LCA in the Broader Context of the 3 Pillars of Sustainability

10:30-12:00 Session 2A: LCA in the Broader Context of the 3 Pillars of Sustainability

This session will look at the broader picture of sustainability and LCA’s place in it. From applying LCA to social impacts to incorporating it into goals and decision-making, this session will explore both the conceptual and concrete ways LCA fits within the context of a sustainable society, rounding out with how LCA is driving behavior today.


Franziska Eisfeldt and Andreas Ciroth a new, comprehensive and interactive database for social LCA – why, and how

ABSTRACT. In a globalized world it is becoming more difficult to find out where products and all their components come from and under which conditions they are produced. More and more customers care about all of the impacts the products and goods they purchase leave behind over their whole live cycle. Hence, the demand for more transparency along supply chains in order to have a choice between more or less sustainable products is growing. However, while Environmental Life Cycle Assessments (E-LCA) are comparatively easy to carry out, the social impacts of products along their life cycles are hard to uncover. A database which contains transparent and comprehensive information about the social impacts of products does not yet exist. If nothing else, because social data is often of qualitative nature and, therefore, difficult to access, organize and evaluate.

The increasing necessity of Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA), however, requires solutions and methods for the most urgent questions: What topics, indicators and type of data are appropriate and necessary for S-LCA? And how can such data be made tangible, measurable and practicable?

Bearing these problems in mind, GreenDelta is developing a database – PSILCA – that aims to be a comprehensive and up-to-date foundation for S-LCA containing global data for every industry sector. In order to make S-LCAs of different products comparable, a rather broad set of quantitative and qualitative social indicators will be covered by the database using the subcategories proposed in the UNEP/SETAC guidance book as a starting point. The assessment of indicators is transparently based on performance reference points that can be adapted to individual requirements, by the user. External input about the further development of PSILCA is provided by an expert and user group.

The completely new database shows how social data can be organized, assessed and finally used for social LCA or Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment. Another field of application is to investigate social impacts independently, in order to detect potential social risks in product life cycles. Furthermore, positive social impacts hidden in product supply chains can also be revealed by applying PSILCA.

In the presentation the methodology, composition and intended usage of the database will be outlined, based on a case study for guitars. Possible improvements and forms of use will be discussed, such as, for example, the combination of the PSILCA approach of S-LCA with E-LCA.


Shawn HunterMark Weick and Rich Helling Beyond the Footprint and Handprint to the Blueprint: How Life Cycle Assessment Can Help Humanity Transition to a Sustainable Society SPEAKER: Rich Helling / Presentation

ABSTRACT. After decades of global, corporate, local, and personal sustainability-driven efforts, human society still remains on an unsustainable trajectory [1]. Critical to these sustainability efforts in recent decades, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been an important framework and tool for identifying environmental benefits and tradeoffs of products and technologies. In some cases, LCA has been blamed when progress has not been made despite its adoption. However, it is clear that LCA is not a “magic bullet” of sustainability, but instead a tool to help guide solutions to sustainability challenges.

The Dow Chemical Company is a global organization committed to solving sustainability challenges. In 2015, The Dow Chemical Company announced its third decade of corporate sustainability goals. In its 2005 Environmental, Health & Safety Goals, the company focused on its footprint, setting culture-changing goals to improve safety performance and operational efficiency. In its 2015 Sustainability Goals, Dow expanded beyond footprint to focus on its “handprint” – the positive life cycle impact of its products – and dedicated significant LCA resources to measuring, improving, and communicating the life cycle impact of its products using. In its 2025 Sustainability Goals [2], Dow has moved beyond footprint and handprint to stress the importance of a “blueprint” – the combination of technology, public policy, and behavior change that will lead human society to sustainability.

This talk will demonstrate the importance of LCA and life-cycle thinking in defining a blueprint and achieving the transition to a sustainable society. We will provide examples where LCA is critical to defining solutions at the intersection of technology, public policy, and behavior change. By applying LCA to a blueprint, we can help human society to move from an unsustainable trajectory to one that allows billions of people to live well within the limits of the planet.


