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Life Cycle Analysis (LCA); Designing better inputs for better outputs.

Posted by Stacy Richter on November 23 at 6:00 AM A little over a week ago DMD Green launched SocialCycling at Greenbuild in Phoenix, AZ. The launch raised one big question in my mind; why do manufacturers, builders, architects and contractors still use difficult or impossible to recycle materials in their projects? Kind of a garbage in, garbage out mentality. That’s what sparked me to ask Andrew Personette of DMD Green about Life Cycle Analysis.

Stacy Richter: Andrew, in layman’s terms, can you explain what Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is to me?

Andrew Personette: Life Cycle Analysis is a way to quantify and compare the environmental impact of products. The process involves looking at all of the inputs and outputs related to making, using and discarding or recycling the product. Inputs include energy, both in manufacturing and transportation, and materials includes the product and packaging, as well as materials used in manufacturing, that a consumer might never know about. Often these results are communicated as a carbon footprint, though it is quite possible other impacts, like toxicity or resource depletion are more critical. All of this is covered in the analysis.

SR: How does your process of LCA differ from other firms conducting this type of analysis?

AP: The real power of LCA has to do with how you use the results. Typically the analysis is done by groups of scientists. At DMD Green we combine scientists with product designers on our teams, so the analysis comes to you in a language that positions the information for immediate action by your design team.

SR: What types of businesses are best suited to use Life Cycle Analysis?

AP: Three types of businesses: 1) Consumer product manufacturers who would like to be leaders in the sustainable product revolution. 2) Manufacturers who would like to understand and mitigate potential risks from future regulations on carbon emissions, or 3) Companies who want to discover opportunity areas to focus product innovation with environmental merits.

SR: How could a candidate for Life Cycle Analysis use this as a competitive advantage in their business?

AP: Marketing messages centered around LCA findings bring credibility and trust. In an era where CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] policies can make or break a company, LCA is a valuable tool to position you ahead of your competitors in the eyes of consumers.

SR: When should a firm or organization consider conducting Life Cycle Analysis?

AP: Before starting your next product development cycle. Most of the lock-in of environmental impact happens in the concept phase, so you want to make sure you have this data to inform your concepts. Once you have the model it is possible to plug in concepts and weigh potential impacts before committing development budgets.

SR: So would you say that including LCA in the early stages of development can actually result in overall cost savings?

AP: Yes, but its more than saving costs. It saves you from taking on whole development cycles that are unsustainable, and points you toward solutions that you can market without hype. It's a smart investment for any company committed to build a sustainable future.

SR: How does LCA fit into a firm's Corporate Social Responsibility policy?

AP: The tenets of openness, and accountability that are so critical for CSR policy are required to complete a product Life Cycle Analysis, and prove both to your customers and the industry that you are willing to lead, and bring your industry a step forward.

SR: Lastly, what is one piece of advice you would give to a firm considering conducting Life Cycle Analysis?

AP: Make sure you have the following teams represented in your LCA discussions internally: Design, Executive, Marketing, Production. This way when you get the results, you are ready to move forward as an organization, acting on the results of the analysis, and communicating your new product or direction to your customers.

SR: Thanks for all of your time Andrew!

Topics: leadership, strategy, sustainability        SHARE:  Share with Delicious Share with Stumble Upon Share with Furl Share with Digg Share with Reddit

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