Why take a life cycle approach?
For many years, reducing environmental and social impacts focused on specific activities. This remains important. These actions help, for example, to successfully address the issues of reducing air and water pollution from a specific operation. However, this does not necessarily account for the shifting of burdens – solving one problem while creating another. Solutions therefore may not be optimal and may even be counter-productive.
A win-win situation
Life Cycle Thinking can help identify opportunities and lead to decisions that help improve environmental and social performance and image associated with supply chains, end-of-life waste management, as well as when using products. This may help reduce associated risks and improve economic benefits. This approach demonstrates that responsibility for reducing environmental impacts and improving social conditions is being taken.
In policy assessment and implementation:
For those working in the field of policy development, Life Cycle Thinking and Assessment are beneficial for a number of reasons:
- Gathering baseline information on social, environmental, and economic considerations for market-orientated policies and the promotion of innovative product design
- Accounting for trade-offs between options
- Understanding trends in product supply chains and where it may be best to influence the chain
- Developing resource strategies, such as optimal waste management
- Better informing consumers through the use of labeling schemes and the use of Green Public Procurement (GPP).
In Business decision support:
In business, Life Cycle Thinking and Assessment can help to:
- Understand which parts of a product’s life cycle in terms of social, economic, and environmental considerations, to facilitate material and economic efficiency, risk avoidance, and many other life cycle management opportunities.
- Create an improved market position and customer image through schemes such as ecolabels, Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) and carbon labels
- Achieve closer cooperation with suppliers and customers regarding product risks, development and marketing
- Foster better relations with authorities, stakeholder groups and with other collaborative partners
- Improve the company’s image to shareholders and customers“.