A review of tools for PCF and LCA in the agri-food sector

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Innovations in Sharing Environmental Observations and Information
Information Technology for Life Cycle Analysis
Shaker Verlag
Today, there are more than 100 tools in the market for Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Product Carbon Footprint (PCF). While some of these tools are full LCA/ISO compliant, others propose simplifications. The use of each tool depends on the expert level of target users and the objectives of the analysis. In this paper, we review the LCA/PCF market, from the standpoint of an informed LCA practitioner seeking a tool for use in an agri-food study. Overall 63 tools were reviewed from public information (general description, screenshots, technical documentation) displayed on each tool’s website. Out of these, 11 tools were tested in some capacity (i.e. trial period version, demo version, live demo). To complement this analysis, we conducted an LCA practitioner survey on a sample consisting mainly of well-experienced practitioners of agriculture and food LCAs working in academia and based in Europe. This procedure allowed us to analyze the way practitioners are using LCA/PCF compared to the tools that they are using. We found that full LCA/ISO compliant tools still hold the largest share of the market. Several similar tools are available to more experienced users; however, there is a growing trend for companies with full LCA tools on the market to develop simplified versions that meet other goals. This may be explained by several factors. First, there is a more practical, business-oriented approach to LCA gaining in acceptance. Second, practitioners claim to follow ISO standards in their studies, but they admit that they do not necessarily submit them for peer-review. This may mean that studies are mainly done to gather internal intelligence. In fact, LCA is now being integrated in product development as a proactive tool, instead of being just a post production assessment tool. Third, the main worry in the LCA community is data gathering and the quality of databases, which are also the more time-consuming steps.
Teixeira, Ricardo; Gustavus, Lori; Himeno, Anne; Pax, Sara (2011): A review of tools for PCF and LCA in the agri-food sector. Innovations in Sharing Environmental Observations and Information. Aachen: Shaker Verlag. Information Technology for Life Cycle Analysis. Ispra. 2011