Skip to main content
Log in

Consequential life cycle assessment: a review

  • Published:
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment Aims and scope Submit manuscript



Over the past two decades, consequential life cycle assessment (CLCA) has emerged as a modeling approach for capturing environmental impacts of product systems beyond physical relationships accounted for in attributional LCA (ALCA). Put simply, CLCA represents the convergence of LCA and economic modeling approaches.


In this study, a systematic literature review of CLCA is performed.


While initial efforts to integrate the two modeling methods relied on simple partial equilibrium (PE) modeling and a heuristic approach to determining affected technologies, more recent techniques incorporate sophisticated economic models for this purpose. In the last 3 years, Multi-Market, Multi-Regional PE Models and Computable General Equilibrium models have been used. Moreover, the incorporation of other economic notions into CLCA, such as rebound effects and experience curves, has been the focus of later research. Since economic modeling can play a prominent role in national policy-making and strategic/corporate environmental planning, developing the capacity to operate LCA concurrent to, or integrated with, these models is of growing importance.


This paper outlines the historical development of such efforts in CLCA, discusses key methodological advancements, and characterizes previous literature on the topic. Based on this review, we provide an outlook for further research in CLCA.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Affected technology was originally referred to as marginal technology in Weidema’s earlier papers (e.g., Weidema et al. 1999)

  2. Comparative LCA would later be referred to as CLCA.

  3. Another definition forwarded by Weidema et al. (1999) for affected technology is the technology that changes its capacity/production in response to changes in demand.

  4. System boundary expansion was originally put forth by Tillman et al. (1991) and Vigon et al. (1993).

  5. At the time of publication, Weidema et al. (1999) referred to affected technologies as marginal technologies, but has more recently recommended that the term affected technologies be used to avoid confusion.



  8. Net social payoff is defined as the sum of consumer and producer surplus (Francois and Hall 1997).

  9. Based on the laws of supply and demand, price elasticities of supply and demand are positive and negative, respectively.

  10. Ekvall (2002) states that softlinking manually feeds the results of one model into the other, while hardlinking combines two types of models into a single model

  11. See US EPA (2010) for more information on the FAPRI model used to assess the ILUC impacts associated with US biofuel policy


  • Adams D, Alig R, McCarl B et al. (2005) FASOMGHG Conceptual Structure and Specification: Documentation. Retrieved September 28, 2010 from:

  • Argote L, Epple D (1990) Learning curves in manufacturing. Science 247:920–924

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Bouman M, Heijungs R, van der Voet E, van den Bergh JCJM, Huppes G (2000) Material flows and economic models: an analytical comparison of SFA, LCA and partial equilibrium models. Ecol Econ 32:195–216

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dalgaard R, Schmidt J, Halberg N, Christensen P, Thrane M, Pengue WA (2008) LCA of soybean meal. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(3):240–254

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Earles JM, Halog A (2010a) Partial Equilibrium Modeling and LCA in the Forest Biorefinery Context. Proceedings from Cycle 2010—4th Canadian Forum on the Life Cycle Management of Products and Services. Presented on May 4th, 2010

  • Earles JM, Halog A (2010b) Integrating Partial Equilibrium Modeling and LCA in the Forest Biorefinery Context. Proceedings from Life Cycle Assessment X Conference. Presented on November 3 rd, 2010. <>

  • Ekvall T (2000) A market-based approach to allocation at open-loop recycling. Resour Conserv Recycl 29(1–2):91–109

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ekvall T (2002) Cleaner production tools: LCA and beyond. J Clean Prod 10(5):403–406

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ekvall T, Andrae A (2006) Attributional and consequential environmental assessment of the shift to lead-free solders. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(5):344–353

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Ekvall T, Weidema B (2004) System boundaries and input data in consequential life cycle inventory analysis. Int J Life Cycle Assess 3:161–171

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eriksson O, Finnveden G, Ekvall T, Bjorklund A (2007) Life cycle assessment of fuels for district heating: a comparison of waste incineration, biomass- and natural gas combustion. Energy Policy 35(2):1346–1362

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Francois JF, Hall HK (1997) Partial equilibrium modeling. In: Francois J, Reinert K (eds) Applied methods for trade policy analysis, 1st edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 122–155

    Google Scholar 

  • Frees N (2008) Crediting aluminium recycling in LCA by demand or by disposal. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(3):212–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gallego A, Rodriguez L, Hospido A, Moreira MT, Feijoo G (2010) Development of regional characterization factors for aquatic eutrophication. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15:32–43

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Halog A, Manik Y (2011) Advancing integrated system modeling framework for life cycle sustainability assessment. Sustainability 3(2):469–499

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hofstetter P, Norris GA (2003) Why and how should we assess occupational health impacts in integrated product policy? Environ Sci Technol 37(10):2025–2035

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kløverpris J (2009) Identification of biomes affected by marginal expansion of agricultural land use induced by increased crop consumption. J Clean Prod 17(4):463–470

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kløverpris J, Wenzel H, Nielsen P (2008) Life cycle inventory modeling of land use induced by crop consumption part 1: conceptual analysis and methodological proposal. In J Life Cycle Assess 13(1):12–21

