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LCA part3

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high quality and the results sufficiently authoritative for all the stakeholders. On the other
hand, it relates to the practical implications of the analysis results, in the form of corporate or public
decision-making, for example. In this respect, the process should be designed such that due justice is
done to the analysis results in the corporate or public decision-making setting in question. This implies
that the process design must cover more than merely the methodological rigour of the LCA project. For
a process design to work satisfactorily there must also be optimum interaction between project
execution as such and the intended practical use of the analysis results.
Matching the process goal
Thirdly, the process must be designed in accordance with the goal. The reasons for conducting an LCA
differ from case to case. For example, a company may perform or commission an LCA in order to
decide - internally - what kind of new product is preferable from an environmental perspective, or to
provide public accountability for the environmental burden caused by a current product. Alternatively, it
may be a government commissioning or conducting an LCA, for any number of reasons. The study may
serve to decide - internally - what kind of new policies are preferable from an environmental perspective,
or to provide public accountability for (proposed) policies.
The motives for undertaking the LCA will determine the scope and substance of the decisions based on
the LCA results (product development, policy development and implementation, accountability). It goes
without saying that the potential scope of the LCA-based decision should constitute a major determining
factor vis-à-vis the intensity of participation in the decision-making process by the various stakeholders.
Finally, it should be stressed that LCA-based decision-making may involve a substantial variety of
domestic as well as foreign players with commercial, public or ‘idealistic’ interests. These may be the
interests of the companies or government agencies commissioning the LCA (henceforth
‘commissioners’), third-party interests or the international legal and economic context. The decision-
making process should therefore be designed such that none of the relevant parties can be overlooked,
to avoid implementation of inappropriate environmental measures, assertion of improper environmental
claims and debatable competitive advantages.
Based on our own experience in a variety of practical contexts and on information on other cases, we
have undertaken a careful review of LCA-based decision-making, giving particular attention to the
procedural embedding of LCA projects and subsequent processes. In doing so, we have focused on the
kinds of situations arising in both the public and the corporate decision-making context. We have found
that LCA-based decision-making is often embedded in a standing procedural framework, statutory or
otherwise. In a number of cases this was a broader procedural context explicitly allowing for possible
execution of LCAs (Dutch Voluntary Agreement on Packaging, ‘Eco-label’). In other instances, such as
LCAs performed as part of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures, this was not the case.
In this report we do not reflect on the diversity of practical cases as such, but focus directly on the
results of that reflection process. Against this background, the following sections present a number of
general insights regarding those process aspects that have proved most relevant.
With regard to the procedural embedding of LCA studies, we here distinguish a total of 15 dominant
process characteristics (items), divided over four process aspects. For each process item one or more
potential bottlenecks are identified, based on experience and theoretical understanding. Due attention
should be given to these bottlenecks, by anticipating the problems that are likely to arise.
Part 3: Scientific background 39 May 2001
1.3.4 Implementation of LCA tasks
Satisfactory execution of the numerous activities involved in an LCA project requires a clearly delineated
assignment of tasks among the various parties and tight overall management of responsibilities.
Process item 1: Overall process management
In most cases an LCA will not be executed by the initiating party but by one or more specialists,
commissioned by one or more stakeholders. This may take a number of forms. The simplest
configuration involves a single person representing a company or organisation - with a clearly defined
purpose - and fulfilling the role of commissioner as well as overall process manager. If there are several
parties involved and it is deemed desirable to give the various parties a fair chance of making an
optimum contribution and the contracting (i.e. paying) party or parties are also willing to provide that
opportunity, the role of ‘commissioner’ may be shouldered jointly by the full compliment of stakeholders.
In such cases responsibility for overall project management is assigned to an independent process
manager. In practice, of course, there will be numerous variations between these two extremes.
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- the commissioning party or parties have insufficient LCA know-how prior to their formulating the LCA
- the supervisory committees set up by the commissioners have an inadequate decision-making
framework; this is particularly relevant when the commissioners have conflicting interests;
I. Implementation of LCA tasks
process item 1 Overall process management
process item 2 Role and duties of the process manager
process item 3 Role and duties of the LCA practitioner
process item 4 Role and duties of the reviewer(s)
II. Representation of interests
process item 5 Selection of process participants
process item 6 Structures and interests to be respected
process item 7 Participation
process item 8 Commitment
III. Process progress
process item 9 Balance between content and process
process item 10 Balance between speed and thoroughness
process item 11 Outside influences
process item 12 Honouring input
IV. Process outcome
process item 13 Clarity of purpose
process item 14 Relation between LCA findings and process conclusions
process item 15 Relation between process conclusions and
Part 3: Scientific background 40 May 2001
- financial responsibility for the LCA contract is undivorced from responsibility for overall project
Process item 2: Role and duties of the process manager
To ensure optimum project progress and stakeholder involvement a process manager may be appointed.
A process manager may in principle fulfil any number of duties, with a strong emphasis on substance or
purely process-oriented, on behalf of a commissioning party or entirely independent, purely as a
mediator or simultaneously managerial and directive. If there is ambiguity in this area or if roles and
duties are interpreted differently by various parties to the process, the status of the process manager
may suffer and with it the status of the process itself.
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- the role and duties of the process manager are not clearly delineated prior to the start of the
- inadequate attention is paid to communicating the process manager’s specific role and duties to all
process participants;
- there is insufficient scope for assessing the process manager’s performance in the various stages of
the process.
Process item 3: Role and duties of the LCA practitioner
The task of the person(s) and/or organisation executing the LCA (the ‘LCA practitioner’) is to perform all
the activities necessary to deliver the end product agreed to in the relevant contract. Generally speaking,
this end product will take the form of an LCA quantifying the environmental profile of one or more product
systems. It has been found in practice that an