Decarbonisation Technology - May 2024 Issue

Life cycle assessment at industrial scale Granular transparency can empower businesses with data-driven insights, unlocking a pathway towards more sustainable growth in the value chain

Daniel Bochnitschek AllocNow GmbH

M otivated by a relentless pursuit of environmental sustainability, particularly through prominent topics of decarbonisation and defossilisation, modern businesses across industries are undergoing a significant transformation. This shift is driven by the evolving expectations of customers, investors, and regulators, who increasingly demand more responsible and sustainable practices. While the sustainability transition is pending across all sectors, the chemical industry faces a unique challenge. Heavily reliant on fossil fuels for both energy and feedstocks, its footprint extends far beyond its own emissions. Chemical products are omnipresent, shaping everything from ingredients to infrastructure. As a critical upstream force, the industry impacts the environmental footprint of countless downstream industries, triggering a ripple effect throughout the supply chain and significantly contributing to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the intricate networks of chemical value chains, involving diverse raw materials, numerous intermediate products, and multi-stage

production processes across various locations, present a daunting challenge for navigating the path towards sustainability. Each step, from the extraction and processing of raw materials to the complex chemical reactions and energy-intensive manufacturing processes, contributes to a product’s environmental footprint. Conventional cradle- to-gate life cycle assessments (LCAs), typically reliant on manual or semi-automated data gathering, struggle to capture the full scope of these complexities with the required accuracy and granularity, particularly at industrial scale. These limitations can significantly hinder genuine progress towards achieving sustainability goals. Fortunately, the answer lies in LCAs at scale. Scaling LCAs addresses the limitations of conventional methods by delving deeper into the complexities of global value chains. By applying a more granular level of scrutiny across every intermediate and final product within a company’s portfolio based on actual data rather than on averages, this approach provides a comprehensive understanding of the true environmental footprint. However, the power of scalability goes beyond an increase in accuracy. It must be ensured that the essential information on product environmental impacts is accessible and understandable to everyone within a company, regardless of their position or area of expertise, which is crucial for effectively embedding sustainability in business processes and decision- making. Transparency at scale fosters a culture of collaboration and accountability, encouraging everyone to play a role in driving progress towards sustainability goals.


LCA at scale

Conventional LCA





Figure 1 Two dimensions of scalability in LCAs


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