Application of Life Cycle Assessment in Service Industries

Topics: Life cycle assessment, Industrial ecology, Service system Pages: 12 (3257 words) Published: March 30, 2013
Application of life cycle assessment in service industries: a review Sabrina Rodrigues Sousa 1 , 2 , *, Aldo Roberto O metto 1
1 2

University of São Paulo, School Engineering of São Carlos, São Carlos, Brazil

Ministry of Science and Technology, Center for Information Technology Renato Archer (CTI), Campinas, Brazil


Abstract The introduction of services in the economy adds value in an intangible way while promotes dematerialization. As products, services are developed to fulfill customers’ needs, being representative also in economic and social concerns. But, despite of their non-physical attributes, they may also give rise to, direct and indirect, environmental impacts. The intangibility of services added with the fact that, in most cases, the environmental loads of service companies are not produced at the site of activity, difficults the assessment of environmental contribution of this sector. Thus, this paper aims to understand how services are being studied using Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), to present an overview of the case studies obtained during the literature review and to start a discussion about the methodological issues which difficult the application of LCA methodology in this sector.



A sustainable society in the future should use only about 10 percent of the resources that industrialized societies are using today (per capita) [1]. In many situations, most of resources end up as waste even before being processed into products. This scenario exposes the need of a reformulation to move from the prevailing economic system of manufacturing goods and inducing customers to buy them based on dematerialized consumption patterns towards a sustainable society. Approaches focused on cleaning and remediation, as treatments accomplished at the end of industrial processes (‘end-of-pipe’), have become insufficient, requiring their integration with pollution prevention strategies, giving them a broader perspective, as proposed by industrial ecology [2]. Industrial ecology systematically analyzes the interactions between human activities and the

environment, seeking to optimize the overall cycle of industrial materials [3], by means of dematerializing the economy and creating eco-parks. Aligned with the principles of industrial ecology, the United Nations Environment Programme - UNEP [1] highlights three strategies to sustainable development, namely: (i) dematerialization, which addresses the need and functionality rather than the product alone, tracking throughput of materials and energy in industrial and consumption processes, and increasing the resource productivity; (ii) life cycle management, which integrates existing tools and concepts to support the decision making processes about sustainable goods and services in a structure that encompasses all stages of the life cycle and communicates relevant information to stakeholders, and; (iii) product-service systems, which consists in the development of a marketable mix of goods and services that are jointly capable of fulfilling a client’s need, with less environmental impact. Currently, the service sector encloses one third of all the world trade and it is the biggest sector of economic growth. Due to the definition of service, added to the great profitable probability that the companies recorded in their contracts, it offers about 11 million jobs, corresponding to 16% of the total of workers from the private sector: one from each three jobs offered in the last decade was in outsourcing companies [4]. Services production and sales represent the major part of the economy in most industrialised countries (about 75% of the gross domestic product – GDP in the US and about 50% of the GDP in Europe) [5]. In Brazil, this scenario is not different: the service sector is responsible for more than 68% of national GDP, which corresponds to R$ 680 billion of net operating revenue [6]. The introduction of services in the...
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