Life Cycle Assessment and Design - Experience from Volvo Car Corporation 980473
In 1989, Volvo pledged to minimize the environmental effects of its operations by adopting a holistic approach to the environmental impact of its products, at every stage of their life cycle.
As a means to achieve this goal, it was decided to use Life-cycle Assessment (LCA) philosophy. In collaboration with the Swedish Environmental Institute (IVL) and the Federation of Swedish Industries, an evaluation system based on the environmental goals adopted by the UN Conference on Environment & Development (UNCED), held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, has been developed. Based on this evaluation method, a computerized tool known as EPS - Environmental Priority Strategies in product design - was born. It is made for use by non-LCA practitioners such as design engineers and purchasing staff. This software, particularly well adapted to the profile of Volvo's products, was introduced in the company in the beginning of the nineties. Today, combined with a LCA-data base, it's used as a “compass” to indicate the direction in which long-term environmental improvements have to be made.
The purpose of this paper is to explain, and illustrate with a concrete example, how the Volvo Car Corporation (VCC) is using LCA at the design phase. A description of the environmental tools will be presented, as well as a case study of an EPS-comparison between different tailgates, in order to describe how the system is used in practice. Experiences from the implementation will be discussed during the presentation.