How to conduct a corporate LCA?

I work for a general contractor. Anybody have recommendations for best first steps in performing a corporate LCA of one’s own operations?


Ryan -

Glad to hear your company is interested in LCA. If you do not have someone on staff who is versed in LCA, you may need to connect with a consultant for your first study. You’ll need to define the scope and boundaries of what you want to cover, select your functional unit, etc. Since you are not manufacturing a specific product that already has a set of product category rules to guide the LCA development, this might be a little challenging (e.g. do you want to understand impact by area built, hours worked, etc.). There is also specialized software that is normally used in building the model, so there is definitely a learning curve.

There are a lot of resources out on the web that can give you an overview of the process. This one
( looks like a nice process overview, but the software list at the end is very dated. The ACLCA is the professional association for LCA practitioners in the US, so if you are looking for a consultant, their listing of certified practitioners is a good place to start (

Good luck and interested to hear how it turns out. I’m not seeing much for LCA of general contracting operations out on the web, so you may be breaking new ground. Hope the effort involved has not scared you off.

Cheryl Smith
Program Leader | Owens Corning

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Thanks Cheryl! Appreciate the suggestions and the link you sent is very helpful. Not scared yet, but ignorance knows no fear :slight_smile:

Are you looking primarily for a corporate carbon footprint, or a full LCA with multiple environmental impacts included (e.g., water quality and quantity, energy, waste)?

I’d say both, eventually. Probably start with a carbon footprint first since I’m assuming that would be the “easiest” to compile. Any thoughts/opinions?

From my experience, companies usually do a corporate carbon footprint first based on what’s driving the need like reporting to CDP, setting a Science Based Target, or in response to shareholder requests. This might be a simpler exercise if you start with just carbon, but could result in missing important drivers of environmental impacts like water use and consumption. What is driving the interested in doing the corporate LCA?

I’d say that our motivating concern for an LCA is that we want to minimize our environmental impact and believe that establishing a baseline is a crucial step in that process. We’re intending it to be for internal use, at least initially, and our plan is to address our largest and most harmful footprint first. I’ve been assuming (perhaps mistakenly) that this would be our GHG emissions, and specifically carbon emissions. We absolutely want to consider all of our impact, especially the ones we don’t know about. Yet!

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This is super interesting to me because I do LCA and my husband works for a general contractor and we have discussions about topics like this around the dinner table all the time!

Baselines are definitely important and in doing the LCA, it’s good to do a hot-spot analysis to determine what’s driving the impacts and balance that with what your company has control over to reduce and what is cost effective. If it’s just for internal use, then you don’t need to take the results through critical review, but it could be good to have some guidance from an outside party if the results are going to drive decisions about business operations or spending.

I would suggest go for ISO 14072 Organisational LCA (so called OLCA) suggested also by UNEP Life Cycle Initiative.

The benefit of OLCA is that you look at beyond carbon and widening the system boundary of standard corporate carbon footprint. The former is important in that you might have impacts that not obvious at first sight. The latter gives you benefits of assessing your products (and related supply chain including raw materials), which is the most important aspect in Scope 3 emissions in Corporate Carbon calculations, unfortunately most of the intentional or not is missed! Without such information is not really viable to set meaningful targets.

I hope this helps.

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Thanks Hudai! I hadn’t heard of this before, it looks interesting. Appreciate the suggestion.