1997-02-24

From Life-Cycle Assessment to Full-Cost Accounting: An Evolving Common Language for Cross-Functional Teams 970694

Full Cost Accounting (FCA), and the methodology that scientifically supports it, Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA), is rapidly developing as a set of accounts that effectively links aspects of manufacturing processes to the health of ecosystems. LCA is a “cradle to grave” accounting for products that recognizes the environmental impacts of all life-cycle stages. It is the valuation and interpretation phases of LCA that interface with FCA. FCA attempts to objectively interpret LCA information for strategic decision making by converting it to a common monetary base.
FCA will be one of the practical tools to achieve step-wise incremental change toward sustainable development. LCA/FCA has already become an integral part of a market-incentive approach to natural resource conservation. We examine the background, benefits, and uses of LCA and FCA. We describe the role of LCA/FCA in the context of environmental management systems (such as that standardized in the ISO 14000 series) and of life-cycle management.
We conclude with a discussion of FCA case studies in the auto, chemical, and power-generation industries, e.g. Dow Chemical's Salzburg Landfill, the Ludington pump storage project settlement, the company policy on FCA at Ontario Hydro, Chrysler's elimination of mercury in convenience lighting, and Chrysler's choice of antifreeze.

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