Retail & Food II: LCM in the Retail and Food Sectors II
Life cycle assessments for consumer products
Johnson & Johnson, United States of America
LCA is currently the most holistic methodology to understand the environmental impacts of products, but still has to overcome a number of limitations to reach its full potential as a precise real-time tool. Considerable uncertainty of the results due to insufficient availability of primary data and the difficulty to communicate the complexity of multiple impact categories are key issues to be addressed.
Conducting a full LCA can be time and resource intensive and since many consumer companies have thousands of different products, exactly how to incorporate LCA data can be a challenge. This presentation will discuss how LCA information on a category level can be used to guide product development by detecting environmental hot spots, scenario analysis and category modeling.
Based on full LCAs on selected products, LCA models were developed to assess representative products within categories, i.e. products with similar composition and usage. Examples of product categories are rinse-off products such as shampoo, hand soap, etc. or disposable products like tampons, diapers etc.. Potential product variations were incorporated into the model to provide the ability to rapidly obtain and evaluate life cycle results on the effects of changes in product formulation, transportation, manufacturing efficiencies, packaging materials, distribution as well as product use and disposal. Shampoo and tampons were selected to represent the rinse-off category and disposable products respectively. The resulting LCA data trended with published studies, but are inconsistent with the environmental perception of many consumers. While surveys show, that consumers’ environmental focus is on the shampoo formulation, the largest contributor to the environmental impacts turned out to be water and energy consumption in the use phase of shampoo. Regarding disposable products, consumers’ main concern is the generation of landfill waste, but LCAs demonstrated that the raw materials production contributes most to the life cycle of disposable products.
The findings reiterate the strong need to educate retailers and consumers on the environmental information generated by LCAs and the significance of the data, if they are to be meaningful decision making criteria. There are ongoing developments in many countries towards consumer-friendly ways to convey the environmental information.
The Sustainability Consortium: A stakeholder approach to improve consumer product sustainability
The Sustainability Consortium, United States of America
The Sustainability Consortium is an effort between universities, corporations, givernment agencies, and NGOs to improve consumer product sustainability. The Consortium is developing the science and tools to promote better decision making about product sustainability. There are over 100 organizations and 400 individuals engaged in Working Groups and research activities of the Consortium.
Everyone in today's supply chain wants to know more about the sustainability of products and supplies they are purchasing, but everyone is asking for or providing different information in different formats. The cost of reporting to retailers and consumers in different ways is costly to manufacturers, and the proliferation of different information to consumers and retailers have proven confusing. Current effort is on developing sustainability measurement and reporting standards in order to bring rigor and harmonization to claims suppliers and manufacturers make about their products.
This talk will provide a summary of the Consortium's R&D and highlight the critical issues related to these efforts. In particular, we'll highlight the value of Type III environmental product declarations, our hybrid approach to developing product category rules, and the types of uses product-level metrics have throughout the supply chain.
Development of an eco-responsible product selection program for a Canadian retailer using a life cycle assessment
For most retailers the greatest leverage to reduce their environmental footprint is to influence the choice of its customers towards more environmentally sound products. The challenge is to offer a wide range of ecoresponsible products while avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing. RONA, the leading Canadian hardware retailer, in collaboration with the International Chair in Life Cycle Assessment (Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal) developed a life-cycle based selection program which identifies less environmentally impacting products.
With more than 90 000 products on shelves it was necessary to identify product categories where environmental gains would be the most significant. Criterion on mass, monetary value and environmental relevance have been used to target about 80 product categories. For these product categories, screening LCAs were realized 1) to identify the most relevant issues for each type of products 2) to determine what kind of attributes would be necessary for a product to be selected in the ecoresponsible program and 3) to ensure the environmental attributes do not lead to burden shifting between life-cycle phases or impact categories. Within this process, particularly interesting products (from an environmental perspective) were recommended for a private brand, called RONA ECO. The objective is to offer products that are the most respectful of the environment (from a life-cycle perspective) when fulfilling a needed function.
Special attention was given to the communication practices of the suppliers and retailer. All the environmental claims and labeling made by the suppliers were verified. For the retailer, in store danglers that provide basic information on the life cycle approach and the main ecolabels were installed. Also, a dedicated website presents information about the life cycle attributes of each product and how they should be incorporated into green renovation projects. The enhanced promotion of the ecoresponsable product lines in terms of shelf placement and overall visibility encourage other suppliers to develop ecoresponsible products. To help them with this task a guideline based on life cycle concepts was produced and training in ecoconception are offered.
Since 2008, more than 1,800 ecoresponsible and 500 RONA ECO products were selected or developed. An increased awareness from suppliers concerning best practices in environmental communications and basic ecoconception was observed. A gradual evolution from qualitative through quantitative assessment is taking place to provide more precise information to customers about the environmental performance of the products they buy and consequently help them make better environmental choices.
