Recommendation and context: the missing links for increased life cycle impact in large industries
Journal article, 2019
This study takes an open and explorative approach to investigating the impact, or lack of impact, of life cycle information on behaviours throughout large production companies. Based on cases where life cycle information has been provided, this paper analyses how life cycle information has been interpreted and acted upon—not only by the life cycle assessment (LCA) practitioner conducting the study but also by employees outside the environmental departments.
To understand the impact of life cycle information on everyday actions in organisations and how this impact can be enhanced, this study takes a grounded approach to following flows of life cycle information from the environmental department through other departments of an organisation. From the flows of information, the research team selected rich descriptions of empirical data that reflect action and inaction. Using interviews and documents, we collected barriers and enablers for acting on life cycle information. Barriers and enablers were interpreted and clustered into categories and arranged into concepts. Next, we reviewed the empirical data using theories from social psychology.
Results and discussion
The results show that it is difficult for life cycle information to result in subsequent action outside of environmental departments. The barriers to this action were partly due to the life cycle information per se such as gaps between what life cycle information is available and what life cycle information is needed. Barriers and enablers were also found in relation to the context in which life cycle information was applied and new behaviours were adopted, including timing and software structures, reward systems, trade-offs, and personal beliefs about the profession. The results suggest a new role of the life cycle proponent that includes providing the right life cycle information and understanding and influencing the expected agents’ situations.
Assisted by theories from social psychology, we found that behaviour can be changed if ‘recommendations’ and ‘contexts’ are considered when providing life cycle information. The paper suggests that the impact of life cycle information could increase if normative arguments about environmental visions, strategies, and overarching goals are aligned with enablers that focus on personal goals, such as meeting a deadline, reducing uncertainty, and reaching the threshold for a bonus.
Life cycle assessment (LCA)
Recommendations and contexts
Action and behaviour
Life cycle information