24 to 29 June 2018, Parador El Saler, Valencia, Spain

Workshop Summary report

Following the first recommendations on indicators for climate change, human health impacts due to fine particles, impacts related to water consumption and biodiversity impacts caused by land use (Frischknecht & Jolliet 2016; Jolliet et al. 2018), a second Pellston Workshop®* was held in Valencia, Spain in late June 2018 to further provide “Global Guidance for Life Cycle Impact Assessment Indicators and Methods”. The goal of the workshop was to reach consensus on recommended environmental indicators and characterisation factors for Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) in the areas of human toxicity, ecotoxicity, acidification and eutrophication, soil quality and related ecosystem services, mineral resources, as well as crosscutting issues. An extensive two years’ preparation work preceded the workshop, which resulted in white papers on the above-mentioned new topics, as a basis for the consensus finding process and the drafting of final recommendations.

The 40 participants represented a balanced mixture of LCA experts and domain experts as well as LCA users from industry, governments and NGOs of 20 different nationalities from all regions of the globe. The one week workshop was characterised by intensive discussions, exchange of arguments and positions. We were pleased to witness passion but at the same time openness and fairness. Finally, the participants agreed on tangible and practical recommendations on environmental indicators, including substantial innovations. The following main recommendations were agreed upon:

  • Human toxicity: Three human toxicity indicators are recommended considering different severity for cancer, non-cancer developmental, and other non-cancer effects. For human exposure, these indicators build on a matrix framework consistently coupling environmentally mediated exposures with indoor and consumer product exposures. The non-cancer indicators build on a stochastic dose-response model recommended by the WHO and the 10% population response level to derive effect factors, combined with severity factors based on the latest Global Burden of Disease statistics.
  • Ecotoxicity: Promising solutions have been found for harmonized assessment of chemical emissions in Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) and LCIA. The major recommendations are: 1) to consider effects of chemicals on organisms living in coastal waters, soil, and freshwater sediment; 2) to base effect modelling on a concentration domain that is close to the domain of environmental concentrations; 3) to disregard bioaccumulation as removal mechanism in exposure modelling, and 4) to consider ageing and weathering of metals in soil and freshwater sediment.
  • Acidification and Eutrophication: Selected indicators and factors are recommended for freshwater eutrophication, terrestrial acidification, and midpoint marine eutrophication (interim recommended for marine eutrophication endpoint, which needs further investigation). Further consensus recommendations are 1) to use spatially explicit models with global coverage, 2) to aggregate CFs (to country or global level) using agricultural, non-agricultural, or overall emissions weighting (and apply these according to goals of a study), and 3) to use existing environmental concentrations for effect modelling. These changes will move these categories towards increasing relevance of models for LCA results.
  • Soil quality and related ecosystem services: High quality functional soil is important for the supply of ecosystem services such as providing biomass and regulating climate. Land use and land use change (LULUC) are key human stressors that can affect soil quality. Change in Soil organic carbon (ΔSOC) stock) is interim recommended as the indicator of soil quality as it is a good integrative indicator of soil functions. Suggestions are also provided to improve the representation of forestry and permanent crops, in order to move to a full recommendation. Soil loss is recommended as a separate indicator linked to natural resources, to address erosion impacts.
  • Mineral resources: The Area of Protection related to mineral resources has been defined and methods have been grouped depending on whether they assess the impacts of a product system’s resource use on the opportunities of future generations to use resources (inside-out) or resource availability for a product system (outside-in). For the inside-out perspective, Abiotic Depletion Potentialultimate reserves is recommended to assess the depletion of stocks. Methods to assess the consequences of a declining resource quality, to assess economic externalities, and to assess resource use based on thermodynamics are interim recommended. Methods addressing the outside-in perspective are recommended to be used as a complement to (environmental) LCA.
  • Crosscutting issues: For uncertainties, it is strongly recommended to follow a tiered approach, interpreting and reporting all relevant types of uncertainty and associated variability. For the connection between LCI and LCIA, It is strongly recommended to develop a common reference nomenclature and classification system. Further research is recommended on improving available options for the instrumental values framework and for addressing ecosystem vulnerability consistently, to allow aggregation of indicator scores across all impact categories.

Each group also provided tables of recommended characterisation factors to operationalize the application of the recommended indicators. This second volume of LCIA Global Guidance will constitute a substantial step ahead for LCIA practice. The results achieved during this week exceeded the high expectations of the participants. It showed once again that such a science-based consensus finding process does not freeze scientific knowledge but rather promotes progress in science and at the same time fosters the practicality, stability and robustness of the recommended indicators by engaging the user community.

The participants also mutually agreed to seize the momentum created to install a structure within the Life Cycle Initiative providing stewardship for both recommended characterisation factors as well as for enabling their regular update in the future. They also strongly recommended to integrate the set of indicators developed for nine impact categories into a fully consistent and comprehensive LCIA global method.

The next finalization steps comprise a harmonisation of the contents of the different chapters, a final review by the Task Force members, a review by an ad hoc Review Committee set up by the Life Cycle Initiative and SETAC as well as final editing and publication of the UN Environment Report. In parallel a scientific paper is being prepared which summarises the main achievements and recommendations. The official launch of the Valencia Global Guidance on LCIA for this second set of indicators is scheduled for March 2019.

We thank all participants and their institutions for their invaluable contributions and the intensive but also fun and unforgettable experience. We would especially like to thank Llorenç Milà i Canals and Feng Wang from UN Environment and Tamar Schlekat and Barbara Koelman from SETAC for their ongoing upfront and onsite precious support. It helped the experts to fully concentrate on contents and to enjoy the professional and delicious service of our host. Finally, our sincere thanks also go to the sponsors of the LCIA Global Guidance project as well as of the Pellston Workshop, i.e. the funding partners of the Life Cycle Initiative and the Sponsors of this specific Workshop:

– Rolf Frischknecht & Olivier Jolliet, Co-chairs of LCIA Global Guidance project, 2.7.2018


  • Frischknecht R. and Jolliet O. (ed.) (2016) Global Guidance on Environmental Life Cycle Impact Assessment Indicators, Volume 1. United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, Paris, pp 159. https://www.lifecycleinitiative.org/training-resources/global-guidance-lcia-indicators-v-1/
  • Jolliet O., Antón A., Boulay A.-M., Cherubini F., Fantke P., Levasseur A., McKone T., Michelsen O., Milà i Canals L., Motoshita M., Pfister S., Verones F., Vigon B. and Frischknecht R. (2018) Global guidance on environmental life cycle impact assessment indicators: Recommendation set 1. In: Int J LCA, online, pp., 10.1007/s11367-018-1443-y.

* The Pellston process refers to SETAC’s use of a concentrated workshop to produce a monograph; see https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.setac.org/resource/resmgr/meetings/SETAC_Pellston_Workshop_SOP.pdf. The first workshop of this type was held in Pellston, Michigan, in 1977.