Scope of the Symposium

The SETAC Europe 26th LCA Symposium is a two-and-a-half-day focused topic meeting aimed to gather the European life cycle community from academia, research institutes, industry, government agencies, consultancies and NGOs to share their latest research, applications and discussions about life cycle assessment (LCA). The conference will be a face-to-face meeting held in Gothenburg, Sweden, at Chalmers University of Technology and will provide a scientific programme with room for presentations, discussions, workshops and social interactions that foster good networking opportunities.

The theme for this year's symposium is: “Making LCA Meaningful: Good Data, Better Models, Sustainable Decisions”. With the theme as a starting point, the symposium aims to contribute to the generation of improved life cycle inventory (LCI) data, to foster the application of better life cycle impact assessment (LCIA), and to develop a better understanding of the contexts in which LCA is applied and thus how context should shape the application of LCA.

Tracks & Sessions

1. Life Cycle Inventory

This track takes a broad view of what a life cycle inventory means in practice, reaching from the challenge of obtaining primary data, deciding how environmental flows and allocation issues should be handled, to how data can be shared in the digital era.

1.01 - Advances in Prospective Life Cycle Assessment

1.01 - Advances in Prospective Life Cycle Assessment | Rickard Arvidsson, Heather Logan and Hans Garvens* 

Prospective life cycle assessment and other future-oriented life cycle assessments (e.g., ex-ante and anticipatory) are becoming increasingly applied in the life cycle assessment community (Arvidsson et al. 2018, Thonemann et al. 2020). Such assessment provide meaningful and timely environmental guidance at early stages of technological development, so that changes in product and system design might be implemented early in design and scaling. However, assessing products at future points in time brings a number of methodological challenges beyond those present in conventional life cycle assessment:

  • Which future technologies to consider in the first place, preferably avoiding focusing too much on near-term technologies with limited long-term potential.
  • How to perform upscaling of currently immature technologies at early stages of development, for example, by applying process calculations, process simulations or learning curves. The development of modelling methods for relevant future scenarios in life cycle assessment software.
  • The acquisition of background system data that represents relevant potential future developments of, for example, chemicals production, metals production and waste treatment.
  • The development of prospective life cycle impact assessment methods that consider what impacts emissions and resource use might have in the future, such as the impact of extracting gold at a future point in time.
  • Interpretation and communication of prospective life cycle assessment results for relevant stakeholders and decision makers in, for example, multi-stakeholder projects or projects related to vulnerable actors in society.

In this session, we invite contributions that advance the state of knowledge and practice of prospective life cycle assessment, including the challenges outlined above. Contributions might include methodological developments and case studies where these are applied. They might also include relevant reviews related to scientific advances in the field.

References:
Arvidsson R, Tillman A-M, Sandén BA, Janssen M, Nordelöf A, Kushnir D, Molander S (2018) Environmental Assessment of Emerging Technologies: Recommendations for Prospective LCA. Journal of Industrial Ecology 22(6): 1286-1294
Thonemann N, Schulte A, Maga D (2020) How to Conduct Prospective Life Cycle Assessment for Emerging Technologies? A Systematic Review and Methodological Guidance. Sustainability 12(3): 1192

1.02 - Cases of Greenwashing Due to Attributional LCA Models

1.02 - Cases of Greenwashing Due to Attributional LCA Models |  Jannick Schmidt and Stefano Zuin*

Attributional modelling is defined by being based on normative rules of depicting a product system belonging to a specific product. Such rules can be to include/exclude certain life cycle stages and flows, hereunder waste treatment/recycling, land use changes, capital goods etc. The rules can also require to using predefined allocation factors/ratios or specific supply mixes (e.g. electricity mix), as well as special rules applied to flows depending on their origin (e.g. biogenic carbon, material with recycled content, and carbon stock history of land in use).

It is clear that choices on the mix of rules to apply in an LCA study may significantly influence the results of the LCA. This can especially become problematic, when the rule-makers or -users have clear interests in achieving specific results of their LCA. This can lead to cases of greenwashing, where the results of an LCA reflect specific interests rather than the actual effects on the environment.

Examples of cases which could be characterised as greenwashing are:

  • When limited/constrained waste flows are categorised burden-free as biofuel feedstock, e.g. used cooking oil and slaughter-waste (fat): A demand for biofuels based on these feedstocks may not affect the availability of the waste feedstock, and hence there may be no net savings from using the biofuels.
  • When existing renewable electricity capacity is sold as certified electricity with low burden: The purchase of such certified electricity may not lead to an overall increase in renewable electricity and/or reduction in fossil electricity, and hence there may be no net savings from using the certified electricity.
  • When products are claimed to be “deforestation free” when they are based on feedstocks grown on land that has not been deforested recently: A demand for such deforestation free products may still contribute to the overall demand for land in the same way as conventional products, and hence not contribute to less deforestation.

This session invites abstracts that aims identifying cases, where attributional modelling assumptions may potentially lead to cases of green washing, and to seek recommendations on how the risk of greenwashing can be reduced. This is key for the credibility of LCA as a scientific field as well as for the future use of LCA as a means for documenting impacts, achieved improvement options and offsets.

1.03 - Collecting Internal and Collaborative Data for LCA – Securing Availability and Quality

1.03 - Collecting Internal and Collaborative Data for LCA – Securing Availability and Quality | Carl Karheiding and Tomas Rydberg*

This session focuses on learnings and best practice from internal and collaborative data collection from already existing data sources.

Data collection is still one of the heaviest duties for LCA practitioners. Within corporations, large amount of data is available from supplier organizations, production sites, regulatory affairs, logistics and finance. But seldom collected for the purpose of environmental assessment.

Performance tracking LCAs have great advantage of reusing methodology and generic data while varying the product specific data from internal corporate functions.

One of the main advantages from internal data collection can be the availability of data, the knowledge within the company for certain operations and the vast amount of data points. Additionally, some data sources have been collecting data for many years prior to environmental assessments, which can be useful for long-term studies or historical performance tracking.

However, as the data primarily is not intended nor packaged for environmental assessments there are risks of using unverified data where unknown estimations and assumptions may be present. Data gathered from different sources may contain unknown uncertainties where the quality of data gathered from different sources can vary widely. Data gathered from different internal sources may not always be consistent with each other, which requires the practitioner to further investigate the source for best credibility.

How is your organization working with internal and external stakeholders for continuous data tracking? How can companies keep better track of data not initially intended for environmental evaluation to fit the world of LCA? What understanding among its specialists is required and how can the design of IT systems support the end-to-end integration of data flows?

1.04 - Hybrid LCAs for a Circular Economy: The Added Value of Combined Methodologies

1.04 - Hybrid LCAs for a Circular Economy: The Added Value of Combined Methodologies |  Anna Walker and Elenore Louiseau*

Life cycle-based assessment approaches have been considered amongst the most suitable to assess the sustainability impact of moving towards a circular economy (CE). While on a company and supply chain level life cycle assessments (LCAs) are commonly used, the wider implications of CE on a sector or country level are better captured by environmentally extended input output (EEIO) analyses (Donati et al., 2020). Hybrid LCAs combine bottom-up LCA with a top-down EEIO, each implying distinct benefits and limitations in their results (Wiprächtiger et al., 2023). In particular, the underlying databases used can lead to considerably different results of similar products (Steubing et al., 2022) requiring practitioners to anticipate the types of information necessary for practical input to decision-making processes.

In this session, we aim to invite contributions which investigate in more detail the different ways in which LCA and EEIO can be meaningfully combined, and which methodological choices need to be paid attention to for obtaining actionable results. This can include discussions on the sequence of applying LCA and EEIO , reflections on how to include socio-economic aspects as well as the result interpretation. Moreover, the main area of application should be related to circular material flows on a sectoral or national level, with discussions on the implications of the findings for practitioners and policy makers.

