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LCA part3

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LCA often takes longer to perform than schedules permit.
Interim revision of the contract is not unusual, particularly in the case of LCAs for use in comparative,
public reviews.
A well-conducted LCA does not automatically lead to a good process result (through lack of consensus
or commitment, for example). Conversely, an LCA deficient in substance may be blamed - rightly or
wrongly - on a problematic process. On this playing field a conflict may arise between the interests of
the party executing the LCA and the best interests of the process.
Another possible area of tension concerns the relation between the LCA practitioner on the one hand
and the commissioning party and other stakeholders on the other. In the case of LCA-related conflict
among stakeholders it may be the task of the LCA practitioner to expose fallacious thinking, signal
inconsistencies and employ sensitivity analysis to quantify the effects of different assumptions, for
example. In situations like these due care should be taken, however, to ensure that the LCA practitioner
shows no ‘bias’. One thing that must be avoided, for instance, is that the interests of the commissioning
party lead to the product systems under study being modeled to respect considerations of corporate
strategy rather than the system requirements specified. (In an assessment of possible future strategies,
disagreeable product systems could conceivably be torpedoed through adoption of unfavourable
assumptions regarding service life (short), resource consumption (high, polluting) and transport and
cleaning processes (polluting).) In such cases the LCA practitioner can all too easily become party to a
conflict regarding system boundaries and assumptions.
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- the LCA practitioner has not reflected sufficiently on the admissibility of the project terms and
constraints as specified by the commissioning party;
- there is insufficient, diffuse regard for the role and responsibilities of the LCA practitioner in terms of
both the LCA results and the overall process result;
- the LCA practitioner is insufficiently perceptive of the interests at stake and the conscientiousness
this role demands;
- the LCA practitioner adopts an insufficiently independent stance, thus compromising the objectivity
of the process.
Part 3: Scientific background 41 May 2001
Process item 4: Role and duties of the reviewer(s)
The aim of a (critical) review is to verify that an LCA study satisfies the set criteria with respect to such
issues as methodology, system modeling, data selection and reporting mode. If LCA-based decision-
making is to be worthwhile, it is of the greatest importance that one or more rigorous reviews be carried
out. This is illustrated by the inclusion in ISO 14040 of background considerations and process criteria
with regard to such reviews.
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- the independent status of the critical review and/or panel review within the decision-making process
is not guaranteed;
- review duties are undermined because the status of the review(s) in the overall process is unclear (in
terms of planning, for example);
- there is no explicit distinction between the advisory and evaluatory responsibilities of the critical
reviewer(s) and/or panel;
- there are no clear arrangements regarding the relationship between critical reviewer and panel duties
and reporting by these parties;
- there is insufficient clarity regarding the scope of the scheduled review reports and any constraints
imposed on the review, either prior to or during the process.
1.3.5 Representation of interests
To ensure that decision-making is sufficiently transparent, it is essential that all relevant parties be
involved in the decision-making process and that these parties can be confident that their interests are
addressed as satisfactorily as possible within the adopted framework of the process.
Process item 5: Selection of process participants
It is of the utmost importance that the circle of participants engaged in the process be sufficiently wide.
Although there may be an understandable urge to move forward, every endeavour should be made to
avoid exclusion of relevant stakeholders and the loss of authoritativeness with which this is likely to be
associated. In this context it should be borne in mind that those representing the parties involved must
have sufficient ‘commitment power’. Those being represented should consider themselves sufficiently
bound to the outcome of the process.
Another point meriting due attention is balanced representation. ‘Impassioned’ parties for whom the
stakes are high will send a relatively heavy delegation with plenty of time and know-how, while less
impassioned parties will send lighter-weight representatives. This may upset the symmetry of the
process and complicate overall progress.
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- inadequate prior consideration is given to the required breadth of representation, with no proper
inventory of stakeholders;
- the stakeholder representatives recruited have insufficient commitment power;
- representation is unbalanced (inequality, asymmetry);
- process participants lack sufficient basic knowledge regarding LCA and the product systems under
study; this is particularly important in the Goal and scope definition phase of the LCA.
Process item 6: Structures and interests to be respected
A process may sometimes be structured in such a way that the issues at stake coincide with the vital
interests of (some of) the parties involved. Jeopardisation of these interests may then disrupt the entire
process. Companies often state that they are willing to participate in a process only on condition that
sensitive corporate information need not be made available to other parties (or only confidentially). The
core interest of many public interest groups is to fulfil their role as moulders of opinion. Consequently,
Part 3: Scientific background 42 May 2001
they are not likely to take part in a process if this involves their not being allowed to publicise their
positions in any way. Politicians, administrators and their representatives bear political responsibility
and this is the key interest that they represent. LCA processes may not be designed such that this
political accountability to representational bodies is compromised.
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- there is excessive discussion, prior to as well as during the process, about secrecy arrangements,
through aversion to confidentiality on the one hand and insufficient explicit detailing and limitation of
the scope of confidentiality on the other;
- prior to the process, there is insufficient detailing of how maximum freedom of action for all parties to
the process is to be guaranteed, at the same time ensuring the least damage to the process as
- the primacy of the political domain is inadequately respected, while the commitment of political
representatives is rendered insufficiently explicit;
- there are deficiencies in the organisational structure linking the process participants/representatives
to their ‘constituency’.
Process item 7: Participation
It is a well-known fact that at the outset of a process some parties take only a limited interest in the
proceedings. The main reason is that it is not yet sufficiently clear to these parties what turn the
process will take. Time and money must be invested in participation in a process whose outcome is still
unclear. These actors therefore are insufficient motivated to participate in the process, even though they
have every opportunity to influence the decision-making process. In the final stages of the process the
picture is reversed. Certain actors will be particularly interested in continued participation, for the