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Life Cycle Assessment: A tool for Sustainable Development

LIFECYCLE ASSESSMENT (LCA), a crucial tool to assess the environmental impacts across every lifecycle stage of a product or process. It is widely used in recent times to give a comprehensive report including results of various impact categories like carbon footprint, water footprint, toxicity, acidification, eutrophication, ozone layer depletion, etc.

Goals and Scope definition

This phase answers the questions “Why? and How?” the LCA study is carried out.

The aim, application, initiator, practitioner of the LCA study, interested parties, target audience and public disclosure must be included.

Scope of study must consider the Product system to be studied, functional unit, Spatial, temporal and technical coverage, system boundary, allocation procedures, LCIA methodology and types of impacts, data quality requirements, assumptions, limitations and level of sophistication.

Data quality plays a significant role as reliability of LCA results is influenced by data quality.

Life Cycle Inventory Analysis (LCI)

LCI involves collection of data to carry out the entire LCA study. Data required for various processes (or unit processes) involved within the chosen system boundary is collected. It is the most time-intensive phase.

Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA)

LCIA involves assessing the environmental impacts of the processes defined within the chosen system boundary.

As per the standards, LCIA must include three essential elements of:  

  • Selecting impact categories, category indicators and characterization models 
  • Classification: Assigning LCI results to the chosen Impact Categories  
  • Characterization: calculation of category indicator results. 

Interpretation Analysis

Life Cycle Interpretation is the phase in which the results of the study and all choices and assumptions made during its course are evaluated in terms of soundness and robustness, and overall conclusions are drawn, and recommendations made.


ISO14044 distinguishes between three different elements:

• Identification of significant issues based on LCI and LCIA results

• Completeness, sensitivity and consistency checks

• Conclusions, limitations and recommendations

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