L is for Life-Cycle

Kris Atkins
December 17, 2020
Advent Alphabet Series

For any business or project looking to understand and manage down its environmental impacts or risks, it is essential to look beyond just the immediate function of the business or operation of the product / asset being built.

For example, the likely immediate impacts associated with an advertising company based in a large office, will be limited to things like staff commuting, office waste and energy use. Were the business to focus its efforts on managing only these operational impacts, they would be ignoring whether their paper supply was linked to unethical forestry practices and whether their advertising products were recyclable by waste service providers.

Similarly, an electric vehicle company looking to promote the carbon savings from driving its vehicles, might come unstuck if those savings were in fact dwarfed by the emissions from making its parts, the manufacturing process and from end of life disposal or reprocessing.

The ISO standard for Environmental Management Systems (ISO14001) requires organisations to consider a life-cycle perspective when determining their environmental aspects and impacts, ensuring these are carried forward as risks (and opportunities) to be controlled, measured and managed. This includes addressing environmental requirements in the design and development process, through procurement of materials and services (including outsourced services), and through transportation, delivery and end-of-life treatment / disposal. There is an ISO standard (14040) for undertaking a more formal, detailed lifecycle assessment and a further standard (14025) for developing internationally recognised Environmental Performance Declarations for products to demonstrate their lifecycle performance.

By engaging with and proactively managing environmental risks (and opportunities) associated with the functions of your business or project across its lifecycle stages, you are inevitably finding areas of inefficiency / wastage, activities not being properly controlled or at risk of poor performance, and areas where you might be able to gain a competitive advantage. In short, a life-cycle view on management is good for business!

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