Eco-efficiency

Combining life cycle assessment and life cycle costs via normalization
Life Cycle Management (Subject Editor: Gerald Rebitzer)

Abstract

Goal, Scope and Background

The eco-efficiency analysis and portfolio is a powerful decision support tool for various strategic and marketing issues. Since its original academic development, the approach has been refined during the last decade and applied to a multitude of projects. BASF, as possibly the most prominent company using and developing this tool, has applied the eco-efficiency approach to more than 300 projects in the last 7 years. One of the greatest difficulties is to cover both dimensions of eco-efficiency (costs or value added and environmental impact) in a comparable manner. This is particularly a challenge for the eco-efficiency analyses of products.

Methods

In this publication, an important approach and field of application dealing with product decisions based on the combination of Life Cycle Cost (LCC) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is described in detail. Special emphasis is put on the quantitative assessment of the relation of costs and environmental impacts. In conventional LCA an assessment of environmental impact categories is often made by normalization with inhabitant equivalents. This is necessary to be able to compare the different environmental impact categories, because of each different unit. For the proposed eco-efficiency analysis, the costs of products or processes are also normalized with adapted gross domestic product figures.

Results and Discussion

The ratio between normalized environmental impact categories and normalized costs (RE,C) is used for the graphical presentation of the results in an eco-efficiency portfolio. For the interpretation of the results of an eco-efficiency analysis, it is important to distinguish ratios RE,C which are higher than one from ratios lower than one. In the first case, the environmental impact is higher than the cost impact, while the inverse is true in the second case. This is very important for defining which kind of improvement is needed and defining strategic management decisions. The paper shows a statistical evaluation of the RE,C factor based on the results of different eco-efficiency analyses made by BASF. For industries based on large material flows (e.g. chemicals, steel, metals, agriculture), the RE,C factor is typically higher than one.

Conclusions and Recommendations

This contribution shows that LCC and LCA may be combined in a way that they mirror the concept of eco-efficiency. LCAs that do not consider LCC may be of very limited use for company management. For that very reason, corporations should install a data management system that ensures equal information on both sides of the eco-efficiency coin.

Keywords

Eco-efficiency Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Life Cycle Cost (LCC) normalization 

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Copyright information

© Ecomed 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BASF AktiengesellschaftLudwigshafenGermany
  2. 2.Centre for Sustainability Management (CSM)University of LüneburgLüneburgGermany

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