Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

LCA models the use of materials and energy and calculates environmental impacts as a result of this use during extraction, processing, manufacturing, transportation, use, reuse, maintenance, recycling and eventual disposal.

Knowing about LCA and how it works can help designers and specifiers to select products and services that have a lower environmental impact. Depending on the scope of an LCA, it can quantify potential impacts across this entire life of a product or just one part, such as manufacturing.  When using LCA data it is important to understand what the assessment covers and what has been left out.

Life Cycle-Based Sustainability — Standards

Numerous standards and guidelines have recently been developed by public and private organizations in order to meet society’s needs for credible and comparable environmental metrics at the product and organization level. Many initiatives follow a life cycle approach which means that environmental impacts are assessed from the acquisition of raw materials through to manufacturing, distribution, use and end-of-life. The concept is well-known for products, which is generally termed a life cycle assessment (LCA), but is lately also applied to organizations, also called a value chain or scope 3 analysis, for example.


A centralized overview of standards can help companies to better understand the developments of global and regional reporting standards and guidelines, which are applicable to their company or products. By being better informed, companies can determine the most appropriate standards and guidelines to follow and how to meet the requirements of the individual e orts. This knowledge will enable companies to maximize the bene t of their sustainability investment. Below we present several well-known, and some lesser known life cycle-based protocols and standards that are in use today.

Product Standards and Guidelines

ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 

The leading standards for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) are ISO 14040 and ISO 14044. These international standards focus mainly on the process of performing an LCA. Requirements and guidelines are given for:

– Definition of the goal and scope of the LCA
– Life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase
– Life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase
– Interpretation phase
– Reporting and critical review of the LCA


ISO 14040:2006 – Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Principles and framework ISO 14044:2006 – Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Requirements and guidelines


ISO 14024 (Type I label)

Voluntary, multiple-criteria based, third party program developed for a specific product or products. Examples include the EU ecolabel, Blue angel, Ecologo, etc.

ISO 14024 – Type I Label


ISO 14021 (Type II label)

Type II is for any written or spoken environmental statement or claim. There are no xed criteria, manufacturers simply declare the information they wish to communicate about the environmental attributes of their products.
ISO 14021 – Type II Label