    Google Scholar 

  • Kløverpris JH, Baltzer K, Nielsen PH (2010) Life cycle inventory modelling of land use induced by crop consumption part 2: example of wheat consumption in Brazil, China, Denmark and the USA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15:90–103

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lesage P, Ekvall T, Deschenes L, Samson RJ (2007) Environmental assessment of brownfield rehabilitation using two different life cycle inventory models: part 1. Int J Life Cycle Assess 12(7):497–513

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lesage P, Ekvall T, Deschenes L, Samson, RJ (2007b) Environmental assessment of brownfield rehabilitation using two different life cycle inventory models: part 2. Int J Life Cycle Assess 12(7):497–513

    Google Scholar 

  • Marshall A (1920) Principles of Economics. Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved September 28, 2010 from:

  • Palmer K, Sigman H, Walls M (1997) The cost of reducing municipal solid waste. J Environ Econ Manage 33:128–150

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pehnt M, Oeser M, Swider DJ (2008) Consequential environmental system analysis of expected offshore wind electricity production in Germany. Energy 33(5):747–759

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reinhard J, Zah R (2009) Global environmental consequences of increased biodiesel consumption in Switzerland: consequential life cycle assessment. J Clean Prod 17(S1):46–56

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roningen VO (1997) Multi-market, multi-region partial equilibrium modeling. In: Francois J, Reinert K (eds) Applied methods for trade policy analysis, 1st edn. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 231–257

    Google Scholar 

  • Sanden BA, Karlstrom M (2007) Positive and negative feedback in consequential life-cycle assessment. J Clean Prod 15(15):1469–1481

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schmidt JH (2008) System delimitation in agricultural consequential LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(4):350–364

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Schmidt JH, Weidema B (2008) Shift in the marginal supply of vegetable oil. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(3):235–239

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schmidt JH, Holm P, Merrild A, Christensen P (2007) Life cycle assessment of the waste hierarchy—a Danish case study on waste paper. Waste Manage 27(11):1519–1530

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Searchinger T, Heimlich R, Houghton R, Dong F, Elobeid A, Fabiosa J, Tokgoz S, Hayes D, Yu T (2008) Use of U.S. croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change. Science 319(5867):1238–1240

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Silalertruksa T, Gheewala SH, Sagisaka M (2009) Impacts of Thai bio-ethanol policy target on land use and greenhouse gas emissions. Appl Energy 86:S170–S177

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Spielmann M, de Haan P, Scholz RW (2008) Environmental rebound effects of high-speed transport technologies: a case study of climate change rebound effects of a future underground maglev train system. J Clean Prod 16(13):1388–1398

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Steinberger JK, Friot D, Jolliet O, Erkman S (2009) A spatially explicit life cycle inventory of the global textile chain. Int J Life Cycle Assess 14:443–455

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Thiesen J, Christensen T, Kristensen T, Andersen R, Brunoe B, Gregersen T, Thrane M, Weidema B (2008) Rebound effects of price differences. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(2):104–114

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thomassen M, Dalgaard R, Heijungs R, de Boer I (2008) Attributional and consequential LCA of milk production. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13(4):339–349

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Thrane M (2006) LCA of Danish fish products: new methods and insights. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(1):66–74

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tillman A-M, Baumann H, Eriksson E, Rydberg T (1991) Life cycle analysis of packaging materials. Calculation of environmental load. Chalmers Industriteknik, Göteborg

    Google Scholar 

  • Tillman A-M, Svingby H, Lundstrom H (1998) Life cycle assessment of municipal waste water systems. Int J Life Cycle Assess 3(3):145–157

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Tillman A-M (2000) Significance of decision making for LCA methodology. Environ Impact Assess Rev 20:113–123

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • US EPA (2010) Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS2) Regulatory Impact Analysis. EPA-420-R-10-006. February, 2010

  • Vieira PS, Horvath A (2008) Assessing the end-of-life impacts of buildings. Environ Sci Technol 42(13):4663–4669

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vigon BW, Tolle DA, Cornaby BW et al. (1993) Life cycle assessment: Inventory guidelines and principles. Washington D.C. & Cincinnati: United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development. (EPA/600/R-92/245)

  • Wegener Sleeswijk A, Heijungs R (2010) GLOBOX: a spatially differentiated global fate, intake and effect model for toxicity assessment in LCA. Sci Total Environ 408(14):2817–2832

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Weidema BP (1993) Market aspects in product life cycle inventory methodology. J Clean Prod 1(3–4):161–166

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weidema BP (2003) Market information in life cycle assessment. Copenhagen: Danish Environmental Protection Agency. (Environmental Project no. 863):

  • Weidema BP, Frees N, Nielsen A (1999) Marginal production technologies for life cycle inventories. Int J Life Cycle Assess 4(1):48–56

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zamagni A, Buttol P, Porta PL, Buonamici R, Masoni P, Guinée J, Heijungs R, Ekvall T, Bersani R, Biekowska A, Pretato U (2008) Critical review of the current research needs and limitations related to ISO-LCA practice. Deliverable D7 of Work Package 5 of the CALCAS project:

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. Mason Earles.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Earles, J.M., Halog, A. Consequential life cycle assessment: a review. Int J Life Cycle Assess 16, 445–453 (2011).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: