Life-Cycle based methods for sustainable product development

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Sustainability-a term originating from silviculture, which was adopted by UNEP as the main political goal for the future development of humankind-is also the ultimate aim of product development. It comprises three components: environment, economy and social aspects which have to be properly assessed and balanced if a new product is to be designed or an existing one is to be improved. The responsibility of the researchers involved in the assessment is to provide appropriate and reliable instruments. For the environmental part there is already an internationally standardized tool: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Life Cycle Costing (LCC) is the logical counterpart of LCA for the economic assessment. LCC surpasses the purely economic cost calculation by taking into account hidden costs and potentially external costs over the life cycle of the product. It is a very important point that different life-cycle based methods (including Social Life Cycle Assessment) for sustainablity assessment use the same system boundaries.