References:
Donati, F., Aguilar-Hernandez, G.A., Sigüenza-Sánchez, C.P., de Koning, A., Rodrigues, J.F.D., Tukker, A., 2020. Modeling the circular economy in environmentally extended input-output tables: Methods, software and case study. Resour. Conserv. Recycl. 152, 104508. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2019.104508

Steubing, B., de Koning, A., Merciai, S., Tukker, A., 2022. How do carbon footprints from LCA and EEIOA databases compare? A comparison of ecoinvent and EXIOBASE. J. Ind. Ecol. 26, 1406–1422. https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.13271

Wiprächtiger, M., Haupt, M., Froemelt, A., Klotz, M., Beretta, C., Osterwalder, D., Burg, V., Hellweg, S., 2023. Combining industrial ecology tools to assess potential greenhouse gas reductions of a circular economy: Method development and application to Switzerland. J. Ind. Ecol. 27, 254–271. https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.1336

1.05 - Open-Data and Reproducibility: Towards Replicable, Reliable and Transparent LCA Practices

1.05 - Open-Data and Reproducibility: Towards Replicable, Reliable and Transparent LCA Practices |  Tomás Navarrete Gutiérrez and Tomas Rydberg*

We invite Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) practitioners to contribute abstracts for a specialised session addressing the critical importance of Open-Data and Reproducibility in current practices of LCA.

In an age where sustainability is paramount, LCA has become a mainstream decision support tool for evaluating the impacts of products and goods. Nevertheless, it has been acknowledged that adequate policy making still requires the harmonisation of approaches and the thorough implementation of life-cycle concepts (Sala et al., 2021). Thus, the necessity of fortifying LCA methodologies with transparency, replicability, and reliability has never been more pressing. This improvement requires the consideration of two important aspects. On the one hand, significant volumes and types of data (e.g., real-time pollution measurements, supply chain databases, life-cycle inventories) have been made available for practitioners as open-source in an unprecedented manner. On the other hand, more operational and computational frameworks built on top of LCA notions are being released as Free Open Source Software (FOSS) (e.g., activity browser, OpenLCA, brightway and its ecosystem), allowing the automation of LCA and its integration with other state-of-the-art methods.

In this sense, to be able to qualify open data as usable in a reproducible context, we should be able to seamlessly ingest it into any available methodological workflow (e.g., LCA software) to reproduce and verify the results published by the studies or reports. In practice, publications found in literature do not commonly provide input data, and when they do, datasets are stored in formats that are usable only by specific software. Moreover, this data is commonly manipulated and used in computational pipelines that are rarely published as Open Access (e.g., scripts or repositories). This last aspect is particularly important since reproducibility is not only linked to the data, but to the capacity of drawing the same conclusions from a study by following only the provided documentation (Odd E. Gundersen, 2021).

This session seeks to foster an in-depth exploration of how the integration of open-data principles (e.g.: F.A.I.R., semantic web tools) can enhance the replicability, reliability, and transparency of LCA methodologies. We welcome submissions delving into innovative approaches, challenges, and best practices related to leveraging open data for LCA studies, with a focus on bolstering reproducibility.

Topics of Interest

Open-Data Frameworks and Workflows: Explore the incorporation of open-data frameworks to improve accessibility and sharing of data inputs and methodologies in LCA studies.

Reproducibility Strategies: Showcase methodologies, tools, and case studies fortifying the reproducibility of LCA results, ensuring their robustness and reliability.

Data Quality and Standardization: Discuss approaches ensuring the quality and standardisation of open data, addressing concerns related to completeness, accuracy, and consistency.

Transparency and Stakeholder Engagement: Examine the impact of transparent LCA practices on stakeholder trust and engagement, highlighting successful collaborations between academia, industry, and regulatory bodies.

Challenges and Solutions: Identify challenges and barriers in implementing open-data and reproducibility in LCA and propose innovative solutions to overcome these hurdles not only at technical level but also at the legal level for example.

References:
Sala, S., Amadei, A. M., Beylot, A., & Ardente, F. (2021). The evolution of life cycle assessment in European policies over three decades. The International

Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 26, 2295-2314. Gundersen, O. E. (2021). The fundamental principles of reproducibility. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 379(2197), 20200210.

1.06 - Role of LCA in Scope 3 Accounting & SBTi

1.06 - Role of LCA in Scope 3 Accounting & SBTi | Jonathan Balsvik and Elenore Louiseau*

Scope 3, or value chain, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions often vastly outweigh the emissions of an organization’s direct operations, but their indirect nature can complicate quantification. As companies advance along their sustainability journey, they look to understand their value chain impacts and set targets to manage and reduce them over time. Life cycle assessment (LCA) can be a useful tool for understanding the scale of emissions, determining opportunities to reduce emissions and tracking changes over time.

Plenty of presentations and webinars have been given on the useful role that LCA can play in scope 3 accounting, but the accounting framework evolves over time, requiring continual updates to the understanding of how LCA can apply to scope 3 accounting. SBTi updated its ambition in July 2022 to align itself to the near-term SBTs for net zero targets. Another key update is the preliminary release of the GHG Protocol’s Guidance for Carbon Removals and Land Use, which impacts how scope 3 accounting addresses biogenic carbon, carbon removals and impacts from land use.

This session will cover the basics of how LCA can be used to inform scope 3 accounting, provide a valuable update on how the accounting landscape has changed and conduct activities on the ways LCA can support emissions tracking over time.

1.07 - Modelling Biogenic Carbon in Life Cycle Assessment

1.07 - Modelling Biogenic Carbon in Life Cycle Assessment | Cecilia Sundberg, Iris Kral and Gulnara Shavalieva* 

Biogenic carbon flows are huge and have a major influence in Earth’s climate and ecosystem function. Stocks and flows of carbon and carbon dioxide in vegetation and soils, methane emissions. Yet biogenic carbon dioxide flows have to a large extent been excluded from LCA, due to largely being natural rather than anthropogenic, and due to the fact that many carbon cycles are short, less than one year. Increasingly, biogenic carbon flows directly related to production systems are included in life cycle inventories. There are multiple reasons for a rising interest in biogenic carbon flows in LCA: First, climate action raises the interest in biogenic raw materials and products as alternatives to fossil resources. Second, with more emphasis on the goal of net-zero emissions, negative emissions (carbon dioxide removal methods) come into focus, and these are biogenic to a large extent. Third, the climate impacts of food systems are rising on the international agenda, and foods are biogenic products. There are various ongoing initiatives to improve the biogenic carbon modelling in policymaking, in LCA consensus processes and in climate reporting standards.

This session welcomes case studies on biogenic products and production systems including materials, foods and biofuels, as well as on carbon dioxide removal methods. Abstracts on methods as well as data are encouraged. Abstracts relating LCA to climate reporting and accounting in policy, standards and certification systems are most welcome.

1.08 - Approaches and Case Studies in Scaling Up LCA

1.08 - Approaches and Case Studies in Scaling Up LCA | Ellen Meijer and Sara Heimersson*

As sustainability issues come more and more to the forefront, the demand (and need) for LCAs is rising. The expectation is that this demand will only increase in the future, for example through new legislation and increased consumer demand. However, there is only a limited number of LCA professionals in the world, and even if we double or triple this number, there is still a limit to how many LCA studies these LCA experts can perform, and therefore how much, as a community, we can support fact-based insights into environmental impact. With billions of products on the market worldwide, other solutions are needed to make the needed environmental insights available at a larger scale, without losing the quality and detailed insights that LCA provides.

In this session, we aim to bring together presentations about making robust LCA results and insights available at a larger scale. This can be through various approaches, such as creating universal models that are usable for multiple product variations or product types, approaches for portfolio LCAs or assortment LCAs, linking LCA data input into company systems, or other ways to scale up LCA.

