Implementing Life Cycle Assessment and Life Cycle Management Within Companies
Incorporating life cycle thinking into company's management is a complex task, despite the benefits it can bring. The main challenges are: professional training, top leadership commitment, availability of sensitive data (regarding intellectual property) and mainly, for Brazil, to obtain realistic data. On the other hand, the major gain is the improvement of the decision-making process in order to achieve more sustainable practices, often related to an adequate use of resources and the risk prevention along the supply chain.
In this sense, Vale, a Brazilian mining company, has started to incorporate life cycle thinking into its processes. In 2013, an LCA study was completed for all pelletizing facilities in Brazil. With this study, Vale could identify internal best practices, which may become a reference for environmental issues assessed and be extended to other units, as well as adding value to pellet, raising its competitiveness in the mediumand long-term (Vale 2013).
Vale's goal is to work in an expanding environmental management strategy beyond the borders of Vale, positively influencing its supply chain. In 2015, the company is continuing to develop strategies to disseminate life cycle thinking across the whole company (Vale 2013).
Another example is Braskem, a petrochemical company, whose corporate strategy is based on the belief that chemistry and plastics make people's lifes better. This belief has led to the definition of a purpose: to develop sustainable solutions that make people's lives better. Both these statements are based on a life cycle perspective since it is in the use phase that most of the benefits of plastic products become apparent.
Life cycle management at Braskem began in 2004 with two eco-efficiency studies that led to improvements in their PVC production processes. Another ecoefficiency study led to the decision to invest in a bio-based polymer using sugar cane ethanol as feedstock: the I'm GreenTM Polyethylene. Ten years later, more than 30 LCA studies have been conducted. These are used to aggregate sustainability as an added value to products and also to plastic solutions developed together with direct customers. Recently Braskem has used the company's Materiality Matrix to develop a single-score life cycle impact assessment method to help corporate decision making process by incorporating stakeholder opinion into a weighting scheme.
Braskem is also incorporating LCM. A qualitative assessment for the early stages of project development and for innovation processes has been developed. In addition, the company is currently working on extending it to incremental optimization projects of market development and application engineering.
Companies with a vision of the future are recognized as one of the main transformation drivers in our society. This has been proved by the development of LCA and LCM in the last years in Brazil, despite the many challenges it still faces.
The Brazilian experience is probably akin to several other countries, but it shows that transformation is greatly accelerated by the engagement of large companies which can move entire value chains. Societal transformation, however, requires academia, government, businesses and the general society working together.
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Ribeiro P, Cherubini E (2014) Projeto Diálogos Setoriais Brasil – União Europeia sobre Análise do Ciclo de Vida. Brasília, 171 p
Vale (2013) 2013 Sustainability report. Available at vale.com/EN/aboutvale/sustain- ability/Pages/default.aspx