Life cycle assessment: past, present and future

Summary

Environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) has developed fast over the last three decades. Whereas LCA developed from merely energy analysis to a comprehensive environmental burden analysis in the seventies1970s, full-fledged life cycle impact assessment and life cycle costing models were introduced in the eighties1980s and nineties1990s, and social-LCA and particularly consequential LCA gained ground in the first decade of the 21st century. Many of the more recent developments were initiated to broaden traditional environmental LCA to a more comprehensive Life Cycle Sustainability Analysis (LCSA). Recently, a framework for LCSA was suggested linking life cycle sustainability questions to knowledge needed for addressing them, identifying available knowledge and related models, knowledge gaps, and defining research programmes to fill these gaps. LCSA clearly is the future of LCA, but unlike LCA, LCSA is a trans-disciplinary integration framework of models rather than a model in itself. LCSA works with a plethora of disciplinary models and guides selecting the proper ones, given a specific sustainability question. Structuring, selecting and making the plethora of disciplinary models practically available in relation to different types of life cycle sustainability questions is a main challenge

Coworkers: Tomas Ekvall, Tomas Rydberg

Keywords: life cycle assessment, LCA, life cycle sustainability assessment, LCSA, sustainability, broadening, deepening

Year: 2011.0

Report number: A1864

Authors: Jeroen Guinée, Reinout Heijungs, Gjalt Huppes, Alessandra Zamagni, Paolo Masoni, Roberto Buonamici, Tomas Ekvall, Tomas Rydberg

Published in: Environmental Science & Technology, 2011. Volume 45 (1), pp 90-96