About adapting O-LCA to decision makers
Conference poster, 2019
We aim to reason about how environmentally more effective understanding of management could be reached by extending the organizational LCA developed by the Life Cycle Initiative (here called standard O-LCA) to include studying human actions.
We compare standard O-LCA to a well-tested socio-material flow methodology. The socio-material methodology has been used in product life cycle based case studies that our comparison builds on. The cases cover bread and metal packaging product life cycles.
Both standard O-LCA and the socio-material flow methodology aim to enable better environmental management of product life cycles. An ISO/TS defines standard O-LCA as “a compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and potential environmental impacts of the activities associated with the organization adopting a life cycle perspective”. The socio-material flow methodology complements this approach with a focus on how nets of actual interactions between humans, within and between organizations, determine the environmental performance.
In the metal packaging case, the management of and technical processes along metal packaging flows determined the life cycle environmental impacts of different organizations: packaging producers, fillers, and waste management organizations. We applied the socio-material flow methodology to metal packaging flows in Sweden and the Netherlands. The study, among other, led to a finding about complementing recycling via source collection with recovery from ashes. Such recovery can be performed on the waste that has passed through municipal waste incineration. The ashes were not considered, however, because an earlier government agency policy had dis-encouraged incinerating non-combustible materials. The policy was abandoned, but this had not been communicated to the waste management procurers. A standard O-LCA would cover the product life cycles passing one organization. For example, if that study covered the waste management procurement organization, the study would cover four packaging types in addition to metal packaging. This O-LCA would produce both more coarse results and less knowledge on important organizational links between different organizations.
Communication was also found to be of relevance for the product life cycle of bread. We studied three Swedish bakeries and their product flows. We found, among other, in the flows related to one of the bakeries, high levels of bread discarding at retailers. The discarding at the retailers had increased over time because of a growing bakery that had extended the number of retailers from one to six without assigning more time for coordination of production and sales. A standard O-LCA would both be coarser because it would include the bakery’s many different patisserie products and have less focus on the organizational processes.
The bread and packaging case findings put emphasis on interactions between humans and the material flows. Flows are considered thoroughly in standard O-LCA. How the hotspots can be changed in practice could be pointed out by using our socio-material flow methodology. The methodology captures the organization of flows both within and across different organizational entities, which extends the one-company focus in O-LCA. This points to different meanings of the term ’organization’.