As such, this session will provide inspiration for how as a field we can apply LCA at a larger scale, allowing us to provide more sustainability insights about more products and systems, without losing the detail and precision that LCA provides. Conference contributions related to methodological challenges when using different scale up approaches are welcome, as well as case studies demonstrating the usefulness of different assessments for specific industry sectors. This will help us as LCA practitioners to support a transition to a more sustainable world as best as possible.

1.09 - Digital Product Passports and Translating LCA Data

1.09 - Digital Product Passports and Translating LCA Data | Evert Bouman, Didier Beloin-Saint-Pierre and Reinout Heijungs*

Digital Product Passports (DPP) are interesting examples of potential approaches for registering and sharing product-related information between supply chain actors, authorities and consumers (EU, 2022). They are envisioned for a wide range of products in both proposed and current European legislation, such as the Batteries Regulation (EU, 2023) and the proposed Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) (EU, 2022). Anticipating the legislation, there are many DPP initiatives at various stages of development, and varying in scope, targeted product sector, functionality and technical implementation (CIRPASS, 2023). Many of these DPP service providers offer the possibility to store environmentally relevant information, including Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) results in the DPP. More generally, environmental and economic data stored in a DPP can potentially inform the LCA practitioner, ensuring access to primary data and allowing for life cycle inventories (LCI) that more accurately describe the product in question. However, LCI data comes from diverse sources, and while managing the amount of potential LCI studies that could describe all possible products and services around the world would already be highly challenging if they were all based on one common standard, the rising diversity of assessment rules among LCA practitioners is an additional challenge.

In this session, we invite contributions discussing DPPs or LCA data translation in one or more of the following ways: "good data" – for example using DPPs to inform the modelling of life cycle inventories (LCIs). "Better models" - Technical and organizational challenges associated with accessibility, interoperability, and reusability of LCA data when translating between different rules and standards. "Sustainable decisions" – for example the use and relevance of LCA results in DPPs as an aid for sustainable decision making. "Quality" - Ensuring high-quality data in LCAs and DPPs. Both theoretical and practical contributions addressing the above aspects are welcomed.

References:
CIRPASS, 2023 https://cirpassproject.eu/dpp-related-initiatives-dataset/, accessed 23 jan 2024.

EU 2022 Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the council establishing a framework for setting ecodesign requirements for sustainable products and repealing Directive 2009/125/EC (Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation, ESPR).

EU 2023 Regulation 2023/1542 of the European Parliament and of the council of 12 July 2023 concerning batteries and waste batteries (Batteries Regulation).

1.10 - Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Enhanced Life Cycle Assessment

1.10 - Leveraging Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Enhanced Life Cycle Assessment | Ming Hu and Mikolaj Owsianiak*

There is a clear need to unite and harmonize databases and datasets across the world of industrial ecology, from life cycle assessment to material flow analysis, socioeconomic metabolism, and circular economy. We invite abstracts on the use of artificial intelligence to link and harmonize disparate data sources; the hybridization of top-down and bottom-up LCA; on merging, harmonizing, and integrating LCA databases; on the two-way integration of LCA data with other industrial ecology domains; and on new approaches to construct LCA or industrial ecology data. Our proposed session aims to delve into the transformative potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in revolutionizing LCA and Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) data methodologies. The integration of AI and ML in LCA processes presents an innovative trajectory for addressing the challenges of data complexity and model accuracy. AI and ML can significantly contribute to the enhancement of LCI databases by enabling the rapid processing and analysis of vast, diverse environmental datasets. This capability is instrumental in refining the granularity and precision of LCI data, thus facilitating more nuanced and accurate LCA results. Moreover, AI-driven approaches can revolutionize the Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) phase of LCA by introducing advanced predictive models and algorithms. These sophisticated tools can provide deeper insights into environmental impacts, thereby supporting more informed and sustainable decision-making processes. Our session will encompass a range of presentations and discussions focused on:

  • Use of AI to address data gaps in LCI databases and improve LCIA methods
  • Case studies demonstrating the efficacy of AI and ML in streamlining LCA processes.
  • Exploration of the challenges and opportunities in integrating AI with traditional LCA methodologies.
  • Discussions on how AI and ML can aid in understanding the broader context of LCA applications, potentially leading to better environmental policy formulation and business strategies.

The session is designed to foster a comprehensive understanding among attendees on how AI and ML can act as catalysts in making LCA and its underlying LCI and LCIA phases more efficient, accurate, and, ultimately, more meaningful in the pursuit of sustainability goals.

 

2. Life Cycle Impact Assessment

Life cycle impact assessment has compulsory and optional elements which can be discussed in this track. The range of potential impact categories is as extensive as our economy, society and environment are complex.

2.01 - Advances in Life Cycle Impact Assessment

2.01 - Advances in Life Cycle Impact Assessment | Mikolaj Owsianiak and Anna Björklund*

The third step in ISO14040 demands at least as much creativity as the other three and is critical to making meaningful sense of life cycle inventory results. In principle life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) is where the technical system under study meets society, the environment and the economy. Since so many kinds of impacts on these protection objects are possible a multidisciplinary mindset is key. There are dedicated sessions at this conference for chemical footprinting, biodiversity impacts and social impacts, but many other kinds of impacts can be characterized in LCA. Recent advances in the study of microplastics have enabled LCA to incorporate consideration of them as potential stressors for environmental and human health. Variations in environmental salinity can cause negative impacts. There is ongoing development of methods for handling resource availability and dissipation. Life cycle costing (LCC) is another example of an approach for examining (resource) economic impacts in an LCA framework. Even apparently established methods for impacts like climate change are work in progress. These are only a few examples of characterisation where innovation is happening and beyond characterisation there can be important questions around normalization and weighting in LCIA. Just as important as the development of methods for LCIA is their testing in genuine case studies across a wide variety of products and systems. This session welcomes diverse contributions that have to do with developing better LCIA methods and checking that they make meaningful results in practice.

2.02 - Chemical Footprint: Informed Decision Making for Reduced Chemical Risks

2.02 - Chemical Footprint: Informed Decision Making for Reduced Chemical Risks | Hanna Holmquist and Olivier Jolliet*

A “chemical footprint" can be defined as an aggregated indicator of chemical pollution that enables the assessment of the potential (eco)toxicological impacts of the entire life cycle of a product or service. It has the potential to be a powerful tool to discover chemical risks at the place of manufacture or use of the product, and in other locations where chemical emissions can occur in its life cycle.[1] Global and regional sustainability goals; the UN Sustainability Development Goals and the EU Chemical Strategy for Sustainability’s Safe and Sustainable by Design framework, are important drivers for the use of chemical footprints.

The inclusion of chemical risks in LCA is not a new topic, there are several models for life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) available, e.g. USEtox, ReCiPe, CML and ProScale. In recent years these models have been further advanced and expanded in scope,[2] and tested in new contexts, such as substitution, to increase utility. Research has also identified a need for models to be adaptable to specific substance groups or locations,[3] and a potential for digital methods to increase model scope.[4]

New regulatory drivers, and the oft occurring disregard of (eco)toxicity indicators in LCA practice, make chemical footprint a relevant research and discussion topic for the LCA symposium. Abstracts are expected to include e.g. original research in the field of life cycle inventory (LCI) for chemical footprint, (eco)toxicity characterization adapted to the next generation of risk assessment tools and new approach methods (NAM), model approaches leveraging on the developments in AI and machine learning. They can also include items covering utility of the tools available and their implementation in industry.

References:
Rydberg, T. et al. (2014) “Towards a common conceptual framework for chemical footprint bridging Risk Assessment and Life Cycle Assessment: Short review and way forward” SETAC, 11-15 May 2014, Basel

Fantke, P., et al. (2021). "Exposure and Toxicity Characterization of Chemical Emissions and Chemicals in Products: Global Recommendations and Implementation in USEtox." Int J Life Cycle Ass 26(5): 899-915.

