Use of LCA results to support decision-making in process industries

Hanna Pihkola, Tiina Pajula, Carlos Tapia, Michael Ritthoff, Peter Saling, Ywann Penru, Sari Kuusisto, Annamari Enström

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceOther conference contributionScientific

    Abstract

    Life cycle assessment and carbon footprint are regularly applied in different sectors of the process industry. There is a growing need to integrate different sustainability aspects as part of daily decision-making, but this requires further development of the assessment methods and related tools, together with effective means for communication and visualisation of the results. Currently, life cycle based methods are applied in many different contexts, and the results need to be communicated to both internal and external stakeholders, many of whom are not experts in life cycle assessment. The paper discusses challenges faced by industrial sustainability experts and practitioners when communicating and visualising LCA results in different decision-making contexts. Specific challenges include (among others) communicating uncertainty, explaining the proximate and underlying causes of variability in results, integrating results representing different impact categories and defining proper benchmarks for comparison. Challenges related to interpretation and communication are faced especially in situations in which a decrease in one indicator or impact category is offset with an increase in another category. Ideally, the results should be presented and visualised in ways that are easy to understand, even though the underlying assumptions would be complex. The paper is based on the results of the SAMT (Sustainability assessment methods and tools to support decision-making in the process industries) project, focusing on communication of LCA results in different decision-making contexts. During the project, experiences and good practices from the cement, oil, metal, water, waste and chemical industry were collected using interviews, workshops and practical case studies. The findings of the project indicate that many of the challenges related to communication are similar despite of the sector in question. There is also a need to harmonise the way results are presented, in order to increase transparency and improve comparability of the studies. Ability to create meaningful and easily understandable results would be essential in order to increase the acceptability and applicability of the methods, and to mainstream their use in different decision-making situations, that may include for example product and process development, supply chain management, investment decisions, marketing and responding to stakeholder requests. The findings of the project are complemented with examples of good practices and successful case studies from the chemical, water and oil sectors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    Event8th International Conference on Life Cycle Management - Luxembourg, Luxembourg
    Duration: 3 Sep 20176 Sep 2017

    Conference

    Conference8th International Conference on Life Cycle Management
    CountryLuxembourg
    CityLuxembourg
    Period3/09/176/09/17

    Keywords

    • sustainability assessment
    • life cycle assessment
    • process industry
    • communication
    • decision-making

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  • Cite this

    Pihkola, H., Pajula, T., Tapia, C., Ritthoff, M., Saling, P., Penru, Y., Kuusisto, S., & Enström, A. (2017). Use of LCA results to support decision-making in process industries. 8th International Conference on Life Cycle Management, Luxembourg, Luxembourg.