1. Global Environment Outlook 5, UNEP (2012),, accessed 28 April, 2015. 2. Dow Launches 2025 Sustainability Goals to Help Redefine the Role of Business in Society,, accessed 15 April, 2015.


Kiyotada HayashiHiroki HondoYue MoriizumiAya Heiho and Ryota Ito Preference construction processes for renewable energies: Assessing influence of sustainability information and decision support methods SPEAKER: Kiyotada Hayashi /

ABSTRACT. The number of studies applying multi-criteria decision analysis to energy choices within the framework of life cycle sustainability assessment is increasing [1–3]. However, earlier studies are not explicit about how preferences are constructed by acquiring sustainability information and by applying decision support methods. Therefore, we conducted an experimental study to prove the hypothesis that acquisition of sustainability information and use of decision support methods consistently construct participants’ preferences.

We focused on electricity generation technologies using renewable energies. The energy sources include solar power, wind power, small-scale hydroelectric power, geothermal power, wood biomass, and biogas. The sustainability information was prepared using a renewable energy-focused input-output model of Japan and contains life-cycle GHG emissions, electricity generation cost, and employment generated by the technologies. Each criterion corresponds to the environmental, economic, and social aspect of sustainability.

We measured rank-ordered preferences at the following four steps in experimental workshops conducted for 18 municipal officials, who were not familiar with sustainability assessment and decision analysis: (1) provision of the energy source names; (2) provision of the sustainability information; (3) provision of additional explanation about public value; and (4) provision of knowledge and techniques about multi-attribute value functions [4], wherein single-attribute value functions are supposed to be linear. In the steps 1–3, the preferences were measured through sorting cards with each energy source name or cards with sustainability information for each technology. In the step 4, we used the weighting procedure with appropriate range sensitivity of attribute weights [5]. The degree of changes in preferences was measured using Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient. The consistency of preferences among participants was measured by the maximum eigenvalue for the coefficient matrix.

The results are summarized as follows: (1) The individual preferences evolved drastically in response to the sustainability information and the decision support method. (2) The preferences among participants became more consistent by acquiring the sustainability information and the decision support method. These results indicate that the systematic development of sustainability criteria is essential for a more deliberate human behavior and that information provision coupled with decision support technologies is effective for collective decision making.


[1] Bessette, D.L., Arvai, J., Campbell-Arvai, V., 2014. Decision support framework for developing regional energy strategies. Environmental Science and Technology, 48, 1401–8. [2] Maxim, A, 2014. Sustainability assessment of electricity generation technologies using weighted multi-criteria decision analysis. Energy Policy, 65, 284–297. [3] Santoyo-Castelazo, E., Azapagic, A., 2014. Sustainability assessment of energy systems: Integrating environmental, economic and social aspects. Journal of Cleaner Production, 80, 119–138. [4] Goodwin P., Wright, G., 2014. Decision Analysis for Management Judgment, 5th Edition, Wiley. [5] Keeney R.L., 2002. Common mistakes in making value trade-offs. Operations Research, 50, 935–945.


Steven McGreevy and Atsushi Inaba The story behind the scans: A review of food LCA smartphone apps and their impact on consumers and industrySPEAKER: Steven McGreevy / Presentation

ABSTRACT. In recent years, smartphone app use has risen dramatically and with it have emerged a number of educational apps that use LCA to communicate the environmental and social impacts of purchasing certain food products. For example, in the Netherlands, the app “Questionmark” has a database of nearly 30,000 food products and measures public health, environment, human rights, and animal welfare impacts. While these apps are innovative ways to educate consumers about how their food choices affect the world, are they enough of a trigger to induce behavioral change over the short or long-term? Additionally, are the apps able to apply pressure on the food industry to change or improve their operations toward ecological or social betterment? Through an online investigation and interviews of smartphone app developers, this paper reviews a number of food-related LCA smartphone apps used in Europe and North America and evaluates their capacities, functionality, and interface/design. We also analyze the apps’ overall significance in terms of consumer use and educational benefit, as well as their ability and potential to induce change on the side of industry. Finally, we speculate on a design for the “ideal food LCA smartphone app” geared for use in Asian countries.