Holmquist, H., et al. (2020). "An (Eco)Toxicity Life Cycle Impact Assessment Framework for Per- And Polyfluoroalkyl Substances." Env Sci & Tech 54(10): 6224-6234.

von Borries, K., et al. (2023). "Potential for Machine Learning to Address Data Gaps in Human Toxicity and Ecotoxicity Characterization." Env Sci & Tech 57(46): 18259-18270.

2.03 - Current Status and Key Developments needed for Improved Biodiversity Accounting in LCA

2.03 - Current Status and Key Developments needed for Improved Biodiversity Accounting in LCA | Sara Hornborg, Carla Coelho and Francesca Verones*

Recent IPCC and IPBES reports send urgent messages, where incorporation of environmental impacts into public decision-making has been identified as an important action. Actors are today informed by different tools and assessments to set targets and improve their performance. LCA is the key tool for addressing climate change, while for biodiversity impact(s), various methods exist and are still being rapidly developed, both LCA and non-LCA approaches (e.g. input-output model, natural capital accounting).

While biodiversity loss occurs at an unprecedented rate, companies have challenges in target setting and risks failing in effective mitigation due to wrong decisions. Industry actors currently engaged in LCA are uncertain when it comes to e.g., applying, interpreting and acting on biodiversity. Biodiversity pressures are more difficult to quantify, being linked to local or regional conditions, with various stressors at play (including climate change) that are of different importance depending on the ecosystem (e.g., terrestrial vs aquatic). With current and upcoming demands on sustainability reporting and footprinting related to biodiversity such as CSRD, PEF and EU taxonomy – what is the role of LCA?

To improve science and practice related to biodiversity pressures for products and services, there is a need for more knowledge-transfer from academia to the industry, investigate data availability and needs, etc. Alongside with speeding up the process of accounting for biodiversity impacts in company strategies, there is also a need for methodological development to improve LCA methods, with careful navigation between user-friendliness versus data precision/quality and how to align assessments with existing and upcoming demands on sustainability reporting.

This session aims to make a contribution towards improving understanding of current state-of-the art and remaining challenges for improved science and practice related to biodiversity in an LCA context. We welcome contributions in the form of:

  • case studies, such as practical applications of LCA and biodiversity, both related to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
  • industry perspectives on biodiversity for e.g., knowledge-transfer of approaches applied, current challenges, data availability, target setting, how LCA may be aligned with existing initiatives on e.g. sustainability reporting
  • methodological contributions including identification of research and data gaps

2.04 - Ecosystem Services in Life Cycle (Sustainability) Assessments

2.04 - Ecosystem Services in Life Cycle (Sustainability) Assessments | Sara González-García and Stephan Pfister*

Human pressures exerted on ecosystems can compromise the capacity of ecological cycles to regenerate and supply ecosystem services (ES), affecting human well-being (Rugani et al. 2019).

ES is defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) as “benefits people obtain from ecosystems” and divided into provisioning (i.e. production of food and other materials), regulating, cultural, and supporting ES. Despite their increased recognition as key components of socioecological systems and the advances of classification techniques (La Notte el al. 2017), ES protection is yet plagued by inconsistent approaches to modelling, assessment, and valuation (Costanza et al., 2017).

Some research has been made on the role of ES in sustainability analysis of policy options and technological solutions as well as in sustaining human activities (Maia de Souza et al., 2018; Liu et al., 2018). But, even when VanderWilde & Newll (2021) identified a hundred of publications in which LCA has integrated ES in a meaningful way, assessing the impacts of production systems on ES supply is a still a contested paradigm with open questions on the table, such as how to account for more than one or few ES, how to model the dynamic approach of ES, being variable in space and time, or which payment scheme to use when applying economic allocation to deal with such multifunctionality (von Greyerz et al. 2023). A thorough understanding of LCA in terms of its ability or inability to account for ES is essential.

Particularly welcomed are contributions that jointly address regulating, cultural, and supporting ES as well as contributions that go beyond environmental LCAs (i.e. social and economic) and those developing decision support methodologies to integrate ES within life-cycle based tools. Finally, contributions about management and communication strategies meant to be shared with non LCA- experts will be also appreciated.

References
Costanza et al. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j. ecoser.2017.09.008. La Notte et al. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2016.11.030 Liu et al. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.06.164  Maia de Souza et al. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoser.2018.02.014   Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. https://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/Synthesis.htm Rugani et al. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.07.023   VanderWilde & Newell. 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.10546   von Greyerz et al. 2023. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.116400

2.05 - Land Use Impacts on Biodiversity — Paving the Road Ahead

2.05 - Land Use Impacts on Biodiversity — Paving the Road Ahead | Carla Coelho and Stephan Pfister*

The variety of life on Earth, which supports ecosystem health its resilience, as well as human well- being has been greatly impacted by anthropogenic actions. Land use and land use change, caused by activities which may not be under the direct control of the processing and manufacturing industry, such as the production of crops, mining, or even electricity generation, have been recognized as significant drivers for biodiversity loss. Therefore, a life cycle perspective is fundamental to assessing systems impacts of products on biodiversity. While industries and policy makers strive to align with sustainable practices, the assessment of impacts from human activities on biodiversity is still in progress within the LCA framework. Decades-long efforts to capture biodiversity in LCA have led to methods becoming more comprehensive both in terms of data and in terms of biodiversity facets they cover. However, gaps remain. In this session, we welcome contributions that can help foster discussions that lead to tangible improvements in how LCA captures impacts on biodiversity. We also welcome proposals that cover data-related aspects of the assessment of biodiversity in LCA (both from LCI and LCIA), model development, as well as practical case studies that include biodiversity within life cycle assessment and life cycle thinking. Damage-oriented and distance-to-target approaches are welcomed. Through sharing insights, methodologies, case studies, and perceived needs in terms of method functionality, we strive for LCA to integrate biodiversity considerations seamlessly.

The session includes a number of presentations followed by a workshop around key challenges, as identified by the session leaders based on submitted proposals. We welcome both presenters and those who primarily want to take part in the workshop.

2.06 - Pushing the Limits: Incorporating Absolute Limits in Life Cycle Assessment

2.06 - Pushing the Limits: Incorporating Absolute Limits in Life Cycle Assessment | Andrea Paulillo, Esther Sanye-Mengual, Anders Bjørn and Olivier Jolliet*

The concept of planetary boundaries has gained significant attention in the field of sustainability, as it provides a framework for understanding the ecological limits within which humanity can operate safely. Integrating planetary boundaries (PBs) and other indicators of environmental carrying capacities (which we collectively refer to as “absolute limits”) into Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) offers a promising approach to putting estimated environmental impacts of products and systems into an absolute perspective. This session aims to bring together researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to discuss the use of Planetary Boundaries and other indicators of absolute limits in LCA, focusing on both methodological approaches and case studies.

We invite abstract submissions discussing novel methodological approaches to incorporate absolute limits into LCA, including but not limited to linking absolute limits with LCA impact pathways, allocating (or downscaling) absolute limits to individual actors or activities, methods for regionalising absolute limits, uncertainty assessment and handling of the temporal dimension. We also welcome submissions presenting case studies incorporating absolute limits in LCA applied to products, industries and countries/regiones, as well as works addressing the potential policy uses and implications in LCA.

The session seeks to create a platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration among a diverse range of stakeholders, including academics, LCA practitioners, industry representatives, and policymakers. By fostering discussions on the practical implementation of absolute limits in LCA, we aim to advance the understanding of their role in shaping sustainable production and consumption patterns. Overall, this session will provide a valuable opportunity for participants to explore the potential of absolute limits in guiding decision-making processes towards sufficiently low environmental impacts, while also identifying areas for further research and development in the field of LCA.

