On the meaning of the distance-to-target weighting method and normalisation in Life Cycle Impact assessment

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Distance-to-target weighting methods are widely used in life cycle impact assessment. The methods rank impacts as being more important the further away society’s activities are from achieving the desired targets for the pollutants. However, we feel that the scientific bases of the distance-to-target methods still need more clarification. This article illustrates how multiattribute value theory (MAVT) can be applied to interpret the impact category weights as well as the aggregation rule and normalisation used in the distant-to-target methods. Our comparison revealed that under certain conditions two of the three commonly used impact assessment methods (Ecoindicator 95, ET-method) applying distance-to-target weighting are consistent with the impact assessment framework derived from MAVT. This consistency holds for non-zero targets with equal importance and linear damage functions passing through the origin. We show that the MAVT framework offers a foundation for the methodological development in life cycle impact assessment.