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Life Cycle Assessment

Life Cycle Assessment (more commonly known by its acronym: LCA) is a methodology that allows to quantify the environmental impact of a process, service or product during its entire life cycle: from extraction of the raw materials necessary for its realization (agricultural, mining, etc.) until the end of its useful life, better known as the disposal phase. LCA has its roots in the late sixties when the first comparative studies among different products appeared in the scientific literature: it is still an LCA at the primordial stage, where only a few parameters are taken into consideration (such as the electricity consumption). From that moment, however, the road has been marked and LCA is gradually establishing itself as an essential tool of environmental engineering by including an increasing number of parameters within it (mineral resources, building materials, waste, harmful emissions into water and atmosphere)

The phases of the analysis:

Goal and Scope definition

The first phase has a deep influence on the final success of the environmental impact assessment. Indeed, only a correct and precise definition of the context, objectives and operational limits can lead to a solid, coherent and truthful analysis. During the first phase of the product life cycle analysis, the following things are established, in accordance to the objective of the study:

  • A congruous Functional Unit (FU)
  • Accurate and consistent allocation methods
  • Appropriate operational limits (system boundaries)
  • A choice of impact categories that is functional
  • An optimal and reasonable adoption of methodological limitations and exclusions
  • Always and in any case the best possible data quality


The second phase could be defined as the beating heart of the Life Cycle Assessment. In fact, it is in this phase that all the inputs and outputs characterizing the product, process or service under consideration are first identified and then subsequently quantified. The system under consideration is therefore modeled taking into account as inputs (what enters the system) both the resources coming from the natural world (water, wood, stone, agricultural and mineral resources) and those coming from the so-called technosphere (semi-finished products and/or finished, machinery, infrastructure, electricity) and as output (what comes out of the system) the production of waste (special or not), and the whole wide range of harmful emissions (in soil, water, and atmosphere). In full compliance with the ISO 14040 standard, the best possible estimate is carried out throughout all stages of the supply chain:

  • First stage (or production stage)
  • Second stage (or processing stage)
  • Third stage (or retail stage)
  • Fourth stage (or use stage)
  • Fifth stage (or disposal stage)


After completing the compilation of the inventory, it is possible to evaluate the different environmental impacts deriving from the system taken into consideration. This evaluation, according to the ISO 14044 standard, takes place according to five different perspectives:

  • Classification
  • Characterization
  • Normalization
  • Grouping
  • Weighing
The results are calculated according to all the proposed perspectives, using only and exclusively updated software, databases, emission factors (EF) and global warming potentials (GWP) and consolidated methodologies


The phase concerning the results’ interpretations allows to derive robust conclusions and recommendations, on which, for example, to base a communication strategy and/or an eco-design process.
The main elements of the interpretation of the results are:

  • Classification of the emission hotspots where the materials and processes that contribute the most to the overall impact are identified
  • Evaluations on the completeness and robustness of the model through the application of sensitivity and uncertainty analysis
  • Conclusions, recommendations and limitations

Possible advantages


By evaluating all the phases of a production process, it is possible to identify, with the support of objective data, critical elements and strengths of a given system. This study is essential for identifying improvement actions and starting a company path towards an environmental sustainability


An analysis that leads to the implementation of less expensive interventions, such as the implementation of Green Procurement strategies that include the identification of more sustainable suppliers and raw materials


Incorporating the considerations that emerged from the LCA analysis represents a tool for the continuous improvement of production processes and helps in the re-design of the same in order to manage some aspects of the products

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Acquaviva delle Fonti (BA), 70021 - Italy


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