Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment

Making informed choices on products

Since the late 1990s, the Life Cycle Initiative partnership of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Society for Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) has enhanced the role of life cycle based approaches and thinking in several ways. Two examples are the partnership’s contributions to the Marrakech Process on Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) and inputs for the development of a 10-Year Framework of Programmes on SCP (10YFP). This current publication, Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment, expands this work by bringing the concept of LCSA methods to the fore. In doing so, it will contribute to the sustainable development discussions of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Summit) in 2012 (‘Rio+20’). The text will also contribute to the UNEP Green Economy Initiative – which strives to build economies that bring improved human well-being, reduce inequalities over the long term and which keep future generations safe from environmental risk and ecological scarcity.

Specifically, Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment hopes to increase decision-makers’ awareness of more sustainable life cycle stages. It will also support stakeholders looking for approaches that will provide holistic assessments of the implications of a product’s life cycle for the environment and the society. Finally, it will offer guidance to enterprises and people who are trying to reduce environmental degradation and the use of natural resources in their production practices and increase the environmental, economic and social benefits for society and local communities.