Phases in an LCA study

By Ann-Christin Pålsson & Ellen Riise

An LCA study according to the ISO 14040 series of standards involves four main phases (see also figure below):

  • Goal and scope definition: Defining the goal for the LCA study and the scope of the product system to be studied, i.e. which processes should be included in the products system.
  • Inventory analysis: Compiling an inventory of relevant inputs and outputs of the product system, in terms of e.g. use of resources, emissions to air, water and ground, and generation of waste. This involves collection of data for each process that is included in the studied product system, and aggregating the contribution from each process into the total result for the system.
  • Impact assessment: Evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with the inputs and outputs for the product system. This involves determining the how a specific emission to air impacts different environmental problems such as global warming, acidification, etc.
  • Interpretation: Interpreting the results from the study and developing recommendations.

Figure. LCA according to ISO 14040:2006. Copyright ISO 2006.

The work in each phase is described in the subpages.