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01.01.2015 | POLICIES AND SUPPORT IN RELATION TO LCA | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 1/2015

Potential of life cycle assessment for supporting the management of critical raw materials

Zeitschrift:
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment > Ausgabe 1/2015
Autoren:
Lucia Mancini, Serenella Sala, Marco Recchioni, Lorenzo Benini, Malgorzata Goralczyk, David Pennington
Wichtige Hinweise
Responsible editor: Sonia Valdivia

Abstract

Purpose

The security of the supply of resources is a key policy and business concern. This concern has been increasingly addressed by bodies such as the European Commission to help identify materials of potential concern in terms of economic importance and supply risks. Equally, tools such as life cycle assessment (LCA) systematically compile inventories of the resources attributable to the supply of goods and services. Such well-established tools, hence, provide an important opportunity for business and governments for strategic management and for identifying improvement options that reduce reliance on so-called critical raw materials (CRMs). This paper explores current practice and the potential of LCA to help business and governments more systematically assess their supply chains.

Methods

Raw materials of concern to business and governments in relation to security of supply are denoted as critical. This paper highlights how such CRMs are identified in the existing methodologies. It then focuses on LCA methodology and explores its potential in providing information on CRMs at different levels: considering the flows of CRMs at inventory level, including criticality criteria in the impact assessment, and analyzing the flows of CRMs associated with the consumption of goods and services at macroeconomic scale.

Results and discussion

Consideration of resource security can be specifically addressed in LCA starting from the goal and scope definition. These CRMs may otherwise be neglected due to cut-off criteria based, e.g., on quantity. If systematically addressed, LCA can provide such CRM information routinely at inventory level. Inclusion of further indicators under the Area of Protection (AoP) “Resources” in LCA may also ensure such assessments more systematically address issues such as criticality. In strategic analysis, as those at macroeconomic scale, LCA results at the inventory (e.g., amounts of CRMs domestically extracted and those used for producing imported and exported intermediate products) and at impact assessment level can better support decision making.

Conclusions

At both microscale and macroscale, LCA might have more potential in capturing hot spots and improvement opportunities of raw materials of concern, not only in terms of scarcity. This paper highlights that LCA is well positioned for providing information on resource-related issues of concern to business and governments such as the criticality of raw materials used in the supply chains. The paper outlines the methodological developments that could enhance LCA potential to further support resource assessments to help more systematically meet such business and governmental interests.

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