Many have heard of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), but LCM is perhaps not an equally familiar concept. Life Cycle Management is an approach to environmental management focusing on the whole life cycle. The purpose is to reduce environmental impacts specifically, or negative sustainability impacts more generally, throughout the whole value chain.
When assessing a product’s life cycle, LCA is the most common tool to map the most important negative environmental and sustainability impacts. This is important to be able to reduce them. As LCM involves taking decisions, Life Cycle Costing – considering the economic aspects throughout the value chain – is a tool that can be integrated with environmental LCA. Increasingly, social impacts are also considered, perhaps through a Social LCA, as social sustainability has gained more visibility. When we integrate environmental, social and economic LCA, we call it Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA).
However, LCM does not need to involve highly technical modelling. UNEP/SETAC wrote in 2007 a user-friendly report called Life Cycle Management. A Business Guide to Sustainability.There they gave the following overview of LCM:
UNEP/SETAC emphasises that conducting an LCA is not a prerequisite for doing LCM, but in most cases an LCA will be a useful tool to understand what issues in the value chain will be most important to manage from a sustainability point of view.
As a field of research, LCM opens up for the inclusion of management and organisational perspectives that are useful to understand how life cycle thinking is and should be applied in organisations. As field of practice, it is in great expansion, driven by the UN Sustainable Development Goals and new requirements on sustainability reporting.
NORSUS supports in a practical way enterprises’ LCM work as we work closely with companies in applied research projects, conducting LCAs as a starting point for the companies’ improvement of their environmental performance. For us it is important that LCAs are part of learning and development processes and we support in different ways such processes.
UNEP/SETAC (2007) Life Cycle Management. A Business Guide to Sustainability. https://www.unep.org/resources/report/life-cycle-management-business-guide-sustainability
Lindén, H., Baumann, H., Rex, E. (2019). LCM development: Focusing on the LC promoters and their organizational problem-solving. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 24(2): 297-309. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11367-018-1523-z