Environmental profiles of farm types in Switzerland based on LCA
Agroscope Reckenholz-Taenikon Research Station ART, Switzerland
Within the food supply chain the agricultural phase has an important share of the environmental impacts. In order to reduce the environmental burden of food production it is important to identify optimisation measures on the farm level. At the same time it has to be considered that multifunctional agriculture fulfils different functions, e.g. land management, food and feed production, and provision of income. On a regional or national level, farms differ according to their structure, which implies different environmental strengths and weaknesses.
Our objective was to assess the environmental impacts of a network of Swiss farms consisting of farms of different types, production regions and farming systems. The analysed influencing factor is the farm type (e.g. arable crops, dairying, suckler cows, combined pigs/poultry).
Agronomic, technical and economic data of about 100 Swiss farms have been collected in the years 2007 and 2008 in the framework of the project Life Cycle Assessment – Farm Accountancy Data Network (LCA-FADN). LCA calculation of these farms were performed using the SALCAfarm model. The applied functional units are ha UAA for the function of land management, MJ digestible energy for the productive function, and CHF gross revenue for the financial function. For our environmental profiles we assessed three environmental impacts, i.e. global warming potential, eutrophication potential, and terrestrial ecotoxicity representing the resource use-driven, nutrient-driven and pollutant-driven impacts, respectively.
We identified three types of environmental profiles: i) a rather favourable environmental profile, i.e. low environmental impacts for all three functions were achieved (e.g. type combined suckler cows); ii) a profile with favourable impacts regarding the function of land cultivation, but unfavourable for the productive and financial function, (e.g. type other cattle); and iii) a profile with favourable impacts for the productive function, but unfavourable for the financial function and the function of land management, (e.g. type combined dairying/arable crops).
In conclusion, we found that an environmental optimisation over three functions is challenging as areas of conflicts are present, especially between conserving land management and high productive output, e.g. type combined pigs/poultry is highly productive but faces unfavourable impacts regarding the land management function. For the farm type arable crops efforts have to be made in terms of nutrient and pollutant management. Environmental profiles allow the identification of environmental hotspots for each farm type leading to a directed analysis on influencing factors, e.g. energy carriers or feedstuff, in order to improve the environmental performance.
Best practice application of LCM by retailers to improve product supply chain sustainability
Joint Research Centre, Spain
Retailers are strategically positioned, and have a strong business interest, to drive supply chain sustainability across the products they sell. This requires systematic and targeted implementation of LCM. Through extensive liaison with European retailers and critical assessment, eight best practice techniques for supply chain environmental improvement were defined. In proposed order of implementation priority, these are:
1. Integrate sustainable sourcing into business strategy and operations
2. Product supply chain assessment
3. Identify effective supply chain improvement mechanisms
4. Choice editing and green procurement
5. Establish environmental criteria for products and suppliers
6. Drive supplier improvement through information exchange and benchmarking
7. Strategic collaboration on development of products and standards
8. Promote front-runner ecological (ecolabelled) products
Priority products for improvement should be identified based on sales volumes and lifecycle environmental considerations (technique 2, e.g. Coop Switzerland). Numerous lifecycle assessment tools are available, but full LCA is unnecessary for product supply chains where environmental hotspots are well documented and/or to which appropriate third party standards are applicable. Best practice retailers employ a targeted and pragmatic approach to identify the appropriate improvement options and control points (technique 3, e.g. H&M).
Universal certification according to third party environmental standards (technique 4) represents the most rigorous method of supply chain improvement (e.g. B&Q ensures 77% of all wood sold is Forestry Stewardship Council certified). Based on lifecycle understanding of supply chain pressures, appropriate standards commonly used by European retailers were classified as 'basic', 'improved', or 'exemplary' according to their environmental rigour. The 'exemplary' category includes ISO Type-I ecolabels and certified organic production. Where third party certification is not applicable, leading retailers are implementing LCM of supply chains through techniques 5 (e.g. IKEA supplier requirements) and 6 (e.g. Sainsbury's dairy development group). Although not verified by third parties, these techniques drive widespread eco-efficiency improvement. Performance data are presented comparing implementation rates of techniques 4 to 6 for European retailers. These techniques represent a proactive retail strategy based on the concept of 'gate-keeper responsibility'.
Front-runner ecological standards represented by Type-I ecolables and organic certification are not universally applicable, and are associated with significant price premiums. Retailer best practice for these product standards is represented by a different strategy (technique 8): promotion of eco products through pricing, in-store placement and advertising (e.g. Coop Switzerland, KF Sweden). We suggest that implementation of this technique alone is insufficient to drive the eco-efficiency improvements required to realise sustainable supply chains.