Chalmers Conferences, LCM 2013

S.J. McLaren

Last modified: 2014-09-11


A distinction is commonly made between analytical and procedural tools when evaluating LCA against other environmental assessment approaches, and LCA is described as an analytical tool. However, this distinction is somewhat blurred. In this paper, it is argued that the procedural aspects to LCA should given more attention in LCA guidelines and standards. In particular, more guidance should be given regarding the procedures for defining system boundaries, choice of quantitative versus qualitative LCA, subjective modelling decisions, and choice of impact assessment method. This will increase the relevance and usefulness of LCA in different decision situations.


Life Cycle Assessment; Goal and Scope Definition; procedure


Baitz, M., Albrecht, S., Brauner, El, Broadbent, C., Castellan, G., Conrath, P., … Tikana, L. (2013). LCA’s theory and practice: like ebony and ivory living in perfect harmony? International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 18, 5-13.

Baumann, H., & Cowell, S.J. (1999). An evaluative framework for environmental management approaches. Greener Management International, 26, 109-122.

Bras-Klapwijk, R.M.. (1998). Are life cycle assessments a threat to sound public policy making. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 3(6): 333-342.

Coelho, C.R.V., & McLaren, S.J. (2013). Rethinking a product and its function using LCA - experiences of New Zealand manufacturing companies. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 18(4), 872-880.

Cowell, S.J. (1998). Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of agricultural systems: integration into decision-making (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). University of Surrey, Guildford, UK.

Cowell, S.J., S. Hogan and R. Clift. (1997). Positioning and Applications of LCA. In H.A. Udo de Haes and N. Wrisberg (eds.), Life Cycle Assessment: State-of-the-Art and Research Priorities. LCA Documents, Volume 1 (pp.33-57). Bayreuth, Germany: Eco-Informa Press.

European Commission. (2010a). ILCD Handbook. General guide for Life Cycle Assessment – Detailed Guidance. Ispra, Italy: European Commission Joint Research Centre and Institute for Environment and Sustainability.

European Commission. (2010b). ILCD Handbook. Framework and requirements for Life Cycle Impact Assessment models and indicators. Ispra, Italy: European Commission Joint Research Centre and Institute for Environment and Sustainability.

Finnveden, G., & Moberg, Å. (2005). Environmental systems analysis tools – an overview. Journal of Cleaner Production, 13, 1165-1173.

Heiskanen, E. (2002). The institutional logic of life cycle thinking. Journal of Cleaner Production 10, 427-437.

Hofstetter, P.. (2000). Modelling the valuesphere and the ecosphere: Integrating the decision makers' perspectives into LCA. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 5(3): 161-175.

ISO. (2006). ISO 14040 Environmental management – Life Cycle Assessment – Principles and Framework. Geneva, Switzerland: ISO.

Tukker, A. (2000). Philosophy of science, policy sciences and the basis of decision support with LCA: Based on the toxicity controversy in Sweden and the Netherland. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 5(3): 177-186.

Wrisberg, N., Udo de Haes, H.A., Triebswetter, U., Eder, P., & Clift, R. (2002). Analytical tools for environmental design and management in a systems perspective. In A. Tukker (ed.), Eco-efficiency in industry and science. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Full Text: PDF