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LCA part3

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of the process are becoming clearer all the time. At the same time the most important
decisions will already have been taken, and the potential for influencing the process will be restricted
accordingly. In short, there is major scope for influencing the decision-making process at its outset
when participation is low, and far less scope for influence when participation is high.
Another phenomenon that deserves mention is the so-called ‘participation paradox'. The aim of suitably
broad-based participation is to improve the quality and support base of the decisions to be made. The
paradox is that participation may have the opposite effect. Using the knowledge they have gained by
participation in the process, parties are in a better position to oppose the decisions made once it is over.
If they had acquiesced to a process outcome they were later to oppose, the party concerned might be
accused of opportunistic conduct. For precisely this reason it might then be more appealing for the party
to withdraw from the process before its termination.
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- there is a lack of explicit prior commitment by the process participants; there is insufficiently
rigorous implementation of the agreed rules of play;
- there is insufficient encouragement of input from hesitant participants in the preliminary and initial
phases of the project;
- some participants exert a disproportionate influence in the final project phase, thereby prompting
undue reiteration of already finalised process elements;
- participants are replaced by heavier ‘fresh’ delegates and use made of ‘fully functional’ deputies.
Process item 8: Commitment
The best way to guarantee participants’ commitment to the process is to ensure they have confidence in
its outcome. To ensure participants feel sufficiently comfortable it is essential that their respective
positions be duly protected. On the one hand, this has implications for process design: vital interests
must be respected (cf. process item 6), while potential conflicts can be anticipated through wise design
of the process structure. On the other hand, measures should be taken to limit the pressure exerted on
parties during the process. In this respect it is important to provide due scope for postponing
commitment wherever possible. It is not always wise to ask parties to commit themselves to all kinds of
subsidiary decisions early in the process. Due allowance should be made for the complexity of LCAs:
Part 3: Scientific background 43 May 2001
matters that at first seem crucial may later transpire to be mere details, while details may later prove
Ultimately, commitment to the final outcome of the LCA and the associated process is only possible on
the basis of due insight and understanding. In practice this means that participants must undergo a
learning process vis-à-vis LCA execution or the product systems being analysed, or both. Learning
processes may be hampered if commitments are to be made at an early stage of the proceedings. In
this respect it should always be remembered that the LCA process can only serve as a learning process
for participants if the didactics are not overly disturbed by apprehension about unforeseen
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- participants’ knowledge and understanding on LCA execution and the product systems under
analysis consistently lags behind;
- participants are insufficiently motivated to develop a consistent picture in terms of content;
- 'binding' decisions are scheduled too early in the process.
1.3.6 Progress of the decision-making process
A process geared towards LCA-based decision-making can take a variety of different forms and the rate
of progress will be determined in no small measure by how this process is designed.
Process item 9: Balance between content and process
The balance between content and process may be upset in two ways:
1. ‘Process drives out content’: parties may be so focused on consensus that issues of substance are
insufficiently addressed.
2. 'Content drives out process': parties are overconcerned with details of substance that are irrelevant
for achieving consensus.
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- there is too much focus on consensus and too little in-depth treatment of substance;
- there is too much focus on content, although this has little or no relevance for the final process
- participants shy away from real differences and conflicts and lose themselves in detail;
- participants ‘take refuge’ from the content in the process, because they are insufficiently
knowledgeable at the outset of the process, for example;
- participants ‘take refuge’ from the process in the content, embarking on unnecessarily detailed
descriptions to gain time, for example.
Process item 10: Balance between speed and thoroughness
Much criticism of the process approach is grounded in the view that processes are slow and cost too
much time to work through. Due consultation of all the relevant stakeholders is a time-consuming
process. As the process moves forward, parties moreover often learn a lot about their own conceptions
and views, which become less secure as a result. This, too, may in turn affect the speed of the decision-
making process. It is also true that LCA-based decision-making processes have often overshot their
schedules, owing either to insufficient experience with LCA or underestimation of the complexity of the
product systems and interests at stake.
There is not always a willingness to accept ‘lost time’ for the sake of better-quality decision-making.
Time considerations may, for example, tempt participants to focus early on in the process on certain
issues or certain solutions. One consequence of this may be inadequate coverage of the full range of
issues and potential solutions (cf. process item 13). This may threaten the authoritativeness of the
process, certain parties claiming that particular options were not addressed during the process, thus
rendering the outcome of the process debatable a priori.
Part 3: Scientific background 44 May 2001
Experience shows that overall progress of the LCA process may be hampered by several factors:
- the desired quality of the LCA is not properly established at the outset, in terms of either content or
process, nor is proper attention given to the possible implications of this for the project duration (this
does not exclude the possibility of participants learning together during the process and
subsequently reviewing quality criteria and schedules);
- there are deficiencies regarding one or more of the following points:
· adequate preliminary across-the-board consideration of relevant issues by all participants;
· collective agreement on and elaboration of the approach to be followed;
· appropriate detailing of process planning;
· ditto monitoring of progress;
(this form of process design should not be too rigidly interpreted)
- during the process there is too little reflective evaluation vis-à-vis speed and thoroughness;
- there is inadequate scope for postponing the decision(s) if new insights arise or parties learn from
the process;
- there is insufficient consultation about and explicit reformulation of de facto revisions regarding
quality criteria and/or completion date.
Process item 11: Outside influences
Even if the circle of participants has been cast sufficiently wide - against the backdrop of the process
goal - there are often (external) parties with a different kind of interest in the outcome of the process. The
process may then be affected by outside influences, i.e. influences from the wider process context. The
outcome of an LCA project may, after all, extend beyond the environmental profile of a given product
system. A new contribution may have been made to methodology, for example, there may be