Rethinking a product and its function using LCA - Experiences of New Zealand manufacturing companies
Journal article, 2012
Purpose: It has been recognised that life cycle assessment (LCA) has a role in framing problem situations in environmental management. Yet relatively few studies have investigated whether the use of LCA does actually lead to the reconceptualisation of product systems as opposed to answering predefined questions. This paper discusses the experiences of six manufacturing firms that commissioned LCA studies as part of a life cycle management project managed by Landcare Research in New Zealand. Methods: The initial goal and scope of the study was developed by each company's representative in a workshop that was organised as part of the LCM project. The scope for three of the studies was subsequently redefined by the LCA specialists at Landcare Research and agreed with senior managers at the company. The LCA specialists undertook the LCA studies and presented the results to the companies. Results and discussion: A significant reconceptualisation of the product system took place in three of the six LCA studies. This reconceptualisation would not have taken place if the scope of the LCA studies had been restricted to address the questions originally asked by the companies. The three companies showed some resistance to expanding the scope. Conclusions: Use of LCA can lead to reconceptualisation of product systems by companies and quite different priorities for improvement options. Initial resistance to expanding a study's scope may be (partially) overcome by data collection activities and informal discussions between the LCA specialist and company staff during the process of undertaking the LCA study.
Life cycle management
Life cycle assessment
Goal and scope definition