Perspectives on managing life cycles


The life cycle approach holds great opportunity for environmental, and more broadly, sustainability, work. Through its systemic cradle-to-grave approach it reduces risks of sub-optimisation and problem shifting from one part of the life cycle to another or from one type of impact to another. It brings new insights about how action in one part of the life cycle may give effects far upstream or downstream the product chain, perhaps in vastly distant geographical locations. In this respect it is an empowering concept, which brings new opportunities for influence, beyond organisational or national borders. Many different types of actors, consumers as well as producers and policy makers, hold the potential to render product chains more sustainable. And yet, none of them fully control the chain.

It is no easy task to make use of these new insights and opportunities of influence in practical work. The management of life cycles implies a new logic for governance, focusing the purposive flow of material instead of the nation or the company. Furthermore, it is not enough to understand the physical material flow and the physical relationships in the life cycle. It must also be understood how the actors managing the physical flow between them organize the flow.

To achieve life cycle action many different scientific perspectives need to be placed on the material flows which constitute the production and consumption of the world.  The 2013 international conference on life cycle management invites social scientists and engineers/natural scientists to try and bridge the gap between them and use their different perspectives to create a richer understanding of how product life cycles may be managed sustainably. Contributions are invited under three subthemes, in themselves constituting different perspectives on the management of life cycles for sustainable value chains.

Local versus global perspectives in life cycle work

Product life cycles stretches all over the globe. And yet, action may often only be taken more locally, within a production site, a company, a nation or a settlement. The relationships between local and global perspectives constitute one of the sub-themes of the conference.

Roles and responsibilities in product life cycles and value chains

The role play between producers, consumers and policy makers is a key to the sustainable governance of life cycles. Of particular interest is ways for them to share the responsibility in a meaningful way.

Conceptions of sustainable product life cycles and value chains

In our world with a growing population with increasing material expectations, sustainable production and consumption patterns are crucial. There are many theoretical and practical approaches to this issue. The third sub-theme addresses how sustainable product life cycles may be conceived of, and how the different perspectives may complement or conflict to each other.