Research methods and reflections


Broadening the scope of life cycle approaches

Life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) is an upcoming area of life cycle studies. Recently, the International Society of Industrial Ecology (ISIE) has launched a topical Section on LCSA, the UNEP-SETAC life cycle initiative dedicated a Working Group to the topic, and the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment decided to dedicate a special section to this subject. LCSA has thus quickly become a very popular topical area, which is also reflected by the number of Journal publications addressing this topic. Despite the fact that there are still many questions related to the concept of LCSA, first LCSA applications have started emerging.

LCA is thus evolving into LCSA, which appears to be a trans-disciplinary framework for integration of models rather than a model in itself since practitioners of LCSA apply a plethora of disciplinary models.

This session invites abstract addressing experiences with the application of case studies and development of methods integrating environmental, economic and social assessment of life cycle systems. Both qualitative and quantitative applications and methods are welcomed. Particularly welcome are abstracts addressing the relation between sustainability questions addressed and models adopted. How do life cycle sustainability questions steer the development and implementation of related concepts and approaches such as industrial ecology, industrial metabolism, systems thinking, environmental damage costs and social cost assessment, and how do these questions steer the selection of appropriate models and methods (like LCA, LCC, Social LCA, Environmentally Extended Input Output Analysis, Material Flow Analysis, Cost Benefit Analysis, Eco-Efficiency Analysis, etc.). Abstracts on combinations of life cycle concepts with methods such as agent based modeling, optimisation techniques etc. are also highly welcomed, particularly when covering all three dimensions of sustainability.

Format: Oral session and posters


Does research matter? – The role of LCA and LCM tools in public policy-making

It is hardly questionable that public policy-making is key to induce and manage transitions to environmentally more sustainable production and consumption systems. Neither would few question the importance of science-based environmental assessments as an important input in societal debates on desirable directions of development. Nevertheless, it is far from clear how and to what extent environmental assessments are considered when public policy is formed. In this session we seek to discuss a number of questions related to the use of formal environmental assessments in policy processes. How are different types of environmental assessments used by different policy actors to learn, find arguments, form opinions and justify decisions? How do the organization of policy making affect the utilization of environmental assessments? Are there important differences between countries? How are arguments obtained from environmental assessments weighted against other objectives in policy-making and affected by the political power of stakeholders? To what extent are slower and more elusive learning processes more important than the direct use of research results?

Format: Oral session and posters


LCA critical review

Environmental managers and government policy makers are becoming increasingly aware of the need to follow the holistic approach of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to move us in a strategic direction towards environmental sustainability. Along with this increasing realization has been an explosive growth in the number of LCA studies being conducted. The LCA community is now faced with the serious challenge of meeting the growing demand for the review of LCA data and reports. Complicating this issue is the lack of a standardized review process.  Although it has long been realized that critical peer review (CPR) is important and an essential component of LCA, there is no clear procedure or rule-book as to what makes for good critical review. In order to maintain the credibility of LCA methodology as a viable environmental management tool, clearer guidance for conducting CPR is needed. In addition, the demand for CPR is increasing faster than the supply of available, qualified experts to serve as technical reviewers. This panel session will discuss these issues along with the role of practitioner certification, the conduct of quality reviews of LCA datasets and databases contained in publicly available reports and journal articles, and how to approach reviewing LCA methodology and applications.

Presentations on the following topical areas will be considered for inclusion in this session:

- Procedures and best practices for Critical Peer Review (CPR)
- Theory of CPR and comparison to other similar to assurance processes , such as
- Qualifications and accreditation of reviewers
- Growing the pool of qualified reviewers
- Assessing and evaluation the quality of CPR (speed, depth, etc.)
- Experiences and case studies in CPR
- CPR needs in developing eco-labels and product category rules (PCRs)
- Uses and consequences of CPR

Format: Oral session and posters


LCM and decision making – what we have learnt

LCM is an effective management system, drawing upon the over-arching framework of Life Cycle Thinking, and supported by a strong business case and a strong corporate governance and responsibility focus. The management system is populated by various systems and procedures, tools and metrics, and supported by relevant data, information and knowledge insights. The way in which all of these contributions come together should be aligned with business decision making processes – across entire value chains; within procurement, processing and manufacturing; covering product sales and end-of-life management; in service delivery; and in nurturing institutional and stakeholder relationships.

This session has two objectives:
1) To make explicit the beneficial lessons from available LCA studies and demonstrate how such knowledge and information can be used to inform product design, material selection, supplier evaluation and end of life management. The value of this articulation should be to educate audiences to better inform decision and policy making across consumer clusters and value chains.

2) To discuss what tools other than LCA are useful for LCM-based decision making. The value of this articulation is to educate audiences that a tool box is needed to ensure the full range of sustainability information is available. 

Contributors are invited to address either of these topics with specific examples from different consumer clusters and decision contexts, including amongst others

a) a product and value chain focus
b) a systems design focus
c) a go to market focus
d) a policy focus
e) a technology focus

Given the LCM 2013 sub-theme of “local versus global perspectives”, contributions which address geo-political issues in LCM based decision making are particularly welcome.

Format: Oral session and posters