TU.1.D || Life Cycle Thinking in Companies and Organizations

Beemsterboer, Sjouke

LCA is used to model and assess potential environmental impacts connected to product life cycles as well as identify opportunities to reduce those impacts. Despite great progress made in LCA, it remains difficult to realise more sustainable product chains. A response frequently cited in the LCM community is that LCA is merely a tool in the LCM toolbox, even if an important one. Converting modelled improvements into actual sustainability improvements requires actions by other actors in the product chain. Without denying the importance of such other activities to LCM, it is unjust to reduce LCA to an instrument in the toolbox of the LCM practitioner. Furthermore, the ‘toolbox model’ suggests a conceptual separation between LCA and LCM that is not obvious when observing industry practice. This conference contribution offers a more nuanced explanation of the relation between LCA and LCM practices. An empirically grounded description is given of the tight coupling between LCA and LCM work. The empirical account comes from a longitudinal case study of a building development project in Scandinavia. In the project, LCA was applied to assess the improvements made to the sustainability performance of the building design. The case study presents a process description of 1.) the formation of the development project and 2.) the goal and scope phase in the LCA study. The case descriptions show how LCA analysts and the product development team enter in a process of negotiation and mutual adjustment to steer the project as well as the LCA study. The empirical account illustrates how difficult it is to analytically separate LCA from the development project while the process is ongoing. Instead, a picture emerges where LCA and LCM are enacted together through a process of negotiation and mutual adjustment.