Life Cycle Thinking
Definition and objectives
Life cycle thinking is defined as a production and consumption strategy that aims at taking into account all of the impacts (environmental, economic and social) that a product or service will have throughout its life cycle, "from cradle to grave".
The life cycle of a product includes:
At each life cycle stage, there is resource and energy consumption and impacts created (social, economic and environmental). Life cycle thinking aims to minimize the negative impacts while avoiding transferring on the problem from one life cycle stage to another. The strategy is based on a toolbox called Life Cycle Management (LCM) which include the following tools:
Applied to product design, production processes and a decision-making aid, life cycle thinking is an essential concept for implementing sustainable development.
The concept of sustainable development became popular when the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Report) coined the term in its report, Our Common Future, published in 1987. The Brundtland Report defines sustainable development as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
Sustainable development therefore demands a new way of seeing production and consumption. Pursuing this goal, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), hosted by the United Nations in Johannesburg from August 26th to September 4th 2002, recommended the adoption of a ten-year work plan aimed at changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns.
The proposed strategies include taking upstream, rather than downstream, environmental actions by stimulating an economy based on a new way of thinking: life cycle thinking.
The implementation of sustainable development tools, including those of life cycle management, is all the more necessary now with the impacts of human activities being felt on the planet: climate change, acid rain, ozone depletion or loss of biodiversity.
Life Cycle Management
Life cycle assessment has become an important tool for the environmental impact assessment of products and materials and businesses are increasingly relying on it for their decision-making. The information obtained from an LCA can also influence environmental policies and regulations.
Life Cycle Management (LCM) is an integrated approach to measure and minimize the impacts on the environment, the economy and society of a product, process or service during its entire life cycle.
LCM uses a toolbox made up of different approaches and methods, including:
There are many advantages for companies that choose to use LCM, which significantly reduces overall production costs by decreasing both the energy requirements and use of raw materials. This reduction then has a positive impact on the environment, as the company releases fewer harmful emissions. LCM also enhances the company’s image to consumers, the public, and governments.
Among the proposed tools offered by LCM, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) represents one of the most thorough and reliable methods.