WSP USA helps clients drive design innovation with Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) – evaluations that summarize the environmental impacts from the production, transport, use and disposal of goods and services.
Julie Sinistore, project director for the sustainability and energy team in WSP’s San Francisco office, focuses on helping companies conduct LCAs – from screening-level reviews to full-fledged LCAs compiant with international standards.
“When performed on products in the design phase, Life Cycle Assessments can guide designers to more sustainable product prototypes,” Sinistore said. “When applied to existing products and services, LCAs can identify environmental impact ‘hot spots’ in the production, transportation, use or disposal of the product.”
LCAs are valuable for any organization that is a producer of goods (biofuels, construction materials, and electronics) or services (cloud and data storage services).
Full International Organization for Standarization (ISO)-conformant LCAs combined with a critical review are the most rigorous assessment, and can be used to substantiate environmental marketing claims about a product or service and how it compares to similar products or services. LCAs can strengthen a client’s claims, or help that client modify its process or revise its claim before it is made public.
“LCA is an objective and science-based tool,” Sinistore said. “It does not tell you what is best; it simply tells you what is. The client can then use the results to focus on efforts to reduce environmental impacts relevant to its stakeholders, including direct (business-to-business) and indirect (business-to-customer) clients, investors, and non-governmental organizations.”
By driving innovation and improving the environmental performance of products, LCAs can also help clients reduce their costs; set emissions reductions targets and measure progress towards meeting those goals; and improve sustainability throughout the supply chain, from the source of raw materials through manufacturing, transportation, use and disposal.
“Among their many applications in business, LCAs can be used to inform the product design process and improve product and corporate carbon footprints,” Sinistore said.
WSP provides LCA services for a wide range of organizations, with expertise in agricultural products, conventional fuels and chemicals, electronic products and services, and construction materials and processes.
One of the greatest challenges in performing an LCA, and what can make it a challenge for many clients, is data collection.
“I enjoy working on LCAs because I always learn something new when I do them,” Sinistore said. “Often, I learn about how a common object is made, used or disposed of. Moreover, I find it very rewarding to help companies design more sustainable products and reduce the impacts of their services.”