One of the biggest obstacles in understanding LCA results is that you can not compare all the LCAs with each other. The system boundaries, which are “what is taken into account during the LCA”, are specifically defined for each assessment. LCA results can only be compared if the same life cycle stages are included and the same assumptions are made in the system architecture. However, the standards for life cycle stages included in LCAs differ significantly between countries, making it difficult to compare results.
To address this issue, the European Commission could standardize a single roadmap for LCA implementation. In the meantime, it's important to be aware of these differences when comparing LCA results for products.
Fortunately, benchmarking packaging products can be more straightforward. As long as the method defines the system boundaries and declared unit and these are applied consistently across all evaluated products, ecological benchmarking can be used to compare their outcomes. The Pickler methodology is a particularly useful approach because it allows for easy generation of LCA scans and scalability within the same LCA system. This makes it possible to efficiently evaluate and compare the environmental impact of multiple products.
Assumptions in the architecture behind LCA systems
Environmental data has unlike scientific data no documented accuracy. This is due to the architecture of the computing systems behind the data. The graph below illustrates the system behind the data, that converts midpoint indicators to endpoint indicators and the endpoint indicators to a single indicator. Throughout this process, the normalisation and weighting of each point are based on assumptions.
It is extremely difficult to gather the millions of data points across the complete value chain that are also continuously changing. E.g. footprint of materials and transport change depending on weather conditions, or the footprint of the grid electricity; the situation in Ukraine dramatically changes the coal consumption. Often, going to much in depth in a LCA does not necessarily improves the quality of the outcome. In practice, the more data points are collected, the harder it is to keep them up-to-date.
Therefore, Pickler uses existing data from verified LCA's to automatically generate eco-costs to the lifecycle stages based on the input data. The averages that we use (background database) for calculating the footprint are in compliance with ISO 14040, ISO 14044, EN 15804, and the LCA handbook of the ILCD.
Scope 2 and Scope 3 data from the Idemat tables are calculated according to formal LCA procedures by means of the dedicated Simapro and Open LCA software. For the calculation rules of Idemat see https://www.ecocostsvalue.com/lca/idemat-calculation-rules/
Accuracy of claims
Transparency in both the calculations and evidence used is crucial for making credible claims about a product's environmental impact. This means providing information about the suppliers and data sources used in the analysis.
Transparency not only makes it possible to assess the credibility of a claim, but it also enables users to evaluate the evidence themselves and potentially identify areas where the methodology could be improved. We welcome feedback and debunking of our claims, which we carefully consider when updating our methodology.
By ensuring transparency in our calculations and evidence, we strive to promote accountability, trust, and accuracy in the evaluation of environmental impact.
Since EU regulations on the methodology for footprint claims are not in place (yet), there is no limitation on how the data can be used as long it is not misleading for buyers.
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