21 Sep 2022

2022 SETAC Europe Award for Lifetime Achievement in Life Cycle Assessment

Heinz Stichnothe and Joost Dewaele, SETAC Europe LCA Steering Committee
This feature has been modified from an article in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, published 19 July 2022, and reproduced with permission.

The SETAC Europe Award for Lifetime Achievement in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is conferred biannually by the SETAC Europe LCA Steering Committee. This award recognizes the outstanding contributions of individuals or organizations in promoting life cycle thinking and improving LCA approaches.

This year, the award was presented to Olivier Jolliet, born in 1959, a professor in impact and risk modeling at the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health at the University of Michigan. He holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in physics, both from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland. Jolliet is widely recognized for his outstanding contributions to LCA and exposure modeling. He is especially known for his leading role since 1993 in the design, development and implementation of life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methods. He co-initiated the SETAC UNEP Life Cycle Initiative and presently leads the effort of more than 150 scientists worldwide to develop a consensus-based global LCIA method (GLAM). Throughout his career, he has been building bridges across the entire LCA community and has touched many aspects of life cycle methodology. How LCIA is operationalized today is heavily influenced by his hand, which is the result of tremendous amounts of passion, dedication and perseverance.

Jolliet was a pioneer in developing LCIA methods with regional and continental focus. He led the development of methods that combine midpoint and endpoint assessment, Impact 2002, and Impact World +, which were instrumental in defining the UNEP-SETAC framework for LCIA. He combined a world model of pollution with a world economic input output LCA model to analyze the fine particulate impacts associated with global trade, quantifying how Western consumption induces a quarter of the industrial impacts in Asia.

At the interphase of disciplines, Jolliet played a pivotal role in game-changing evolution of toxicity impact methods in LCA. Using mass balance methods and models from nanoscale to world, he has quantified the multi-dimensional environmental and human health impacts of multiple products over their life cycle, analyzing for example the ecosystem impacts of household products in the entirety of Asia. He co-introduced the intake fraction and the product intake fraction as adequate metrics to determine exposures to chemicals in products for more than 20,000 product-chemical combinations, identifying chemicals of concerns in building materials, toys, personal care products and cleaning products. He was one of the lead authors on chemicals in products and exposure for the UNEP Global Chemical Outlook II.

With colleagues, Jolliet pioneered the development of life cycle methods towards healthy and sustainable foods. This work on sustainable food systems culminated in his recent Nature Foods publication determining the environmental impacts and minutes of healthy life gained and lost for 5,800 individual foods, a high impact research reported by more than 1,000 news media, with a potential reach of 1.3 billion people worldwide.

Jolliet has been sharing his passion for LCA and exposure modeling through 30 years of continuous teaching that resulted in an open access LCA textbook and, just now, an LCA MOOC series. Jolliet has been a mentor and teacher for countless students and is considered a role model for many more. He is thankful to have inspired graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from several academic disciplines that have gone on to successful careers in academia, industry and government. He is co-founder of the LCA consultancy Quantis, hereby helping address the need to scale-up of LCA analysis beyond the context of academic research.

Starting 1 June, Jolliet takes on a new challenge as a professor in quantitative sustainability at DTU Sustain–Technical University Denmark. He is excited by the incredible availability of big data and plans to combine a life cycle approach to healthy and sustainable lifestyles with an exposome approach to analyze the combined effect and respective importance of physiological indicators, job occupations, chemicals, nutrients and foods, and physical exercise on all-cause mortality.

Jolliet was presented with his award at the SETAC Europe 32nd Annual Meeting, which was held from 15–19 May in Copenhagen, Denmark. The SETAC Europe Award for Lifetime Achievement in Life Cycle Assessment is sponsored by Edana—the international association serving the nonwovens and related industries, www.edana.org.

Author's contact information: Joost Dewaele, [email protected]