Print Print Send link Bookmark and Share

Life-cycle assessment

Competence

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a comprehensive and standardised method of evaluating the environmental aspects and potential environmental impacts of products. The LCA approach can also be applied in evaluating the impact of technologies and processes. An LCA study covers the whole life cycle of products, from raw materials’ acquisition until end use, recycling, or disposal. New areas of application and research include life cycle costing (LCC), social life cycle assessment (S-LCA), and life cycle sustainability assessment.

LCA provides information to support decision-making in product and technology development projects. LCA-based information is applied in eco-labelling and production of environmental product declarations. An LCA approach can also be applied in evaluation of eco-efficiency, material- and energy-efficiency, and eco-design and life cycle design.

With over 20 years of experience, we apply LCA in research projects and customer work for several sectors of industry. VTT’s researchers participate actively in the development of LCA methodology and tools in Finland and internationally.

Solutions and tools

We work on and offer the following:

  • Life cycle assessment studies and critical reviews in accordance with the ISO 14040 and the ILCD Handbook
  • Carbon footprints and water footprints
  • EU environmental footprints
  • Environmental product declarations (EPDs) based on ISO 14025
  • Application of LCA methodology in product and technology development projects
  • Eco-design and life-cycle design
  • The LCA software SULCA
  • Training related to LCA and its applications

Challenges

Each LCA study must be planned separately and involve large-scale information-gathering. Understanding the processes and products studied is important for evaluation of the correctness of the data used in the assessment and for interpreting the results. All products have some impact on the environment, but improving one part of the life cycle can cause deterioration in another. For ability to evaluate the sustainability of a product or technology, several indicators and extensive data collection are required.

Development of environmental impact categories related to land use and land-use change is among the current research and development activities in the field of LCA. Development of practical land-use indicators is especially relevant in the case of renewable raw materials. Other challenging issues currently being examined are inclusion of water demand and water depletion factors, and the research methods related to social-life-cycle assessment.

Benefits

The following are among the benefits offered:

  • Detailed information about products’ environmental impact that covers the whole life cycle
  • Evaluation of ‘hot spots’ and critical phases in the life cycle
  • A scientific base for environment-related communication to stakeholders, customers, and consumers
  • Background documents for eco-labels (in line with ISO 14024) and environmental product declarations (ISO 14025)

References


Additional information

Tiina Pajula
Principal Scientist, Team Leader
+358 20 722 7480