In June 2023, the European Commission adopted the Integrated Product Policy, IPP for short, which aims to minimize the environmental impact of products, taking action where it’s most effective. It’s no secret that all products cause environmental degradation, whether from manufacturing, use, or disposal. Even if most corporations evaluate ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, very few of them work within the entire supply chain to do so, remaining within their traditional approaches with a focus mainly on internal processes. It’s necessary to look at all phases of a product’s life cycle, from the cradle to the grave and determine whether the greatest impacts can be reduced.
Measuring the environmental impact of individual products helps reduce the deterioration of the environment through the depletion of resources such as air, water, and soil due to industrial practices. Many organizations have innovated their business models in an effort to transition to the circular economy, but they make unsubstantiated claims to deceive consumers into believing the company’s products have a more positive environmental impact than they actually do. To avoid it, corporations should provide evidence to support their claims and use sustainability certifications. Completing a life cycle assessment (LCA) is an excellent way to be conscious and communicate about the real-life environmental impacts caused.
The LCA Is the Qualitative Basis for Your Sustainability Strategy
There’s one question people ask time and time again: what is an LCA? LCA is an acronym, and it stands for life cycle assessment, a comprehensive approach for evaluating the environmental impact associated with a product’s life cycle, which can include energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and waste generation. In the case of a manufactured product, the examination stems from the raw material extraction and processing, goes through the product’s manufacture, distribution and use, and ends with the recycling or final disposal of the materials from which it’s made. Simply put, LCA is an attempt to determine a product’s effect on the planet.
LCA Is Based On 4 Main Phases
1. Goal And Scope
During the initial phase, the purpose of the assessment is determined, namely the intended application. You decide what product you want to examine, select a functional basis for the comparison, and define the required level of detail. The main methodological choices are made at this stage. The challenge is to make sure the simplification and distortions don’t influence the results too much.
2. Inventory Analysis
During the second phase, you must undertake data collection and calculation to quantify the inputs (e.g., the use of raw materials and energy) and outputs (e.g., emission of pollutants and waste streams) of the studied system. In other words, you take a closer look at the environmental outcomes associated with your product.
3. Impact Assessment
During the third phase, a parallel is drawn between the results and environmental impact categories and indicators. You can draw the conclusion that allows you to make better business decisions. The results translate into environmental themes such as human health or global warming.
During the fourth stage, the results from the LCA are interpreted based on the stated goal and scope and opportunities for reducing the negative effects of the product on the environment are examined. You must ensure that your deductions are well-substantiated to have a satisfactory outcome, so check whether the data and procedures you used to support your conclusion can be trusted.
The Results of The LCA Are Used to Produce the EPD
Your LCA results can help you devise a sustainability strategy to create long-term benefits for the organization while being mindful of preserving and protecting resources. LCA data can be used to create the Environmental Protection Declaration (EPD), which helps you demonstrate your company’s commitment to transparency. The EPD is a descriptive summary that covers the entire lifecycle of a product, from material extraction to final disposal, encouraging the design of buildings with a light environmental load. As we all know, emissions arise from the manufacturing and processing of building materials, so achieving climate neutrality goals involves reducing immediate and deep emissions across the building lifecycle.
Once the LCA is ready, the EPD can be created by the manufacturer or the external LCA specialist using dedicated software. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) created what later became the International EDP System in 1998. Interest from different countries has increased over the years, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that EPDs are registered in more than 45 countries. The EPD is voluntary, which translates into the fact that no one will oblige you to write it or check EPDs for the products you sell. So, why publish one? Because producing documented and certified proof of the environmental performance of your products gives you a competitive advantage and helps improve supply chain management.
Is There Any Difference Between the LCA And EPD?
Both the LCA and the EPD make available reliable information on the environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle. Nevertheless, there are notable differences between the two. The EPD can be described as the short version of the LCA, as it’s simpler to read and understand. The data is already characterized. The LCA report contains sensitive company data you don’t want to disclose, such as the product’s exact recipe or detailed information about the production process. You can share the EPD with stakeholders; your behavior won’t be considered anti-competitive. The EPD will be verified in accordance with the International Standard ISO 14025, which establishes the principles and establishes procedures for developing Type III environmental declaration programs.
Using an LCA, you can identify the areas of an end-to-end product life cycle that offer opportunities for additional value creation, such as improved brand identity. By rigorously examining each step in the life cycle, you can assess the environmental impacts of your business decisions. Have a full LCA report before you create an EPD. The draft EPD document can be created in parallel with the LCA report.
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