Data Availability
Papers Presented for This Session
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Publicly Available LCI Data
(abstract / slides as pdf )

Mary Ann Curran, US EPA
Joyce Cooper, University of Washington

Life-Cycle Initiative: A Joint UNEP/ SETAC Partnership to Advance the Life-Cycle Economy
(abstract / slides as pdf )

James Fava, Five Winds International

Life Cycle Considerations in Environmentally Preferable Purchasing:
Challenges and Opportunities
(abstract / slides as pdf /)

Eun-Sook Goidel, Pacific NW Pollution Prevention Resource Center

Barriers - Real & Imagined - to the Use of Life Cycle Assessments
(abstract / slides as pdf)

William Haaf, DuPont

Overview of Life Cycle Inventory Program of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative
(abstract / slides as pdf )

Gregory A. Norris

The Sustainable Products Purchasers Coalition:
Leveraging Market Transformation with Aggregate Purchasing Power
(abstract / slides as pdf )

Johanna Sands, ZGF Partnership

LCA Data Availability from an NGO Perspective
(abstract / slides on-line / slides as pdf / slides as ppt )

Rita Schenck, Institute for Environmental Research and Education

The US LCI Database Project:
Creating Publicly Available LCI Data Modules
(abstract / slides as pdf)

Wayne Trusty, Athena Sustainable Materials Institute

Abstracts for Session: Data Availability

Publicly Available LCI Data

Mary Ann Curran
Life Cycle Inventory Team Leader
Office of Research & Development
Cincinnati, OH 45268

Joyce Cooper
Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington 98195

Currently, life cycle inventory data used in LCA case studies are for the most part privately held. This causes two problems. First, transparency of methodology and case study results cannot be verified. Second, lack of data is a barrier to entry for new LCA practitioners. As a result of these problems, a number of ongoing efforts are compiling publicly available LCI data sources. One such effort is an EPA web site called LCAccess( that was created to reduce the time and resource burden to locate existing LCI data sources by cataloguing existing LCI data sources in a searchable database tool. A second effort at the University of Washington Design for Environment Laboratory provides an inventory of LCI data sources ( This inventory includes only publicly available information sources (databases, qualitative sources, and computer models) suitable for both LCA and Materials Flow Analysis. This paper presents the challenges and successes of making life cycle inventory accessible to the public.

Life-Cycle Initiative: A Joint UNEP/ SETAC Partnership to Advance the Life-Cycle Economy

James Fava, Five Winds International
626 Meadow Drive, West Chester, PA 19380 USA
Tel - 1.610.431.5782; Fax - 1.610.431.5783

In the Malmö Declaration of May 31 2000, the Ministers of Environment gathered at the first Global Ministerial Environment Forum stated, "Our efforts must be linked to the development of cleaner and more resource efficient technologies for a life-cycle economy". This follows-up on the 1999 revision of the "UN Guidelines for Consumer Protection" that calls on governments, together with industry, to take into account the environmental impacts of goods and services through their entire life cycle. To foster the international efforts for a life-cycle economy, UNEP joined forces, in May 2000, with the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) to establish the "Life-Cycle Initiative", which was officially launched at UNEP's Cleaner Production Seminar (CP7) on April 28, 2002. The Life-Cycle Initiative aims to foster life-cycle thinking around the world through the development of an international life-cycle management (LCM) framework, project-specific activities and databases of best available life-cycle assessment (LCA) methods and data. Life-cycle based tools are vital for ecological leg of sustainable development and are increasingly applied by industry and government to estimate the impacts of products throughout their life cycle. LCM is a broader approach, which focuses on the integration of life-cycle thinking into other approaches. The Initiative builds on the TC-207 ISO 14040 series (, previous work of SETAC ( and UNEP ( The purpose of this presentation is to provide a summary of the UNEP/SETAC Life-Cycle Initiative.

