Tools and Approaches
LCA is the systematic analysis of the potential environmental impacts of a product or service during its entire life cycle - from the sourcing of raw materials, such as via mining or agriculture, to product manufacture, distribution, consumer use and disposal. LCA enables consideration of all relevant inputs from, and emissions to, the environment and classifies and quantifies these for their potential impacts in various impact categories.
Whilst LCA is widely used in product and policy assessment, it is also recognised that continuous improvements are needed in data availability as well as spatial and temporal resolution of data and impact assessment. Unilever has been at the forefront of the development and application of LCA for over 30 years and we are continuing to drive scientific advances in this area.
Land-Use Change Improved (LUCI)-LCA is an advance in LCA, which enables the integration of spatially explicit modelling of land change and ecosystem services. Key elements of life cycle inventory in the agricultural stage of an attributional LCA are substituted with outputs from predictive land-change modelling (LCM) and spatially explicit ecosystem services modelling using the InVEST software suite. We use this to explore the implications of large-scale growth in demand for bio-based raw materials.
Planetary Boundaries (PB)-LCA is an absolute environmental sustainability assessment (AESA) approach, intended to facilitate the comparison of environmental impacts of products to an assigned share of environmental carrying capacity. We have developed and demonstrated advances in PB-LCA methods for specific impact categories including freshwater use, and eutrophication (nitrogen use), as well as demonstrating the approach more holistically for product-level assessment.