, water footprint, among others. The results of each indicator may also have their importance evaluated by normalization and, eventually, also by weighting.

4ª Step

The interpretation of a life cycle involves critical review, determination of data sensitivity and reporting of opportunities to reduce impacts along the entire value chain.

LCA has been one of the main tools in sustainability to identify where in the value chain the most relevant environmental impacts occur. The identification of these environmental hotspots represents an opportunity to improve the sustainability of a process or product.