Life Cycle Considerations in Environmentally Preferable Purchasing:
Challenges and Opportunities

Environmentally preferable purchasing (EPP) is a concept that melds procurement and environmental ethic into a sustainable purchasing strategy. Environmentally preferable purchasing encompasses a wide spectrum of activities - from buying computers that have less toxic components and which are easily upgradeable to obtaining construction services that take environmental considerations in building a new office structure. In the past decade a number of public and private sectors have used EPP as a tool to minimize the environmental and human health impacts associated with their purchasing decisions.

Ideally, EPP should consider multiple environmental attributes of both products and services from a life cycle perspective. Yet, there are a number of challenges and opportunities to ensure that life cycle considerations are reflected in purchasing decisions, including lack of good, user-friendly data. This presentation will examine challenges that organizations have faced in integrating environmental aspects in their purchasing decisions and pragmatic solutions that may help advance life cycle considerations in environmentally preferable purchasing.


Eun-Sook Goidel
Green Purchasing Program
Pacific NW Pollution Prevention Resource Center
513 1st Avenue West
Seattle, Washington 98119


William Haaf
Manager of Product Stewardship/ Sustainable Growth

A series of slides will first review a number of barriers as to why life cycle assessments are not being routinely used. Several slides will then show reasons / values for use by some businesses and some fundamental needs.

Overview of Life Cycle Inventory Program of the
UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative

Gregory A. Norris
Sylvatica, Harvard University
147 Bauneg Hill Road, North Berwick, ME 03906 USA

This presentation will describe the Definition Study of the Life Cycle Inventory Program of the Life Cycle Initiative. It will summarize the background, objectives, work plan and budget for the LCI Program Definition Study. The Definition Study will be a 9-month effort involving extensive outreach to all interested parties concerning the issue of Life Cycle Inventory data. The Definition Study will characterize the needs and concerns of these interested parties, and will then respond by providing a workplan for the LCI Program. The draft results of the Definition Study will be made available for widespread review and comment at the global level, prior to being finalized. The presentation will also make it clear how all interested parties can provide input to, and be involved in, the Life Cycle Initiative.


Johanna Sands, Associate, Environmental Coordinator, ZGF Partnership

In researching environmental performance of building products, purchasers soon are struck by the pervasiveness of misleading advertising and lack of manufacturer representative sophistication. Even environmentally preferable products suffer in this type of research environment, as they are then subject to the same frustration and cynicism that results from this greenwashing. Individual product researchers have individually developed separate systems for dealing with what was available to them for research. Some have done this more effectively than others; but none have coordinated with the other, which leads one to understand the source of manufacturer frustration.

It is essential for us to lead the marketplace by making wise requests and by partnering with purchasers and specifiers of like mind. This is the only way to make a coherent statement to manufacturers. We are more powerful as a body of consumers, and we stand a greater chance of getting the sorts of data we need to make decisions based on Life Cycle Assessment results.

This is the inspiration that led to the formation of the Sustainable Products Purchasers Coalition, a national non-profit organization that acts as a catalyst for the transformation of industry and the marketplace to develop, produce, and consume sustainable products - utilizing the Coalition's collective purchasing power to accelerate industry's adoption of the use of LCA tools to address the current need for clear and concise product environmental performance data.

The Coalition's goal is provide a standardized form in which manufacturers can provide Life Cycle data for their product compatible with the variety of accepted LCA tools currently in use in the industry.

The SPPC is not a purchasing group. Rather, the Coalition's primary goal is to combine its members' purchasing power to demonstrate to manufacturers that there is a strong and vocal community of purchasers that buy sustainable products and are seeking reliable, standardized environmental data on sustainable products. Through its website, the SPPC will publish the total aggregate purchasing power and create a forum for members to discuss sustainable products.

LCA Data Availability from an NGO Perspective
Rita Schenck
Institute for Environmental Research and Education

LCA's performed by NGO's are not at all oriented towards the detailed unit process analysis that are typical of manufacturer-commissioned LCA's. Instead, they focus on overall product impacts, possibly broken out by life cycle stage. Such a study is focused on the disclosure needs of the general public, rather than internal processing engineering needs of companies.

