C5.2.1 Limitations of LCA


It is important to remember that there are limitations in this process. For example, it is simply not possible to consider every single environmental aspect associated with every single stage of a process.

An LCA process will usually be conducted within a set scope. This may not be wide enough to be a true reflection of the environmental impact. In addition, some environmental impacts, such as those involving biodiversity, are difficult to quantify. Other issues that are often excluded are noise, odour, toxicity and time.


Studies have shown that LCA can present various disadvantages, including:

  • The costs involved may make LCA prohibitive economically for most of the organisations interested in applying it. This is because a holistic LCA is a very data-intensive and time-consuming procedure. The more comprehensive a LCA is the more time-consuming and expensive it will be. High costs are partly caused by the need for professional consultation and expert knowledge in the stages of impact and improvement analyses.
  • There is not a single, generally acceptable, LCA methodology. Most of the existing methodologies are considered to have imperfections in several points
  • In some LCAs conducted, the system selected for analysis does not include the overall life cycle of the examined product or process, but it is only confined to specific stages.
  • In some studies, the analysed environmental parameters are not referred to all of the environmental impacts (many simply include the energy consumption and the release of a small quantity of wastes. Land use and biodiversity are rarely considered). This limits the types of conclusions that can be drawn from these studies. No conclusions can be drawn concerning the overall preference from an environmental impact perspective of one choice over another, simply because all environmental aspects have not been included. As a result, the presented environmental performance of the examined product or process is not realistic and, consequently, the reliability and usefulness of the results is limited.
  • The quality of inventory data can be variable.
  • The assumptions made in such studies (for example the boundaries determination, the source of data and the impact assessment choice) might be subjective.
  • If the results of such studies are focused on national and regional level they might not be suitable for local applications.
  • The accuracy of a LCA study depends on the quality and the availability of the relevant data. If the data is not accurate enough, the accuracy of the study is limited.