C5.1 Life Cycle Analysis (LCA)


Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is a tool to address the environmental aspects and impacts of a product throughout the entire life cycle. This will include the use of raw materials and resources, production, use and final disposal (or treatment).

BS EN ISO 14044:2006 Environmental management – Life cycle assessment Requirements and guidelines includes the following definitions:


Life Cycle

Consecutive and interlinked stages of a product system, from raw material acquisition or generation from natural resources to final disposal.


Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

Compilation and evaluation of the inputs, outputs and the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.


Life Cycle Inventory Analysis (LCI)

Phase of life cycle assessment involving the compilation and quantification of inputs and outputs for a product throughout its life cycle.


Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA)

Phase of life cycle assessment aimed at understanding and evaluating the magnitude and significance of the potential environmental impacts for a product system throughout the life cycle of the product.


Life Cycle Interpretation

Phase of life cycle assessment in which the findings of either the inventory analysis or the impact assessment, or both, are evaluated in relation to the defined goal and scope in order to reach conclusions and recommendation.


Source: BS EN ISO 14044:2006



LCA is a holistic approach. To obtain the true environmental cost of an item, all areas of the life cycle, from cradle to grave, must be considered.

The concept of the process is demonstrated in the diagram below:

The Centre for Life Cycle Analysis (at Columbia University) conducted a survey in 2006, which asked LCA practitioners the reasoning for the LCA process being conducted. The results were as follows:

18% Support business strategy
18% R&D
15% As input to product or process design
13% In education
11% For labelling or product declarations