Our thinking – life cycle thinking
Life cycle thinking is assessing upstream supply chains, downstream, and the use of products in terms of environmental, social, and economic considerations. This approach can be qualitative or quantitative. It is applied to analyse the performance of, and improvement options for, both goods and services. Such Thinking accounts for raw material extraction and conversion, manufacture and distribution, use and/or consumption. It ends with consideration of re-use, recycling of materials, energy recovery and ultimate disposal.
A key aim of Life Cycle Thinking is to avoid burden shifting. This typically means minimising impacts at one stage of a product life cycle, or in a geographic region, or in a particular impact category, while avoiding increases elsewhere. For example, saving energy during the use phase of a product, while not increasing the amount of material needed to provide it or the complexity of the product to effectively recycle.
Life Cycle Thinking requires a policy developer, environmental manager or product designer to look beyond their own knowledge and in-house data. It requires cooperation up and down the supply chain. At the same time, this Thinking provides an opportunity to use the knowledge that has been gathered to gain significant advantages.