Collection of data and information for the study

By Ann-Christin Pålsson

Life cycle inventory data

When collecting data for the LCA study, you will usually need data from a number of different data sources; production sites, internal databases and reports, modelling or estimations, and external databases and reports.  See also “How to perform an LCA – Phases in an LCA study – Inventory“.

This part of the guide focus on external databases and reports. A specific getting started guide will be launched at this website for data collection from production sites and internal sources.

There are a number of external databases available with life cycle inventory data, where some are available free of charge and some are commercial and requires a license. Typically the databases contain both gate-to-gate data and cradle to gate data for a number of different processes, products and means of transportation, and are documented using different formats.

Some industry associations have developed and compiled LCI data for their industry. This data is available in the form of reports, but they have also generally been implemented into several LCI databases.

National LCI database projects have been performed in some countries with the aim of collecting LCI data and making them available. On a European Level, the European Commission – Joint Research Center (JRC) has initiated a international network for LCI data; named the ILCD (International Reference Life Cycle Data System). The ambition is to build an international network for exchange of LCA data.

An overview of available life cycle inventory data resources was compiled in 2006 as part of the work within UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. The report is available here:

Please note that the data available in different databases and previous studies have been collected and compiled for different purposes, and therefore one will need to assess the appropriateness and applicability of the data for the specific study.

Some examples of available databases and industry data is available below:

LCI databases – Available free of charge:

  • The European Reference Life Cycle Data System (ELCD core database) -  is an initiative of the European commission through the Joint Research Center and is part of the work with developing the ILCD network. The database is available in the ELCD format.
  • CPM LCA database – is developed and maintained by the Swedish lifecycle center (CPM). The database started to be developed in 1996, and is available in the SPINE and ISO/TS 14048 data documentation formats.
  • US LCI database – is developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) together with partners. The database is available in the EcoSpold format.

Industry associations – Data available free of charge

LCI database – Commercial; requires a licence

  • Ecoinvent – is developed and maintained by the Ecoinvent center, where several Swiss research institutes is responsible for collecting and compiling data. The database is available in the EcoSpold format.
  • Some LCA software and consultancy providers are developing LCI databases. For example, PE international offers different dedicated database packages (

Impact assessment data

Further information about available impact assessment methods, as well as characterisation factors and weighting factors for each method can be found at the following websites:

See also How to perform an LCA – Phases in an LCA – Environmental impact assessment for an overview of the different methods.