Life Cycle Management: Implementing Sustainability in Business Practice

Guido Sonnemann, Eskinder Demisse Gemechu, Arne Remmen, Jeppe Frydendal, and Allan Astrup Jensen

Abstract Life cycle management is a business management concept applied in industrial and service sectors to improve products and services, while enhancing the overall sustainability performance of the business and its value chains. Life cycle thinking and product sustainability is operational for businesses that are ambitious and committed to reducing their environmental and socio-economic burden while maximizing economic and social value. In this regard, life cycle management is used beyond short-term business success and aims at long-term achievements. The term “life cycle management” has been confused with other uses in engineering and manufacturing (product life cycle management) and in software development (application life cycle management), in buildings, plants, information management and so on. There is a need to clarify this term and its definition more than a decade since the concept was first introduced. This chapter aims at elaborating the concept and definitions of life cycle management as currently found in literature and as extending it from focusing on implementation of life cycle sustainability assessment into business practice to include it as part of sustainable consumption and production strategies and policies. Methods and tools used and the general framework for life cycle sustainability management covering environmental, social and economic aspects in business practices are discussed in detail.

Keywords Application life cycle management • Data life cycle management

Information life cycle management • Life cycle assessment • Life cycle management

• Life cycle sustainability management • Product life cycle management • Sustainability

Life Cycle Management and Life Cycle Sustainability Management: A Clarification of Terms

A web search on life cycle management (LCM) results in a link to the UNEP/ SETAC Life Cycle Initiative's website as well as the official UNEP website on life cycle management and the publication of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative on Life Cycle Management: A Business Guide to Sustainability (Remmen et al. 2007), to which the authors of this chapter as co-initiator and co-authors of the UNEP publication will refer to. Moreover, links of LCM events from the first held in Copenhagen to the recent conferences in Gothenburg ( and the upcoming event in Bordeaux ( are among the top ten search results jointly with references to product life cycle management (PLCM) and information life cycle management (ILCM).

These considerations are the motivation for the authors to use Life Cycle Management: Implementing Sustainability in Business Practice as the title for this chapter.

Looking at some of the existing definitions of LCM that are summarized in Table 2.1, LCM seems to be a concept with a broad variety of approaches and methodological tools. Companies apply it in a number of different ways in order to achieve the desired outcomes, as far as it relates to their sustainability performance. The theoretical background for LCM has been developed by a SETAC Working Group (Hunkeler et al. 2004). Yet there is no universal definition of LCM.[1]

LCM is mainly a business management concept for sustainable products that can be applied in the industrial and service sectors with the aim of improving specific goods and services and enhancing the overall sustainability performance of the business and its value chains in general. It makes life cycle thinking and product sustainability operational for businesses that are ambitious and are committed to reduce their environmental and socio-economic burden, while maximizing economic and social values. In this regard, LCM is used beyond the short-term business success; rather it aims at taking businesses forward towards long-term achievements and sustainable value creation. So LCM requires a holistic view and a full understanding of interdependency of businesses in order to support relevant decisions and actions so as to improve sustainability performance that takes into account both the environmental and social benefits and at the same time offer a number of value creation opportunities to the business.

Table 2.1 Different definitions of life cycle management (further developed based on the work by Seuring 2004)


LCM definitions

Linnanen (1995)

Life cycle management consists of three views: (1) the management view – integrating environmental issues into the decision making of the

company; (2) the engineering view – optimizing the environmental impact caused by the product during its life cycle; and (3) the leadership view – creating a new organizational culture

Fava (1997)

Life cycle management is the linkage between life cycle environmental criteria and an organization's strategies and plans to achieve business benefits

Finkbeiner et al. (1998)

A comprehensive approach towards product and origination related environmental management tools that follow a life cycle perspective

Heiskanen (2002)

LCA-based ideas and tools can be viewed as emerging institutional logics of their own. While LCA makes use of many scientific models and principles, it is more a form of accounting than an empirical, observational science.

Thus, the life cycle approach implies a kind of “social planner's view' on environmental issues, rather than the minimization of a company's direct environmental liabilities”

Hunkeler et al. (2004)

Life cycle management (LCM) is an integrated framework of concepts and techniques to address environmental, economic, technological and social aspects of products, services and organizations. LCM, as any other management pattern, is applied on a voluntary basis and can be adapted to the specific needs and characteristics of individual organizations

Baumann and Tillman (2004)

LCM is “the managerial practices and organizational arrangements that apply life cycle thinking. This means that environmental concerns and work are coordinated in the whole life cycle instead of being independent concerns in each company”

Remmen et al. (2007)

LCM is a product management system aiming to minimize environmental and socioeconomic burdens associated with an organization's product or product portfolio during its entire life cycle and value chain


“… a business management approach that can be used by all types of businesses (and other organizations) to improve their products and thus the sustainability performance of the companies and associated value chains” “It can be used to target, organize, analyze and manage product-related information and activities towards continuous improvement along the life cycle”

Jensen (2012)

“… a systematic integration of life cycle thinking in modern business practice with the aim to provide the societies with more sustainable goods and services and to manage the total lifecycle's of an organizations product portfolio towards more sustainable production and consumption”

The definitions of LCM are thus wide and its concept needs further development, to which this book aims to contribute with theoretical and practical contributions, in particular from industries and businesses. New aspects include, for instance, activities on mainstreaming and capacity building as well as the use of LCM in the context of emerging economies, SMEs and regional development. The focus on the earlier definitions of LCM was mainly linked to the management view of only the environmental aspect of a product or a company – environmental LCM (Fava 1997; Finkbeiner et al. 1998; Linnanen 1995). However, recent definitions of LCM cover environmental, social and economic issues (Hunkeler et al. 2004; Remmen et al. 2007) along a product life cycle, which is in line with recent developments in the area of life cycle assessment (LCA) that further expand the context of LCA to include social and economic elements under the life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) framework (Finkbeiner et al. 2010; Klöpffer 2008; UNEP 2011) to cover, for instance, new challenges related to the criticality of materials (Sonnemann et al. 2015). Hence, the implementation of LCSA into real world decision-making processes both at product, process or individual organizational level is to be ensured through the application of a broader LCM concept that aims at maximizing the triple bottom line. Finkbeiner (2011) referred to it as life cycle sustainability management (LCSM) for the first time.

  • [1] Seemingly similar, but unrelated, terms include product lifecycle management (PLM), application life cycle management (ALM) for software, and data lifecycle management (DLM)
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >