Life Cycle Analysis – How LCA works
Life cycle analysis (LCA) is the systematic approach of looking at a product’s complete life cycle, from raw materials to final disposal of the product.
How LCA Works
Life cycle analysis examines the environmental impacts of a product by considering the major stages of a product’s life, which are:
- Raw material acquisition, which includes material harvesting and transportation to manufacturing sites;
- Processing,which involves materials processing and transportation to production sites;
- Manufacturing,which includes product manufacture and assembly, packaging, and transportation to final distribution;
- Product life, which includes energy and emissions during normal product life, required maintenance, and product reuse (refurbishing, material reuse); and
- Waste management/end of life, which includes recycling, landfills, liquid waste, gas emissions,
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Lifecycle Perspective for ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management Systems
Getting a management perspective on life cycles in environmental terms is nothing particularly new. But what is, is its direct incorporation into the latest version of ISO 14001:2015.
The good news is that the inclusion of life cycles in ISO 14001:2015 doesn’t mean an intricate and heavily detailed analysis. The standard states in Annex A that a detailed life cycle assessment is not required “…. thinking carefully about the life cycle stages that can be controlled or influenced by the organization is sufficient “.
It calls this lower level approach taking a life cycle ‘perspective’ rather than an ‘assessment’ and the difference is an important one. One of the differences is the extent of an organization’s ‘control’ or ‘influence’ over the various life cycle stages and how that extent will be a crucial factor in the breadth of the perspective considering the whole cycle. Thinking about the practical limits of where an organization can directly control matters, where it can influence them and where that influence begins to have little or no effect will certainly force clarity on the scope of the exercise and on the environmental management system (EMS).
Top Level Lifecycle Exercise can Reap Benefits for organization through ISO 14001:2015!
Even though the standard is clearly steering organizations away from a detailed life cycle assessment in the initial stages, the top level exercise like the one being promoted can still reap benefits (for example, new design possibilities, energy savings, synergies in the supply chain). Any more detailed follow-up analysis, however, is in the hands of the organization itself and can’t be ‘demanded’ by an auditor or driven by an external certification body.
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