This report, Guidance on Organizational Life Cycle Assessment, is a milestone in measuring and improving environmental impacts and efficient use of resources at the organization level. It goes beyond assessing individual products, as has been done for many years, to encompassing an organization—public or private, big or small—as a whole. The report provides guidance to organizations on understanding, quantifying and communicating the environmental footprint of their activities and those of their value chain, thus providing them with a robust basis for sustainability decision-making.
O-LCA uses a life cycle perspective to compile and evaluate the inputs, outputs and potential environmental impacts of the activities associated with an organization, and the provision of its product portfolio. This methodology is capable of serving multiple goals at the same time (e.g., identifying environmental hotspots throughout the value chain, tracking environmental performance over time, supporting strategic decisions, and informing corporate sustainability reporting). One goal that O-LCA cannot currently fulfill is externally communicating comparisons between different organizations. Comparative assertions are neither robust nor meaningful, mainly due to the lack of a consistent basis for comparison.
O-LCA is envisioned for organizations of all sizes, both public and private, in all sectors, and all over the world. The first tentative steps toward full O-LCA application are currently taking place, and the outcomes of these are already being used to improve organizations’ environmental performance. Broadening the base of implementation is the logical next step, requiring accessible, practical guidelines and guidance.
Three different pathways describe how organizations with previous experience with environmental tools can use this as a basis to ‘think bigger’ and integrate an O-LCA approach. Additionally, specific recommendations for small, medium and large organizations provide practical ways forward. The specific directions given for several situations underscore that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ application of O-LCA. Eleven case studies, through on-the-ground experiences of ‘First Movers’, further illustrate the process and benefits of applying an environmental multi-impact assessment of organizations and their value chain.