Skip to main content.
Enviropaedia Sponsors and Supporters

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)

( Article Type: Explanation )

Life cycle assessment (LCA) looks at the entire life cycle of a product, process or activity from 'cradle to grave' or from the first moment it was thought of until its final disposal or destruction.

The purpose of LCA is threefold:

  1. to provide as complete a picture as possible of the product, process or activity and its relationship to the environment 
  2. to add to humankind's understanding of the interdependence of human activities and the environment and 
  3. to provide decision-makers with information that clearly defines the direct and indirect, positive and negative environmental impacts of a product, process or activity.

LCA forms a part of the philosophy that encourages holistic thinking and integrated environmental management approaches. There are more details in SABS ISO 14040 Environmental Management Life Cycle Assessment Principles and Framework. The custodians of the ISO standards in South Africa are the South African Bureau of Standards. There is a useful Australian network for LCA, which can be contacted through

Associated Sustainable Development Articles:

Sustainable Development ~ Manufacturing