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LCA part3

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36 May 2001
stakeholders will have been able to contribute their problem definitions and solutions. These will all have
been taken into due consideration in the decision-making process and a decision ultimately reached.
This process will have been transparent, allowing it to be validated by all parties.
Together, (1) support for a (2) substantially robust result after (3) a fair process may be sufficient to
ensure that there is consensus among the stakeholders. In many cases, though, the interests of the
stakeholders may differ so widely that consensus cannot reasonably be expected. A process may then
well result in commitment to a particular product. Parties expressing commitment declare that they:
- commit themselves to the product of a process;
- perhaps distance themselves from certain elements of that product;
- are prepared to vouch for the product.
1.3.2 Decision-making based on a process approach
The philosophy behind the process approach is that the outcome of a LCA will be authoritative only if the
principal parties are duly involved in this analysis. This involvement should be structured in an orderly
fashion and a process design is consequently essential. This design should indicate:
- which parties (singular or plural) are to be involved in the analysis;
- at which points in the decision-making process these parties may exert their influence;
- how to proceed at such points in the process.
In brief, the principal arguments in favour of a process approach are as follows:
I. Support
Successful execution of an LCA requires the support of the stakeholders, and if they are to stand
behind the outcome of the analysis they must be duly involved in the analysis process.
II. Quality of data and other information
The stakeholders can also make an important contribution to the quality of the information used to
perform the LCA, for they dispose over factual data and other information (based on such data), in
the form of data and know-how on recent and expected innovations, for example.
III. Quality of the analysis
Critical interrogation by stakeholders vis-à-vis the study and its outcome will bring into clear view
the underlying values, the choices (regarding data and assumptions) made, and which results are
robust and authoritative and which do not satisfy these criteria.
IV. Validation of stakeholder views and assumptions
Conversely, in their meetings with researchers the stakeholders will have to expound on their own
views and assumptions, some of which may not stand up to the scrutiny of scientific criticism.
V. ‘Enrichment’
The stakeholders involved in the analysis will often be representing different interests.
Confrontations between these interests may lead to enrichment: a mutual learning process.
Basic preconditions
If a process approach is to have any chance of success, three basic preconditions must be satisfied:
Condition 1: There must be a sense of urgency.
 A process design demands a sense of urgency. The stakeholders must, in
other words, be convinced that:
- there is a problematic situation1 that must be resolved as a matter of
- an LCA can help resolve this problematic situation;
- the stakeholders must somehow collaborate on designing the LCA.
 If these three conditions are not fulfilled, the process will have little chance of
succeeding, for nobody will be prepared to commit themselves to a decision-
making process. Phenomena like the ‘participation paradox’ as well as limited
participation at the outset of the process (see Section 1.3.4) are especially
 1 The stakeholders may well, at the outset, have different perceptions of the problem. What matters, though, is
that all parties see the need to arrive at a collective approach and decision.
Part 3: Scientific background 37 May 2001
likely if there is little sense of urgency. There is then a high major risk of the
process breaking down.
Condition 2: Stakeholders must be willing to commit themselves to a process design.
 It is important that the basic process agreements between parties are explicitly
recorded in a process design, making clear which organisations may participate
in the process, who are to represent them, what mandate these representatives
are to have, and what rules of decision-making and what (substantial, financial)
constraints are to hold. Although this may seem trivial, experience shows that
process management is frequently implicit: talks are held with stakeholders,
without a process design being properly thought out and elaborated in concreto.
The transparency and integrity of the process may consequently suffer. Parties
may be drawn into the process too late, be unclear about the status of the talks
and how their contribution is reflected in the end result, have the impression that
other parties are exerting undue influence, and so on. If there is a lack of
transparency and/or integrity, a process may become ‘messy’ in the eyes of the
participants and/or not give them a fair chance to influence the outcome. It will
be clear that this will discredit the process.
The process design can be drawn up by a process architect, in due consultation
with all the stakeholders. Once the latter have approved the design, the process
can be steered and guided by a so-called process manager.
A number of topics described in the following sections under ‘process items’
derive from this fundamental precondition.
Condition 3: All process participants must possess a minimum level of substantial expertise.
A third basic condition is that the representatives of the parties must be in
possession of a minimum level of knowledge and expertise on LCAs. If this is
not the case, pronounced asymmetry may arise among process participants,
which frequently leads to the process breaking down. The mere fact that
participants lacking due expertise will need to go through a learning process
during the LCA process confirms this risk: the process will become
unnecessarily protracted and consequently vulnerable.
1.3.3 Designing the decision-making process
The first thing to remember when designing a decision-making process is that a process approach in a
situation of mandated science involves certain risks. A number of such risks can be identified and for
these due allowance should be made.
- stakeholders will have access to knowledge regarding project progress and may make opportunistic
use of interim and final results;
- if the LCA results threaten to be unfavourable from their perspective, stakeholders may so
accelerate or procrastinate decision-making that a misfit ensues (substantive, analytical results
arrive too soon or too late);
- researchers have access to information about the progress of the decision-making process and may
upset this process by publicising their opinions, incomplete (‘quick and dirty’) research results, and
so on;
- if the study results threaten to be unfavourable from their perspective, researchers, too, may so
accelerate or procrastinate decision-making that a misfit ensues; at the very least, the stakeholders
may be accused of taking a decision that is inadequately grounded in the research undertaken;
- stakeholders and researchers may be so concerned about reaching consensus that the quality of
the LCA suffers as a result.
These risks are a clear indication that an explicit process design is a sine qua non for a successful
process-type LCA, for it allows appropriate measures to be taken to limit the risks inherent in such a
Part 3: Scientific background 38 May 2001
Focus on execution and use of the LCA
In the second place it should be recognised that fair LCA-based decision-making requires that due
allowance be made for how the LCA is conducted and how the analysis results are utilised by the
various stakeholders. On the one hand, this relates to the actual analysis based on the LCA
methodology. In this respect, the main aim of the process approach is to make sure the analysis is of