Comparison of different normalised LCIA results and their feasibility in communication

Helena Dahlbo, Sirkka Koskela, Hanna Pihkola, Minna Nors, Maija Federley, Jyri Seppälä

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    Abstract

    Purpose: The purpose of this study was to answer the following three questions: (1) What are the reference values of normalisation for Finnish production and Finnish consumption and how do they differ from the European reference values?, (2) How do these differences influence the interpretation of normalised LCIA results?, and (3) How can normalised LCIA results be made more comprehensible to non-LCA experts with the help of communication material? Methods: Finnish reference values for normalisation were calculated on the basis of the Finnish environmentally extended input-output model and ReCiPe LCIA method. The influence of different normalised results on the interpretation of LCIA was assessed based on an LCA study of print products. LCA communication material (product-specific fact sheets) was developed by organising workshops and interviews with stakeholders in the paper and printing industry. Results and discussion: A comparison of the production based Finnish reference values to the European reference values shows that Finland contributes roughly 1 % to the European values in all impact categories except in the fossil depletion category where the contribution is 3 %. The order of magnitude of the impact categories varies depending on the reference system used for normalisation, which influences the interpretation of LCIA results. The normalised results were made more comprehensible by developing fact sheets including background information and guidance for interpretation of the LCIA results. Conclusions: The interpreter of normalised LCIA results does not usually have the information to estimate how the chosen reference system influences the results. A sensitivity analysis with different reference values may help to highlight this effect. When communicating to non-LCA-practitioners, LCIA results need to be connected to a wider context, which can be achieved by using normalisation to give an idea of the order of magnitude of the results. However, the harmfulness of the impact categories in relation to each other cannot be judged on the basis of the normalised results, which seems to be a difficult concept for non-LCA-practitioners to understand.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)850-860
    Number of pages11
    JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
    Volume18
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2013
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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    Keywords

    • Communication
    • LCA
    • LCIA
    • Life cycle assessment
    • Life cycle impact assessment
    • Normalisation
    • Print product

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