Facts and figures from road testing the guidance on organizational life cycle assessment

Silvia Forin, Julia Martínez-Blanco, Matthias Finkbeiner

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearch

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    © 2018, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature. Purpose: Organizational life cycle assessment (O-LCA) is an emerging method to analyze the inputs, outputs, and environmental impacts of an organization throughout its value chain. To facilitate the method’s application, the Guidance on Organizational Life Cycle Assessment was published within the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative and applied by 12 “road-testing” organizations. In this paper, different aspects of the road testers’ studies are displayed and analyzed according to the feedback of the road testers. Methods: An anonymous survey about the method application was conducted among the road testers. The analysis assessed, among others: (i) which goals the organizations initially pursued and their achievement; (ii) how previous experience with environmental tools contributed to the study design; (iii) which methodological options were chosen (like the scope of the study, data collection approaches, impact assessment methods and tools, and data sources); and (iv) which methodological challenges were faced. Results and discussion: The survey showed that analytical goals were of priority for most road testers and obtained a higher achievement level than managerial and societal goals for which either long-term measures or the inclusion of stakeholders are needed. Previous experience with product- or organization-related tools considering the whole life cycle proves useful due to available data and/or organizational models. The categorization of organizational activities, data collection, data quality assessment, and interpretation proved being the most challenging methodological elements. In addition, three cross-cutting issues of method application were identified: aligning the O-LCA study to previous environmental activities, designing the study, and availability of personnel and software resources. Conclusions: The road-testing organizations verified the applicability and usefulness of the O-LCA Guidance and significantly widened the pool of case studies available. On the other hand, additional guidance for methodological challenges particular of the organizational level, the availability of software tools able to support O-LCA application, region-specific LCI databases, and a broadly recognized data quality assessment scheme would facilitate conducting O-LCA case studies.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)866-880
    JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
    Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


    • Case studies
    • Environmental management
    • Footprinting
    • Organizational life cycle assessment
    • Survey
    • Sustainable supply chain management


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