2.07 - Social Life Cycle Assessment: Priorization, Disaggregation and Contextualization of Subcategories and Impacts

2.07 - Social Life Cycle Assessment: Priorization, Disaggregation and Contextualization of Subcategories and Impacts | Claudia Mair-Bauernfeind, Martina Zimek and Matthias Finkbeiner*

Social LCA is gaining increasing attention as a method for assessing social impacts. Compared to LCA, the development of SLCA methods is not yet as advanced. Though SLCA guidelines and handbooks offer guidance on performing SLCA, there are still open questions at different stages of the assessment: A critical step is the identification of relevant social indicators [1,2]. There are many prevalent indicators available, but not all are relevant for the specific product system. To identify relevant topics for the specific case, generalized and standardized methods are required. The challenge increases when it comes to product innovations or products with low TRL (Technology Readiness Level). Analyzing the social perspective of technologies that are under development bears the problem that value chain actors are mostly unknown. In this regard, a conceptual framework for a multi-level SLCA was proposed that allows accompanying the different research and development phases with social sustainability assessment [3]. In the first two levels only generic SLCAs can be performed aiming at prioritizing social topics and identifying areas of social concerns. For the latter, generic SLCA databases are available (e.g., SHDB or PSILCA) but with limited availability of generic sectoral or industrial data. A social impact on a stakeholder caused by a corporate activity is not always attributable to a company's decision, but is influenced strongly by e.g., the geopolitical situation in the company's environment [4]. Thus, not only site-specific data but also context-related mechanisms are important. Disaggregating data and investigating the sectors of an economy means that the comparative human costs of work for different sectors can be investigated [5]. Further contextualization of social risks helps to understand the different mechanisms (e.g., economic, geopolitical or cultural) to support the selection process of indicators. This session welcomes contributions which address one or more of the following topics: Priorization of social topics and indicators; Disaggregation: sectoral- or industry-specific data; and Contextualization: mechanisms of social risks.

References:
[1] https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-021-01988-w; [2] https://doi.org/10.1007/s12155-021-10261-9; [3] https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-29294-1_7; [4] https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-020-01800-1; [5] https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.03.026;

 

3. Life Cycle Management

Life cycle management is broader than LCA and tries to make life cycle thinking relevant in user contexts. How we define the questions to be analyzed and communicate the results of a study is critical to influencing real-world outcomes.

3.01 - Integration of Life Cycle Assessment in Policy Deployment – How Life Cycle Thinking Is Reflected in the Letter Of The Law

3.01 - Integration of Life Cycle Assessment in Policy Deployment – How Life Cycle Thinking Is Reflected in the Letter Of The Law | Björn Spak and Serenella Sala*

Since its’ introduction and formalisation, LCT and LCA has been adopted primarily as voluntary measures in academia and business while its inclusion in public policy has been significantly slower. Among the early, successful adoptions of LCT in policy, the Ecodesign directive for energy related products (2005, widened to energy related products 2009) stands out – including generic screening- LCA to establish criteria to be used in legislation. A study by JRC has revealed that while various life cycle applications, in particular LCT, has been increasingly cited as a general concept in EU policy ever since 1992, LCA and Environmental Footprints have commonly only been cited in view of future policy development. Voluntary frameworks on LCA has been found insufficient in order to meet modelling needs on reproducibility and consistency necessary for adoption in legislation.

Consequently, the European commission has developed the Environmental Footprint methodology. In parallel, other efforts on including LCA and LCT in EU policy has been taking place, e.g. the EN 15804 and related standards and the RED II framework.

Since the introduction of the EU Green Deal (2019), the number of policies utilizing LCA has increased markedly, including the battery regulation, the ecodesign regulation and the revised construction product regulation.

The EU battery regulation entered into force on August 17th 2023, introducing demands on manufacturers to publish carbon footprint declarations of batteries put on the EU market. The methodology for calculation and verification of the carbon footprints shall comply with the latest version of the Commission Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method and relevant Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCRs), and will be published as delegated acts in accordance with the regulation.

The Ecodesign regulation (ESPR) was adopted on March 30th 2022, trialogue has been completed but it remains to be published in the Official Journal. Among the functions of the ESPR is the possibility to set product requirements on performance and information through delegated acts. Performance requirements may include environmental and carbon footprints. Pre-studies on how to put performance requirements on textiles and footwear (finished goods) as well as iron and steel (intermediate products) have been initiated by JRC.

The revision of the Construction Product Regulation was adopted on March 30th 2022, trialogue has been completed but it remains to be published in the Official Journal. Amongst the novelties in the revised regulation is the possibility to set sustainability requirements on construction products.

Compared to the current situation, where different EPD-program operators may publish complementary PCRs (c-PCRs) in parallel, the revised CPR includes common harmonised standards and c-PCRs.

Whereas significant efforts already have been made in developing the EF methodology and PEFCRs, there is still work to be done o launch that work into legislation. This can be illustrated by the Battery regulation where the JRC are preparing reports including texts from the EF recommendation and the pilot phase PEFCR – providing further detail to make it fit for delegated acts.

About the session

This session seeks to explore the void between the current EF recommendation, including published PEFCRs, and legal EF related texts about to be published.

Presentations may relate to any EU based regulation mentioned above and include topics such as:

  • Studies on how recommendations by commission expert group and/or member states influence legal text.
  • Studies on how diverse EU regulations interact with each other
  • Requirements on environmental impact categories for successful implementation in public policy
  • How value choices in policy and political interests interact with LCA modelling requirements regarding e.g. end-of-life and electricity.

3.02 - LCA and Sustainable Consumption

3.02 - LCA and Sustainable Consumption | Göran Finnveden and Stefano Zuin

It is becoming clear that in order to meet climate and other environmental challenges, changes in consumption behaviour are necessary. Sustainable consumption is therefore an area of increasing importance. Life Cycle Assessment are then an important tool to analyse environmental impacts of different alternatives, policies and strategies. Different methods have been developed for analysing environmental impacts of the total environmental impacts of a country’s or region’s consumption. Recently, prospective methods for analysing future scenarios have been suggested (Cap et al, 2024, Morfeldt et al, 2023). Product LCAs can be useful in analysing different consumption choices. Studies on country and regional levels have shown that especially food, housing and transportation are important consumption categories, however also other product groups such as textiles and electronics can be important. Since changes in consumption may require changes in functions provided by different alternatives, the definition and use of the functional unit may have to be changed in LCAs in the context of sustainable consumption. There is therefore a need for methods that may be called Sufficiency LCA (André, 2024). Expected contributions for this session include both development of methods and case studies that relate to sustainable consumption. Contributions can be on a product level, but also on regional and country levels.

References:

André, H. (2024): “If less is more, how you keeping score?” Outlines of a life cycle assessment method to assess sufficiency. Frontiers in Sustainability, Accepted for publication.

Cap, S. de Koning, A., Tukker, A. and Scherer, L. (2024): (In)Sufficiency of industrial decarbonization to reduce household carbon footprints to 1.5o C-compatible levels. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 45, 216-227.

Morfeldt, J., Larsson, J., Andersson, D., Johansson, D.J.A., Rootzén, J., Hult, C. and Karlsson, I. (2023): Emission pathways and mitigation options for achieving consumption-based climate targets in Sweden. Communications, Earth and Environment, 4, 342.

3.03 - Nordic Collaboration in LCA Development and Application Over 35 Years - Past and Future Perspectives

3.03 - Nordic Collaboration in LCA Development and Application over 35 Years - Past and Future Perspectives | Ole Jørgen Hanssen and Johanna Berlin

Since the beginning of LCA, there has been an active collaboration between LCA practitioners in the Nordic countries, involving research institutes and universities, national environmental authorities, industries and business organisations. The Nordic Council of Ministers has been a coordinating actor, making funding available for specific projects. The collaboration started back in 1992-95 with the Nordic Guidelines for LCA (Lindfors et al. 1995), where a project team from Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway developed the basis for what probably is one of the most cited publications in LCA history.