LCA's performed by NGO's rely almost exclusively on publicly available data, with the occasional soupcon of data provided by industrial sources. There are some potential problems with the data in such studies, not the least that the data can be dated and not representative of current practice. This is unfortunate, because LCA's performed by NGO's have the virtue of being perceived as less biased than those performed by consultants or by manufacturers themselves. This creates an opportunity for manufacturers who work with NGO's to gain a market advantage for their products.

In the USA, disclosure of data by manufacturers has been limited by the fear of enforcement or litigation as a result of that disclosure. But in fact, the LCI data needed to support public LCA's is in fact allocated and normalized to the functional unit-and it is therefore impossible for the public or even the LCA practitioner (in most cases) to determine what the compliance status of these data may be. Much of the information that goes into LCA's is based on data that is already disclosed under U.S. Law. Air, water and solid waste emissions are reported under air operating permits, water discharge permits, RCRC biennial reports, and the EPCRA Toxics Release Inventory programs. Many utilities are now required to report their emissions continuously via the internet.

What is lacking in these reports is any reporting of resource consumption and information about production summary statistics. A focus on these two pieces of data may well produce the necessary information to support LCA studies disclosed to the public-without significantly affecting the legal status or trade secrets of the companies providing this data.

The US LCI Database Project:

Creating Publicly Available LCI Data Modules

Wayne Trusty, President, Athena Sustainable Materials Institute

One of the most pressing dilemmas in life cycle analysis (LCA) is the lack of common data that is transparent, collected in accordance with ISO standards, and publicly available at minimum cost to serve a wide variety of users and uses. When different analyses are based on different methods of data collection and use different sources for common processes like transportation fuel use and electricity generation, it becomes impossible to objectively review and compare the environmental impacts of different materials. The fundamental point is that the validity of all environmental assessment tools, whether focused on individual products and materials or complex systems like buildings and automobiles, and no matter how sophisticated, depends on the quality of the basic life cycle inventory (LCI) data on which they are based.

The US LCI Database Project, a public/private research partnership managed through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), is now creating the first publicly accessible and fully transparent North American LCI database for a wide range of products and processes. The objective is to support public and private sector efforts to develop environmental decision support systems and tools; to provide regional benchmark data for generating or assessing company, plant or new technology data; and to provide a firm foundation for subsequent life cycle assessment tasks such as characterization, normalization and impact assessment.

For a publicly available database to serve a wide variety of potential uses, it is critical that it be developed and made available as a set of modules that quantify the environmental burdens of common unit processes encountered during product manufacture, use, and disposal. Accordingly, the project will develop modules for:

· common energy combustion and pre-combustion processes, including transportation and electricity generation;

· basic cradle-to-gate or gate-to-gate unit manufacturing processes for a wide range of commonly used materials and products;

· transformations (stamping, molding, etc.) and finishing operations (painting, welding, etc.); and

· end-of-life processes such as composting, baling, and incineration.

The use of these common data modules will allow those doing LCAs of specific products to focus on elements unique to a plant or process. The project will also allow the development of generic product data that can be used to benchmark producer-specific results. It may eventually be possible to add the benchmarks to labels so that consumers can see at a glance how a specific product compares to the average.

The first phase of the project was undertaken by the ATHENATM Sustainable Materials Institute in association with Franklin Associates, Ltd., and Sylvatica, with funding provided through NREL by the Department of Energy, the General Services Administration and the US Navy. Phase II, an intensive two-year data collection and analysis program, is about to start with a combination of public and private sector funding. NREL has committed in the third phase to an ongoing data dissemination, database expansion and maintenance program. During Phase I the consultant team worked with an advisory group comprising 45 representatives of manufacturing, government, academic and LCA organizations to develop a research protocol and a detailed Phase II work program including data collection priorities. All of the Phase I working papers and reports are available on the NREL web site at