Limitations of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Limitations of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

We can all agree that life cycle assessment is a vital part of the analytical process that will help you determine the overall impact your business is creating an environment that surrounds us.

By using it, you will be able to thoroughly interpret and quantify the material and energy flows and understand the entire cycle of the product, service, or process based on the ISO standards.

Have in mind that it involves the evaluation and compilation of outputs, inputs as well as potential mental impacts of the system throughout its entire life cycle.

Have in mind that environmental flows include emissions to land, water, and air as well as consumption of material resources and energy. The idea is to combine streams so that you can generate the overall indicators on how your products are affecting the environment.

The first step of the process includes understanding the goals and scope of the process.

Therefore, we can say that life cycle assessment starts with the statement that will provide you an ability to consider scope and goal of the study, as well as set the context that will thoroughly explain the results to the public.

Of course, limitations of life cycle assessment also exist, and you have to consider them throughout the process. Have in mind that the primary goal of ISO standards is to create consistent definition and data so that you can apply it in numerous situations.

We are talking about technical guide and details that will create a framework in which you can operate afterward. You should consider aspects such as:

  • The functional unit will define what you have been studied and provide you the reference that will allow you to relate based on inputs and outputs you create.
  • You can implement system boundaries as well as limitations that your overall production cycle features so that you can improve the process and reduce the energy and material waste.

The step is including life cycle inventory analysis, which will include creating inventory flow from the beginning until the very end. We are talking about inputs of energy, water, as well as raw materials that you have been using for the entire lifecycle.

The best way to develop inventory is to create a technical system by using relevant data based on outputs and inputs.

Have in mind that you should illustrate flow model by using a chart that will present you all activities that you have to assess from the production process so that you can understand all limitations that may happen throughout the process.

Limitations of Life Cycle Assessment

Have in mind that the primary goal of LCA is to provide you a comprehensive, holistic, and complete understanding of the entire effects that you are creating in the overall stages of production.

At the same time, you will be able to identify stages of practice that are negatively affecting the environment, which will help you identify and find the best solution possible.

Apart from that, it will reveal most environmental concerns, so that you can apply decision based on the industry you work, which will provide you an ability to assess the environment.

The main problem lies in the idea that methodological choices tend to be inconsistent such as system boundaries and functional units, which means that it is highly challenging to compare various studies.

Of course, they have solved this particular problem through standardization process of most methodologies, and as a result, you will get an indication that environmental impact affects the industry standards as well as the production of the product.

However, it may happen that you will not be able to indicate the best possible outcome of your particular product since the novel production systems have found ways to reduce impacts on the environment and you do not have to consider them throughout the study.

Historically speaking, life cycle assessment has always focused on environmental, while neglecting social impacts.

Of course, the organizations have created standards that will help you generate methodology for social LCA, but have in mind that it is a useful but incomplete tool that will help you measure sustainability.

Therefore, it can help you understand the overall environmental impacts, but it will not provide you the solution for problems that you will notice along the way.

Nowadays, most LCA studies that you can find are entirely focusing on the environment without thinking that social impacts may also determine the overall perspective.

Therefore, how some service and product are affecting health, employment, well-being, and human rights is not something that we consider throughout the process, which creates a question why we do it in the first place.

It is vital to thoroughly introduce both economic and social issues so that you can improve the complexity that will happen through it. For instance, carbon emissions occur during certain production activities.

If it is high, it will affect the social aspects of people around us and have both negative and positive health consequences in the long run.

Therefore, you will be able to use data you compiled to create a conclusion on how it affects social aspects of humanity, but that is something that you have to understand because it won't be presented per se.

Of course, you do not have to worry because standards and methodologies, as well as latest software, tend to implement and evolve the overall attempt to incorporate social impacts and measurements into the assessment.

Can You Determine Whether Something Is Sustainable With LCA?

This is another problem, and we have to answer this question by saying that it cannot. The main reason for that is that LCA will not consider many needs and users and provide you a more extensive understanding of the importance and value of some service or product.

That tells us that life cycle assessment cannot provide sustainability thresholds, or in other words, it cannot set limitations for what is acceptable for the entire society.

At the same time, it will not be able to address the broader questions on consumerism and impacts of consumption in general.

Still, it can help you understand data, which is efficient for most people, and only by reading the report, you will be able to make social conclusions that will help you improve society.