Life Cycle Assessment and Carbon Footprinting have moved from the shadows into the limelight; a strategic tool for environmentally leading companies like Apple, Alcan Packaging, Volkswagen, Dassault Solidworks, Evonik, and Heidelberger Druckmaschinen.
Experts from these extremely successful companies shared their view on their success factors and expertise at the “Best practice in applied LCA and Carbon Footprinting” Symposium 2009.
by Michael Betz, Claudia Meder, Daniel Maier, PE INTERNATIONAL & Jim Fava, Five Winds International
What a day was had on 28 October 2009 in Stuttgart, Germany. Over 200 professionals from throughout Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and Latin America participated in what was one of the best interactions to learn on applying life cycle assessment and carbon foot printing.
Twenty years of LCA and GaBi Software
Twenty years ago, Dr. Peter Eyerer, then director of the LBP – University of Stuttgart – initiated a program entitled life cycle engineering, which lead to the creation of one of the best, if not the leading LCA software GaBi, its extensive global life cycle inventory data base, and the generation of hundreds of life cycle professionals entering the workforce.
LCA - to understand the impact of products
During a similar timeframe, the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) was embarking on their efforts to establish the technical framework for life cycle assessment, which laid the foundation for the ISO LCA standards and ultimately the partnership between UNEP and SETAC with the life cycle initiative to advance the practical life cycle approaches globally. The junior author was instrumental in moving this latter expansion of the development and application of LCA over this period. Collectedly these efforts have shaped the future of life cycle assessment moving towards a practical tool to understand the impacts of product systems over their entire life cycle.
sustainable buildings, greener products, carbon footprints..
Until recently the focus on environmental issues was often on the manufacturing facilities; now with the globally accepted importance of understanding the full life cycle impacts of products linked to more sustainable buildings, greener products by retailers and consumers, and critical need to reduce our carbon releases, tools like life cycle assessment are in demand.
This important forum provided an in-depth examination of several key learning’s:
There is proven experience in conducting LCA and carbon footprint studies – we have now 20 years with IKP, PE and others, ISO LCA standards exist, and we are also moving towards carbon and water standards with groups like WRI/WBCSD and ISO. Software, databases and simpler user friendly tools (what if tools) are surfacing and becoming more common within companies – e.g., VW’s experience to reduce the time to complete assessments from originally 150 days to 30 days to 3 hours in certain applications; Alcan Packaging’s ASSET tool and other industrial design support tools (e.g. SolidWorks). There was a call for a continual need for updated, reliable data and user friendly software.
We will continue to improve our tool box, including LCA tools – e.g., land use, water use; and we will also go beyond LCA tools to include complementary tools like life cycle costing, eco-efficiency, social – moving towards life cycle sustainability assessment.
There is increasing interest in applying the results to provide additional information to inform decision making – within the private sectors users/buyers, e.g., fleet managers, retailers, building and construction architects and engineers, and greener electricity providers are using or talking about using LCA; and within the government sector, the enormous buying power of governments; and the creation of stimulus packages (percent greener technologies being used) are examples of this increasing application.
Ability to communicate with the downstream market place and application of a proven methodology to identify tradeoffs are just two of the proven applications of LCA
Sustained applications of life cycle approaches requires integration into the company and business units functions
The forum to learn from the best was successful. While we learned a lot, there is obviously much more to be learned particularly in building capacity in both the user of life cycle knowledge and information as will as the practitioners who perform the studies. Our collectedly abilities to be able to communicate to the scientific, business and broader society with stories and explanation that can be understood will be a critical factor in the long term success in taking a life cycle approach towards a more sustainable future for ourselves and our children.
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Eyerer
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Klaus Sedlbauer
Universität Stuttgart LBP and Fraunhofer IBP
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Finkbeiner
Dr.-Ing. Stephan Krinke
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Jens Hesselbach
University of Kassel
Dr. Gerald Rebitzer
Confederation of Danish Industries
DassaultSystèmes Solid Works
Akzo Nobel Surfactants
Bay Zoltán Foundation for Applied Research
British American Tobacco
Carbon Disclosure Project
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
DI-Confederation of Danish Industries
Dow Chemical Company
Ecole des Mines d'Alès
FEVE - European Container Glass Federation
Gesamtverband der Aluminiumindustrie
Hydro Building Systems
Institut for industrial ecology
Lappeenranta University of Technology
Man A Frozen Foods
MTT Agrifood Research Finland
Novicor Technology Partners
Rieter Automotive Management
Salzburg University of Applied Sciences
Süleyman Demirel University
Technical University of Berlin
Technical University of Munich
Unisource Global Solutions
University of Brussel
University of Colorado
University of Esslingen
University of Hohenheim
University of Kassel
University of Manchester
University of Rome
Universitat Rovira i Virgili
University of Stuttgart LBP
University of Technology of Troyes
VDE - Testing and Certification Institute
Voith Hydro Holding
Yadava College Madurai