Having an understanding of environmental sustainability of the complete life cycle of products and services is becoming imperative for organisations so they can comply with environmental standards and to meet the growing public expectation regarding the organisation’s role in managing their environmental impacts. But this is a complex matter and this essay critically appraises Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) as a tool to provide decision-making support in improving production processes in order to minimise their environmental impacts. The definition of LCA, a review of its application in industry and advantages will be discussed first to form a basis for its critical evaluation. The usefulness of this tool and its potential limitations and weaknesses in terms of applicability, standardisation, cost, complexity and requirements of expertise will be considered. As an example, the role of LCA in improving the environmental impact of milk production system will be used.
In literature LCA is defined as a systematic approach to analyse the environmental burden through the whole life cycle of a specific product or service that in turn helps to reduce that environmental burden by triggering areas of improvement so that better technologies, product materials and process options can then be adopted (Roy et al. 2009; ISO 1997, 2006a; The Finnish Environment Institute, 2010). The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) and the international standards ISO14040-14044 divide LCA into four phases. These are: the definition of the boundary of the production and processing system, the scope which guides analysis of the inventory and major processes that then identify the environmental impacts of the production system, and finally the their categorisation and interpretation (Roy et al., 2009). In recent research LCA is declared as comprehensive and holistic in nature as it considers production systems in
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