Individual adaptation of industry LCA practice: Results from two case studies in the Swedish forest products industry
Journal article, 2007
Goal, Scope and Background: The mere existence of life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology and general acceptance of the life cycle philosophy is not enough to make their use widespread in industry. To gain a better understanding of factors shaping LCA studies and life cycle related practice, field studies of the development of LCA practice in two companies were carried out.
Methods: In order to obtain a deeper understanding of LCA practice, the number of ‘variables’ was minimized and two similar companies were chosen for study: Stora Enso and SCA. Both companies are part of the Swedish forest products industry, are large multinational enterprises and have been working with LCA since the early 1990s. Both interviews and document studies were used to collect data regarding LCA work from its introduction until 2003.
Results and Discussion: We found fundamental differences in LCA practice between two similar companies in regard to LCA studies per se (the number of studies undertaken and methodological preferences) and also in regard to the organisation of and approach to LCA work. By testing various theoretical explanations of these divergent LCA practices, we identified the actions of individuals and their understanding of the situation as important factors shaping LCA practice.
Conclusions: Although sector-wide recommendations on LCA practice are common in the LCA community, this study indicates that companies use LCA differently despite similar structural conditions such as company size or sector affiliation.
Recommendations and Perspectives: Since the understanding and actions of individuals are important in shaping LCA practice, people working with LCA in industry probably have greater scope for action than they recognise and than sector recommendations may imply when it comes to organising and carrying out their work. Thus, those working with life cycle issues, even in different sectors, can learn much from each other about ways of organising and benefiting from LCA work.
Swedish forest products industry