Is buying new skis better for the environment than renting or borrowing? And what is the climate impact of the services I offer, such as ski rentals? You can get answers to these questions through a life cycle analysis, while at the same time helping customers to choose the right option.
What is actually best for the climate? This is a difficult question to answer, but it can be determined using a life cycle analysis.
“A life cycle analysis is an assessment carried out according to a standardised method, and the idea is that it will make investigating and comparing the environmental impact of different products and services easier,” says Inger-Lise Svensson, Head of the Energy and Environmental Systems Analysis unit at RISE.
Several different things can be factored into a life cycle analysis: carbon dioxide emissions are a common factor, but material consumption and critical raw materials, for example, can be factored in.
“The important thing when conducting a life cycle analysis is to carefully choose the right functional unit for the question to be answered. If you choose the wrong functional unit, one that has not really been thought through, the analysis can be very biased.”
An example of this is sports equipment, where it is possible to conduct a life cycle analysis that only examines the environmental impact resulting from the production of a pair of new skis.
“But the number of times the skis are actually used will also have a major impact on the climate impact per use,” explains Svensson. “What impact does it have on the climate and the amount of material used if, instead of buying new ones, skis are borrowed, which prolongs their lifespan and duration of use?”
..we are able conduct life cycle analyses today in areas where it was not possible in the past
If you conduct the analysis yourself, it is easy to select the wrong unit. However, if you carry out the analysis together with a knowledgeable partner, you can obtain a clear picture of your own product or the environmental impact of the service. This in turn makes it easier to show that your own product complies with standards and satisfies requirements, as well as where in the life cycle the greatest climate or environmental impact exists.
“A life cycle analysis can also be helpful in sales since you acquire knowledge about your product’s environmental impact and can demonstrate this. This gives customers an additional argument as to why they should choose you as a supplier, and in some industries it is already a requirement in procurements.”
But a life cycle analysis can also involve pure risk minimisation.
“It may turn out that the greatest risks and problems are not where you think, and, once you have that knowledge, you can do something about it directly and implement measures in the right places.”
At RISE, there are around 40 people working with life cycle analyses. Some are linked to specific technology areas, while others are generalists or work with method development.
“Our greatest strength is the fact that we are a research institute and can develop new methods. This means that we are able conduct life cycle analyses today in areas where it was not possible in the past. In addition, we have the requisite experience and knowledge to be able to carry out well-substantiated life cycle analyses that are not misleading, which is crucial for the ultimate usefulness of the method,” concludes Svensson.