This was followed up by several projects that used the LCA methodology to develop and test applications of LCA in close collaboration between the research and business sectors, funded by Nordic Industrial Fund (a subsidiary of Nordic Council of Ministers). One of the earliest projects was the NEP-project (ca 1993-1995) that developed methods for and assess experiences with sustainable product development.

The most involved R&D institutions in the Nordic projects were IVL, Chalmers, VTT and Ostfold Research (now NORSUS). The Nordic region was early to involve companies and business organisations in application of LCA for strategy development, product development and innovation, marketing and communication etc.

The Nordic LCA society (NorLCA) was founded in 2004, which is described in Hauschild et al. (2009). Four symposia were organized between 2006 to 2012. There has been limited activity since 2014, though there has been Nordic collaboration on Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) development, food waste prevention, circular economy, etc.

In this session, with a Nordic panel, we want to focus on experiences with and future opportunities for Nordic collaboration in LCA, e.g. collaborative efforts in LCA data management, projects in areas of common Nordic interests, e.g. energy systems, recycling systems, transport and mobility, marine sector and marine pollution, land use and biodiversity, etc. We also want to explore whether there is something called “a Nordic approach”?

References:

Hauschild, M. et al. 2009. Establishing av Nordic Life Cycle Association – NorLCA. TemaNord 2009:514. Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen 2008

Lindfors, L. Christiansen, K., Hoffman, L., Virtanen, Y., Juntilla, V., Hanssen, O., Roenning, A., Ekvall, T., and Finnveden, G. 1995. Nord 1995:20: Nordic guidelines on life-cycle assessment. Technical Reports No. 1-9. Nordic Council of Ministers, Copenhagen, Denmark.

3.04 - Qualitative Life Cycle Studies Exploring the Practical Meaning of Life Cycle Studies

3.04 - Qualitative Life Cycle Studies Exploring the Practical Meaning of Life Cycle Studies | Henrikke Baumann, Michael Martin and Hans Garvens*

The life cycle community is largely dominated by quantitative assessment. As the uptake of LCA in society is growing, there is a need to systematically explore and reflect on the state and character of life cycle activities in different fields of practice, their methodologies, and the studied product systems as such. Researchers engaging in qualitative, social science-type studies have traditionally been relatively few in the life cycle field. This session aims therefore to bring together qualitative studies exploring life cycle activities and product chains, helping to increase understanding of life cycle practices, the contributions (or lack thereof) to environmental change, and the role of stakeholders and life cycle professionals. Submissions to the session can include, but are not limited to, topics such as: 

  • Role of stakeholders/actors in life cycle activities and management Descriptions of life cycle work in industry or policy-making
  • Controversies and expectations of life cycle use in policy and decision-making
  • Controversies among actors in product chains
  • Understanding how life cycle information is used for decision-making in industry Explorations of diversity in methodological practices and/or uses of LCA
  • Politics of developing life cycle-based methodologies and standards
  • Perceptions and attitudes around LCA
  • Theoretical propositions for the LCA field derived from the social sciences Role of LCAs in environmental change / transition and theories of change

3.05 - Green Claims – Solving the Technical and Practical Challenges to Unlock More Sustainable Consumption

3.05 - Green Claims – Solving the Technical and Practical Challenges to Unlock More Sustainable Consumption | Florence Bohnes and Nicole Unger*

LCA has been defined by the European Union as “the best framework for assessing the potential environmental impacts of products currently available” and LCA results could be used for many purposes. One of them is to make green claims about a product. Ensuring that environmental labels and claims are credible and trustworthy will allow consumers to make better informed purchasing decisions.

Environmental rating ecolabels (ERE) have an important role in aiding consumers by providing insights into the environmental performance of products. These labels are intended to facilitate informed purchasing decisions and promote sustainable consumption. However, challenges persist, as the absence of consensus on methodological choices has led to a proliferation of diverse EREs, potentially confusing consumers. Scarce academic research scrutinizes the robustness of these schemes, including the impact of LCA variables on resulting ratings.

In parallel, other green claims on products and by companies add another layer to consumer decision-making. Consumers often face difficulties interpreting the environmental performance indicated by these claims. The EU's proposed law on green claims reflects a response to unreliable environmental claims, aiming to enhance credibility and protect consumers.

Aligning with this, the session welcomes presentations addressing challenges in EREs and other green claims proposing advancements to inform consumers about environmentally preferable products. This includes research on harmonizing methodologies, evaluating robustness, and exploring scalable assessment approaches. Achieving consensus on LCA aspects and leveraging advanced computational tools will be key to unlocking the potential of both EREs and green claims, fostering sustainable consumption, and incentivizing businesses towards eco-friendly practices.

3.06 - Circular Economy and Life Cycle Assessment: Towards Sustainable Decisions

3.06 - Circular Economy and Life Cycle Assessment: Towards Sustainable Decisions | Asma Al Hosni, Lucia Rigamonti and Upadhyayula Venkata Krishna Kumar*

The circular economy is gaining momentum as a way to achieve sustainable development goals. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a powerful tool to assess the environmental impacts of products and services throughout their life cycle. This session aims to explore the intersection of LCA and circular economy, highlighting the potential of LCA to support circular economy strategies and the challenges that arise when applying LCA to circular economy practices. The session will provide a platform for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to share their experiences, insights, and best practices in this field.

Type of Abstracts: The session hopes to attract abstracts that address the following topics for various sectors and for various materials and products:

  • Case studies of LCA applied to circular economy practices
  • Methodological challenges and opportunities in applying LCA to circular economy practices
  • Integration of LCA and circular economy in decision-making processes
  • Circular economy strategies and their environmental impacts assessed through LCA
  • Life cycle thinking and circular economy: synergies and trade-offs
  • Policy implications of integrating LCA and circular economy.

3.07 - Holistic Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment

3.07 - Holistic Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment | Sahar Nava, Alexander Koch and Upadhyayula Venkata Krishna Kumar*

This session aims to delve into the application of Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) in decision-making, focusing on the methodology's transparency, development and its influence on sustainable growth.

LCSA integrates the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of products and systems throughout their lifecycle. Yet, its current application raises concerns about subjectivity and opacity. In addition, the adaptability and effectiveness of LCSA vary significantly across different industries and sectors. A holistic approach to LCSA necessitates inclusive planning and robust stakeholder engagement, fostering equitable models, social learning, and ecological responsibility.

We will explore the role of LCSA in enhancing informed decision-making. The session will address the complexities of scoping, system boundary identification, the inclusion of social and economic dimensions, a range of LCSA methods, their application in distinct sectors, and the implications for sustainability. The session will critically assess the effectiveness of current practices and the potential for harmonising methodologies.

The submissions can include:

  • Comparative analysis of LCSA approaches within various sectors, such as construction, manufacturing, and services.
  • The challenges of achieving transparency in LCSA practices.
  • Technical uncertainties in LCSA methodologies.
  • Methodological challenges in integrating multi-dimensional sustainability impacts within LCSA frameworks.
  • Methodological developments such as application of system modelling to sustainability assessments
  • The potential of LCSA to inform and transform multistakeholder participatory research and sector-specific sustainability practices.
  • Future directions for LCSA methods to enhance their robustness, reliability, and relevance across industries.

The session aims to stimulate a dynamic exchange of insights on the adaptability of LCSA, encouraging cross-sectoral learning. The goal is to contribute to the symposium's overarching theme by identifying how LCSA can be fine-tuned to support sustainable decisions grounded in comprehensive and sector-appropriate assessments and supported by good data and better models.

 

4. Sector Focus

In these sessions, conference participants will learn about the progress and issues arising as particular industrial sectors (Batteries, Built Environment, Energy, IT, Packaging, Textiles, Transport, Waste Management and Water) face the challenges of life cycle assessment and management.

