1997-02-24

New Directions in Life-Cycle Assessment: Implications for the Automobile Industry 970692

During recent years, many industries have begun to take a closer look at life-cycle assessment (LCA) to determine its potential value as a environmental management tool. The automobile industry, for instance, has invested considerable sums in life-cycle inventory (LCI), with the expectation that this effort will result in a benchmark environmental profile for a generic vehicle, yielding valuable “design for environment” (DfE) guidance and facilitating communication on the environmental performance of the automobile industry to public and private sector audiences. However, as other industry segments have already begun to discover, LCI falls short of providing the quantitative environmental feedback needed to guide internal decision-making or to ensure that accurate environmental information is communicated to customers and other stakeholder audiences. As a result, there is increasing interest in moving beyond common life-cycle inventory practice into the area of impact assessment, and specifically, in developing a methodology that incorporates the additional data needed to analyze actual environmental effects. An impact assessment methodology known as Life-Cycle Stressor-Effects Assessment (LCSEA) has been developed to accomplish this task. This paper discusses some of the critical limitations of LCI, then presents an overview of the LCSEA methodology, and describes some implications for the automobile industry.

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