LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) is a methodology applied to evaluate objectively and quantitatively the environmental impacts of products or systems during all the phases of their life cycle. Starting from extraction and processing of raw materials, the stages of assembly of the product, utilization, and end of life (e.g. recycle, reuse, disposal) are analysed.
The aim is to quantify all the materials and energy flows which are inputs of the investigated system as well as all the emissions and waste produced, in order to suggest strategies to improve the sustainability of the process, i.e. to enhance its environmental performances.
Each LCA study relies on international standards, especially ISO 14040:2006 and ISO 14044:2006, which are included in the ISO 14000 – environmental management standards. In addition, specific standards have been defined depending on the type of material or process analysed. Similarly, detailed regulations exist to develop assessments of selected impacts which can be significant for the system under study. Two of the most used are carbon and water footprints: the carbon footprint gives the sum of greenhouse gas emitted or sequestered by the system; the water footprint quantification assesses the environmental impacts related to water considering geographical and temporal dimensions, and also the changes in water quality related to the system studied.
On the basis of an LCA study it is possible to elaborate the environmental labels such as the EPD (Environmental Product Declarations), which are clear and effective documents to declare the environmental impacts of a product or system. These certifications are validated by national or international programmes for environmental declarations, which verify the results and make them comparable for the products belonging to the same category.
Currently, we carry out LCA studies about 4 main topics: energy, building, fashion and food industry.