Last week, Green to Gold co-author Andrew Winston wrote about a methodology for fast life-cycle analysis published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. The method addresses the difficulty that organizations with large product portfolios face in collecting the mountains of data needed to produce a detailed LCA of every object, by utilizing estimates of emissions, process activities, and customer behaviors. The biggest benefit of the methodology, in my mind, is the usage of sensitivity analysis to communicate where to focus efforts to get better data. In other words: if the fast LCA method shows that most of the uncertainty in the carbon footprint number comes from, say, uncertainty in transportation times, a data manager could focus his or her efforts on getting better transportation data. This kind of information allows managers, analysts, and executives to amplify the positive impacts of their limited time and money.
Detailed LCAs require lots of data, which makes them time- and money-intensive. I believe that the fast LCA method can make LCA activities more accessible to small and medium enterprises. With large organizations like Walmart continually intensifying sustainability demands on suppliers, small and midsize companies will need to make the best use of all of their resources in order to stay competitive.
Photo “01/29/11: Speaker Tower” by stantontcady, on Flickr.