Ecochain’s LCA tool Helix combined with IMPACTING.today’s practical support helps you to measure, understand, and turn around your environmental footprint for the better.
The First LCA
In today’s world a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is used to measure the environmental impact of a product or service. It is a scientific method that measures the environmental impact from the production phase, until it’s wasted. But where did this all start?
It was the year in which mankind put a man on the moon. And the year….in which the first Life Cycle Assessment was conducted!
It might come unexpected, but it was actually Coca Cola that conducted the first Life Cycle Assessment in 1969. There was a time of sustainable awakening in the late 60s: the oil crisis and concerns and population growth led to environmental movements in many countries. This sentiment was summarized in the study ‘The Limits of Growth’ in 1972. Yet how did this result in today’s LCA methodology?
Coca Cola, LCA and environmental impact measurement
Both the spirit of the time and economic considerations in the 60s, led Coca Cola to do an internal study on environmental impact. A study, that’s considered to be the foundation of today’s LCA methodology. Here, Coca Cola compared different beverage containers to determine the lowest releases to the environment. And analyzed the impact of the supply of natural resources too.
Coca Cola quantified the raw materials and fuels used, as well as the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes. This methodology was known as Resource and Environmental Profile Analysis (REPA). The European equivalent was called an Ecobalance.
Commercial LCA’s needed standardization
In the early 70s, many companies started following Coca Cola’s example and using their results for commercial claims. However, industrial data was still scarce. Therefore, much of the analysis was based on publicly available data. Simply put: the market really needed standardization. So, in 1997, the International Standards Organization ISO created the standard ISO 1400 (including ISO 14040). This ISO defines how a Life Cycle Assessment should be measured. And is still the LCA standard today.
LCA’s provide data and facilitate decision making
Maybe Coca Cola didn’t invent the modern Life Cycle Assessment. But the brand will forever be connected to the first attempts of environmental footprinting! Today, LCA’s are widely used to analyze the impact a product or service has on the world around it. The goal of an LCA is not only to create data but also to facilitate decisions. For example, to make a product more sustainable.
In this case, the LCA tool provides the insights you need to make efficient sustainable improvements. Now suppose you’re in the business of manufacturing hairdryers. LCA results will tell you that the power cord is responsible for 80% of the product’s environmental impact. Making it easy for you to take concrete improvement steps, as you know the cause of the problem.
With these results, your R&D and innovation department can access a database to compare alternative materials and processes. If, for example, you sell cheese, you can see what happens if you’d change the plastic packaging to an alternative. Or what happens if you change from cow milk to plant-based milk. It opens up a new world of possibilities will open up, greatly facilitating innovation. Allowing you to enter new sustainable markets.
LCA in practice: how to benefit from all these insights?
Insights provided by a solid LCA tool help you innovate in new ways. You may have grown accustomed to competing on price, life expectancy, and efficiency. Now you’ll add environmental friendliness to the list, which will result in a future-fit innovation pipeline. The use of an LCA tool also makes it easier to collaborate. It allows everyone in the organization to speak the same language. For example, a product developer can join forces with the sustainability team. And if the HR department communicates the company’s sustainability efforts in understandable language, it will attract talent more easily. Finally, you can use the LCA tool to check whether you meet the ever-changing laws and regulations in the area of sustainability.
Of course, all these benefits only come with a reliable, easy-to-use LCA tool that employees can work with independently. Ecochain’s tool Helix combined with IMPACTING.today’s practical approach will help you measure, understand and turn around your footprint for the better. Our combined approach will inspire you to take your company to the next level — both in terms of sustainability and innovation!
Read Ecochain’s blog ‘Coca Cola’s first LCA in 1969 ’ to learn more about the history of the LCA’s.
Muriel Arts, CEO IMPACTING.today