4.01 - Life Cycle Assessment of Batteries

4.01 - Life Cycle Assessment of Batteries | Linda Ager-Wick Ellingsen and Marco Raugei*

The energy supply and transport sectors are major contributors to global anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reducing their reliance on fossil fuels is a key decarbonization strategy. For the energy supply sector, renewable energy sources such and wind and solar power have gained much attention as candidates to replace fossil fuels in electricity generation. However, the intermittence of these technologies necessitates electrical energy storage systems. As for the transport sector, electrification is a primary decarbonization strategy. Regardless of whether fuel cell or battery propulsion systems are used, rechargeable batteries are required for electrification.

Consequently, key decarbonization strategies for the energy supply and transport sectors entail a massive deployment of rechargeable batteries. At present, Li-ion batteries are the predominant choice for both electrical energy storage and transport electrification due to their favorable characteristics such as long cycle life, low memory effect, high cycling efficiency, and high energy and power densities. However, the expected massive increase in demand for rechargeable batteries raises concerns regarding the resource availability and environmental impacts of Li-ion batteries. Due to these sustainability concerns, several novel battery technologies are under development.

Development and adoption of both Li-ion and novel battery technologies require comprehensive and updated sustainability assessments to ensure that our decarbonization strategies lead to increased environmental sustainability.

As the environmental sustainability of products are best assessed using life cycle assessment (LCA), this session focuses on LCA-based sustainability assessments of battery technologies and will consider:

  • battery technologies for both stationery and transport applications
  • new and updated assessments of Li-ion battery chemistries
  • early and prospective assessments of novel battery technologies
  • comparative environmental screenings and assessments of various battery materials and technologies
  • studies assessing factors affecting the environmental sustainability of batteries (e.g., design, repurposing for second life application, recycling, etc.)

 

4.02 - Ex-ante, Prospective, and Circular LCA for Buildings: Envisioning Future Impacts

4.02 - Ex-ante, Prospective, and Circular LCA for Buildings: Envisioning Future Impacts | Holger Wallbaum and Xingquiang Song*

In the evolving landscape of sustainable development, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) plays a pivotal role in understanding and mitigating the environmental impacts of buildings. However, compared to most products buildings have a very long use phase of 50 to hundreds of years. This makes the LCA results of buildings especially sensitive to assumptions regarding changes in the future, such as changes in the supply chains or a transition to a Circular Economy (CE).

Our session addresses the transition to net-zero whole-life carbon (NetZ-WLC) in the building sector with a renewed focus on CE-LCA, which integrates LCA with the principles of the CE. Traditional LCA, based on current data, falls short in predicting future technological, material, and supply chain shifts, which are critical for long-term sustainability.

As a possible solution to these challenges, the approaches of Ex-ante and Prospective LCA (pLCA) provide a forward-looking perspective, crucial for estimating the long-term environmental impacts of current building designs and practices.

Therefore, we are looking for methodologies, case studies, and applications that showcase transitions to NetZ-WLC designs, emphasizing future-oriented building LCAs, circularity in building designs, and the assessment of CE principles through pLCA. Successful approaches from other fields that could be adapted for the built environment are very welcome.

By focusing on these areas, the session will contribute to the broader theme of the symposium: "Making LCA Meaningful: Good Data, Better Models, Sustainable Decisions." We welcome contributions from academia, industry, and policy sectors that highlight the practical implementation and theoretical advancements in these domains. The goal is to foster a comprehensive understanding of the future of sustainable building practices and how LCA can guide decision-making towards more environmentally friendly and resource-efficient solutions.

4.03 - Combined Methods for Energy Futures in Life Cycle Assessment

4.03 - Combined Methods for Energy Futures in Life Cycle Assessment | Søren Løkke, Tomas Ekvall and Niclas Ericsson*

In an era of significant energy sector transformation, this session focuses on the pivotal role of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) in evaluating the environmental impacts of evolving energy systems. It emphasizes the integration of renewable energy sources and various sectors into a smart, holistic energy system.

Discussions will revolve around developing and implementing energy system models that capture infrastructure planning, production capacity, and political decision impacts. These models are crucial for visualizing future scenarios and adapting LCA modeling to energy system changes.

A central theme is the challenges and methodologies in coupling energy systems modeling with LCA. We invite contributions on modeling future energy systems in LCA, particularly for technologies like heat pumps, batteries, and smart systems. Discussions will also cover the complexities of energy supply modeling within LCA, including land-use impacts, allocation issues, and marginal impacts in grid-based supply.

Special focus will be on the temporal aspects of electricity systems, especially for intermittent sources such as wind and photovoltaics. We seek innovative methods for modeling energy storage, flexible electricity use, and consumption pattern shifts.

This session is a platform for dialogue among researchers and practitioners exploring the integration of energy systems modeling and LCA. We welcome systematic reviews, new insights on fluctuation management in energy supply and demand, and proposals for enhancing the validity of future energy system assessments.

Join us to contribute to this critical discussion on shaping a sustainable and informed future through the effective integration of energy systems modeling and LCA.

4.04 - LCA of Digitalization, ICT and AI

4.04 - LCA of Digitalization, ICT and AI | Anna Furberg, Birgit Brunklaus, Kari-Anne Lyng and Reinout Heijungs*

The production, use and waste management of hardware and software are associated with significant environmental and social direct impacts. At the same time, digitalization and artificial intelligence (AI) can promote sustainability, for example by the optimization of processes leading to indirect effects like reduced energy demand. Uncertainties are extensive for this rapidly changing sector, as exemplified by contradictory results in future projections for the global Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector’s direct climate impact (Bieser et al., 2023) and the scarcity of LCAs on AI systems (Ligozat et al, 2022). Several key aspects in influencing the impacts of digitalisation, such as number of devices, data traffic and energy efficiency improvements, have been identified (Furberg & Finnveden, 2023) but further research is needed on how to model these aspects in future LCAs. The main focus of this session is on methodological developments and case studies for LCA of digital technologies.

As digital services and AI systems often are multi-functional by nature, LCA of such services require special attention when it comes to definition of the functional unit (Shi et al., 2022). The functional unit and the system boundaries must be appropriate to the scope of the system: Is the study intended to give decision support on what to digitalise and what to use AI for, or to optimise an existing or planned system?

Submissions that address and provide recommendations related to methodological challenges while considering direct and/or indirect impacts are highly suited for this session. Examples of expected case study areas for submissions include LCAs of currently fast-growing digital technologies, such as AI and the Internet of Things, and LCAs of software.

References:

Bieser et al (2023). A review of assessments of the greenhouse gas footprint and abatement potential of information and communication technology. Environ Impact Assess Rev, 99, 107033. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eiar.2022.107033

Furberg, A., & Finnveden, G. (2023). Towards the identification of key aspects for future scenarios of the information and communication technology sector’s climate impact – Extended abstract. Joint Proceedings of ICT4S 2023 Doctoral Symposium, Demonstrations & Posters Track and Workshops. Rennes, France.

Ligozat et al (2022) Unraveling the Hidden Environmental Impacts of AI Solutions for Environment Life Cycle Assessment of AI Solutions. Sustainability, 14, 5172.

Shi et al (2022) Functionality‐based life cycle assessment framework: An information and communication technologies (ICT) product case study. Journal of industrial ecology, 26(3), pp.782-800.

