When life cycle assessment (LCA) results do not show a clear and certain environmental preference of one choice over one or several alternatives, current methods are limited in their ability to inform decision-makers. To address this and related cross-cutting issues, a group of LCA practitioners has been working on a roadmap for capacity development in LCA. The roadmap is identifying common needs for development in LCA, which can then be addressed by the broader LCA community. The roadmap document on decision-making support, having undergone a public comment period, outlines the current state as well as needs and milestones to ensure progress continues apace. The roadmap document, available for download, covers five main areas of development: (1) performance measures of confidence, which identify the acceptable uncertainty for study results, while minimizing expenditures; (2) selection of impact categories, an area with multiple existing methods. The roadmap suggests codifying these methods and identifying their suitability to various applications; (3) normalization; while several methods of normalization are in use, the method with the greatest acceptance in the LCA community (i.e., relying on total or per capita regional emissions/extractions) has a number of methodological drawbacks; (4) weighting, which is a form of multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA). The broader MCDA field can enrich LCA by providing studied methods of assessing trade-offs; and (5) visualization of results. Many other LCA capacity needs would benefit from documentation. These include but are not limited to the following: addressing ill-characterized uncertainty, life cycle inventory data needs, data format needs, and tool capabilities. Other roadmapping groups are forming and are looking for practitioners to support the effort.
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The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions from the participants of the workshop in the 2015 SETAC-North America Meeting in Salt Lake City and the support of SETAC, in particular, Bruce Vigon at SETAC North America who has supported this effort.
Responsible editor: Mary Ann Curran
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Laurin, L., Amor, B., Bachmann, T.M. et al. Life cycle assessment capacity roadmap (section 1): decision-making support using LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 21, 443–447 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-016-1031-y