Life cycle management of energy-consuming products in companies using IO-LCA



Background, aim, and scope

Today, the effective integration of life cycle thinking into existing business routines is argued to be the most critical step for more sustainable business models. The study tests the suitability of an input–output life cycle assessment (IO-LCA) approach in screening life cycle impacts of energy-using products in companies. It estimates the life cycle impacts of three products and assesses the suitability of such approach in a company environment.

Materials and methods

The multiple case studies evaluate the suitability of an IO-LCA method in a company environment. A comprehensive life cycle cost and impact study of three product systems (building ventilation system, information and communication technology (ICT) network product, and welding machine) is conducted and the life cycle phases with highest economical and environmental contribution are determined. Scenario analysis is performed in order to assess the sensitivity of the results to major changes in the studied systems. Finally, the usability of the IO-LCA approach for environmental evaluations in companies is assessed by collecting data on workload and interviewing the participating workers and managers.


The results showed that the use phase with operating energy was environmentally important in all evaluated energy-using products. However, only in one case (ICT network product) the use was the single most significant life cycle phase. In two other cases, the sourcing was equally important. The results also indicated that the IO-LCA approach is much easier to adapt by current management of companies because it automatically links life cycle costs to environmental indicators and, by order of magnitude, reduces the workload in companies.


It appears that the IO-LCA approach can be used to screen environmentally significant life cycle phases of energy-using products in companies by utilizing readily available accounting or other documented data. The IO-LCA approach produced comparable results with the ones published in traditional process-based LCA literature. In addition to the main results, some practical benefits of using the IO-LCA could also be suggested: the approach was very fast to use and would thus allow an easier adoption of environmental evaluations in companies as well as wider environmental testing of products in early conceptual design phase.


The results indicated that the IO-LCA approach could clearly offer added value to the environmental management of companies. The IO-LCA was found to provide a very fast access to the key life cycle characteristics of products. Similarly, it offered practical means to integrate life cycle thinking into existing business routines and to activate the decision makers in companies by giving them easily comprehendible results.

Recommendations and perspectives

The results would suggest that similar environmental IO tables, besides the US ones used here, would have value and should be collected for other major geographical and economical regions. The tables would enable a much larger share of companies to manage their environmental issues. It also seems that, because the user profile is so dominant in the case of energy-using products, more studies, both theoretical (How to valuate the future behavior in environmental studies?) and empirical (What really creates value for users?), should focus on the behavior of users.


Companies Energy-consuming products ICT network Input–output LCA IO-LCA LCC Life cycle costing Life cycle management Ventilation system Welding equipment 


  1. Consoli F, Allen D, Boustead I, Fava J, Franklin W, Jensen A, de Oude N, Parrish R, Perriman R, Postlethwaite D, Quay B, Seguin J, Vigon B (1993) Guidelines for life-cycle assessment: a ‘code of practice’, 1st edn. SETAC, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  2. Cousins PD (1999) Supply base rationalisation: myth or reality. Eur J Purch Supply Manag 5(3/4):143–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Emmenegger M, Frischknecht R, Stutz M, Guggisberg M, Witschi R, Otto T (2006) Life cycle assessment of the mobile communication system UMTS. Int J LCA 11(4):265–276Google Scholar
  4. EuP (2005) Directive 2005/32/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-using productsGoogle Scholar
  5. Håkansson H, Gadde L-E (1994) The changing role of purchasing: reconsidering three strategic issues. Eur J Purch Supply Manag 1(1):109–117Google Scholar
  6. Hendrickson C, Lave L, Matthews S (2006) Environmental life cycle assessment of goods and services: an input–output approach. RFF, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  7. Hunkeler D, Rebitzer G (2005) The future of life cycle assessment. Int J LCA 10(5):305–308Google Scholar
  8. IPP (2003) Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, COM (2003), 302 final,, accessed 1.8.2004
  9. Junnila S (2003) Workload of commercial LCAs. Contracts of 9 commercial LCAs. Pöyry Consulting and Engineering, HelsinkiGoogle Scholar
  10. Junnila S (2006) Empirical comparison of process and economic input–output life cycle assessment in service industries. Environ Sci Technol 40(22):7070–7076CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Junnila S (2007) Environmentally significant processes of consulting, banking and facility management companies in Finland and the U.S. Int J LCA 12(2):18–27Google Scholar
  12. Kommonen F, Svan T (2002) The environmental aspects of Ambiotica. Senate Properties. Helsinki, Finland, Interviewed January 2002Google Scholar
  13. LIHAS project (2006) 3rd steering group meeting, August 18, Helsinki, FinlandGoogle Scholar
  14. LIHAS project (2007) 4th steering group meeting, March 2, Helsinki, FinlandGoogle Scholar
  15. Malmodin J (2004) Summary of the study ‘Life cycle assessment of a third generation (3G) system at Ericsson’. Ericsson, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  16. MEEup Methodology report, final (28.11.2005), Methodology study eco-design of energy-using products. VHK for European Commission. Brussels, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
  17. Saari A, Mäkelä J (2000) Eco-economic valuation of building components. Helsinki University of Technology, Construction Economics and Management, Publication 192. Espoo, FinlandGoogle Scholar
  18. SimaPro 7 (2006) USA input output data base 98. PRé Consultants. Amersfoort, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  19. SimaPro 7 (2006a) Ecoinvent data base. PRé Consultants. Amersfoort, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  20. SimaPro 7 (2006b) Dutch input output data base 95. PRé Consultants. Amersfoort, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  21. SimaPro 7 (2006c) DK input output data base 99. PRé Consultants. Amersfoort, The NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  22. Suh S (2006) Are services better for climate change. Environ Sci Technol 40(21):6555–6560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Suh S, Lenzen M, Treloar G, Hondo H, Horvath A, Huppes G, Jolliet O, Klann U, Krewitt W, Moriguchi Y, Munksgaard J, Norris G (2003) System boundary selection in life-cycle inventories using hybrid approaches. Environ Sci Technol 38(3):657–664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Swarr T (2006) Life cycle management and life cycle thinking: putting a price on sustainability. Int J LCA 11(4):217–218CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Treloar G, Love P, Faniran O, Iyer-Raniga U (2000) A hybrid life cycle assessment method for construction. Construct Manag Econ 18:5–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Tucker A, Huppes G, van Oers L, Heijungs R (2006) Environmentally extended input–output tables and models for Europe. EUR 22194 EN. Joint Research Center (DG JRC), Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, European Commission, Brussels, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
  27. Udo de Haes HA, Heijungs R, Suh S, Huppes G (2004) Three strategies to overcome the limitations of life-cycle assessment. J Ind Ecol 8(3):19–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. UNEP (2004) Why take a life cycle approach? Life cycle initiative. United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, Production and Consumption Branch, Paris, FranceGoogle Scholar
  29. Valkama J (2002) The LCA of a TIG welding equipment (in Finnish). Department of Electronics, Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, FinlandGoogle Scholar
  30. Wong M (2004) Implementation of innovative product service systems in the consumer goods industry. Dissertation. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringHelsinki University of TechnologyEspooFinland

Personalised recommendations