4.05 - LCA-Assisted Decision-Making in Circular Packaging Systems

4.05 - LCA-Assisted Decision-Making in Circular Packaging Systems | Mateo Saavedra del Oso, Rothman Rachael and Tatjana Karpenja*

Packaging systems are essential for the protection, preservation, and distribution of goods, but they also contribute to environmental impacts and waste generation. To achieve a circular and regenerative economy within planetary boundaries, innovative solutions for packaging systems are needed, such as new materials, reuse systems, etc. However, these solutions also pose new challenges and opportunities for life cycle assessment (LCA), such as data availability and quality, methodological consistency and comparability, system boundaries and scope, and trade-offs and synergies. This session aims to explore the current and future trends of packaging systems in the circular economy, and to discuss how LCA can support the assessment and improvement of their environmental performance and sustainability. We welcome abstracts that address topics such as:

  • LCA in circular packaging systems (e.g., single vs reusable systems, packaging with recycled content, CCU)
  • (Prospective) LCA of packaging waste management systems and technologies.
  • Case studies of LCIA development (e.g., biodiversity, new substances, microplastics)
  • Absolute environmental sustainability assessment of packaging systems and technologies.

4.06 - An Era of Change in Sustainable Textiles: Robust Data-Driven Life Cycle Assessment

4.06 - An Era of Change in Sustainable Textiles: Robust Data-Driven Life Cycle Assessment | Niğmet Uzal and Greg Peters*

The motivation for this session originates from the critical necessity for the textile industry, which is recognized as one of the most resource-intensive and polluting sectors globally, to embrace sustainable practices. Right now, LCA is a critical and practical instrument for the industry in this sustainability transition.

By providing a holistic view of environmental impacts, LCA enables industry stakeholders to make informed decisions considering environmental, economic and social responsibility. This session is envisioned as a platform for sharing knowledge, discussing challenges, and exploring innovative solutions that can drive the textile industry towards a more sustainable era. This session directly ties into the symposium's focus on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), emphasizing the importance of robust, data-driven approaches.

Through this session, we aim to bring together all stakeholders; experts, practitioners, and policymakers to foster dialogue and collaboration, ultimately contributing to a shared goal of a more sustainable textile industry. This is an opportunity to demonstrate how comprehensive, data- driven LCA can serve as the basis for a greener textile industry in the future. In this session, an in- depth exploration of how these refined LCA approaches allow for more accurate assessments of environmental impacts throughout the entire lifecycle of textile products, from the extraction of raw materials to their end-of-life will be discussed with emphasizing the critical importance of high- quality, robust data in conducting these assessments, emphasizing the challenges associated with data collection and the necessity for transparency in reporting the environmental footprints within the textile supply chain.

The use of life cycle assessment (LCA) to assess and compare the environmental impacts of conventional materials with those of emerging sustainable alternatives, such as bio-based materials, recycled fabrics, and organic fibers, will be an additional area of emphasis. This will involve an examination of product durability, maintenance needs, and end-of-life circumstances, including disposal and recycling. Furthermore, the objective of the session is to emphasize the significance of LCA as a crucial instrument in guiding the textile sector into a more sustainable era, while simultaneously managing its environmental and economic specifications.

In addition, a thorough examination of how the textile industry may adapt to the circular economy and Green Deal principles through the application of robust, data-driven LCA as a mechanism for sustainable change will be presented during the session.

4.07 - Better Data and Modelling for Sustainable Transport

4.07 - Better Data and Modelling for Sustainable Transport | Selma Brynolf, Rei Palm and Johanna Berlin*

The transport sector significantly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and various pollutants adversely affecting the climate, human health, and the natural environment. A lot of attention has been put on assessing road transport, and the European automotive industry is substantially increasing quality and traceability of its sustainability data and actions, partly due to new legislations such as EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and the upcoming EU Directive on Green Claims. Increased focus is also put on assessing air and sea transport.

Traditionally the use phase of vehicles, vessels, and aircraft has dominated the life cycle impact of transport but in the transition away from using fossil fuels impacts associated with the vehicle life cycle (manufacturing, maintenance, scrapping), fuel and electricity production, and the infrastructure life cycle (construction, operation, maintenance, demolition) can also have a significant contribution to impacts of transport systems.

Finding representative and reliable data for all phases of the life cycle is challenging. How can data be managed and traced in the supply chain to provide consistent LCI for transport manufacturers? What is the content and effect of data traceability legislation in different parts of the world? On an EU level there is an initiative to develop a common framework to calculate and report transport-related greenhouse gas emissions, CountEmissions EU. Can this help in providing reliable data for assessing different transport modes in LCA? For sea transport, the International Maritime Administration (IMO) has decided that a life cycle perspective should be considered when implementing policy measures for near-zero GHG emissions in 2050. What data is needed to support policy development and the transition of the transport sector? How can LCA be used in this context? For air transport, a significant impact on climate is from non-CO2 emissions at high altitudes. How can this be included in LCA and what data is needed? For cars, battery-electric vehicles are entering the market, but there are questions about assessing and developing technology (e.g., how to assess different battery chemistries) as well as its impact on fleet level. How should we allocate emissions for vehicles with more than one function, such as when they are used to provide stability to electricity grids?

In this context, life cycle assessment can be a pivotal tool, offering insights that can inform decision-making in transport system policy and planning. The session explores the strategic use of life cycle assessment in the energy transition of the transport sector. The session aims to discuss the life cycle research that covers different transport including road, rail, water, and air.

4.08 - Modelling of Waste Management

4.08 - Modelling of Waste Management | Tomas Ekvall and Almudena Hospido*

Waste management is modelled in most life cycle assessments and sometimes has a critical impact on the total results. Material recycling, incineration with or without energy recovery, biological treatment with biogas and/or nutrients recovery, and landfills with gas recovery are all associated with allocation problems and data challenges. We invite presentations that contributes to increasing the understanding of how waste management can or should be modelled in different contexts.

Various versions of the cut-off and end-of-life approaches are the most common methods for modelling recycling, but many more complex methods exist – including the Circular Footprint Formula (CFF) in the Environmental Footprint methodology. We particularly invite contributions that compare and discuss different versions of the cut-off and end-of-life approaches, and contributions that test the applicability of the CFF and/or other complex methods.

Incineration with energy recovery is often modelled through system expansion with substitution of alternative energy supply. There is a lack of evidence to support the underlying assumption that waste from the life cycle investigated increases the quantity of energy recovered; on the contrary, incinerators often run at full capacity regardless of the waste from our life cycle. We particularly invite evidence to support the assumption that incineration of waste from a single life cycle affects or do not affect the energy output of incinerators. We also invite contributions that present and test other approaches for modelling incineration with energy recovery.

4.09 - LCA Advances for Water Engineering Towards Circular Economy

4.09 - LCA Advances for Water Engineering Towards Circular Economy | Pinaki Dasgupta and Almudena Hospido*

The potential to engineer more circular water systems and the need to cope with new water quality challenges are drawing more advanced technologies into general use and potentially reducing extraction from freshwater catchments. LCA has been a scientific tool for assessment of performance for water and wastewater systems for many years and some have included the economic and social factors through LCC and social LCA, but challenges remain. While the AWARE method (Available WAter REmaining) for calculation of a water scarcity footprint was a major step forward regarding the impacts of water extraction, questions around how water quantity (e.g., flow fluctuations) impact wastewater discharge compartment aquatic species loss are still relevant. Regarding water and wastewater quality, emerging contaminants challenge current water system LCA - the identification of new compounds in wastewater and sludge and has consequences for LCI coverage and for LCIA approaches. Dynamic approaches for the modelling of water treatment systems or the connected catchments and discharge environments can be explored. The aggregation of novel risks such as antibiotic resistant bacteria, consideration of the fate and transport of odor, accounting for ecosystem services, or establish relationships between state and pressure variables can enhance the assessment of health and social impacts.

The session intends to explore case studies and methodological contributions relevant for water cycle planning, with LCA as a stepping stone for the development of circular systems. It is hoped this will help to make LCA more relevant for scientific, industrial and regulatory communities connected with water management.

References:
Byrne et al (2017) Life cycle assessment (LCA) of urban water infrastructure: Emerging approaches to balance objectives and inform comprehensive decision-making. Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, 3(6)1002-1014

 

 

*Member of the Programme Committee