How to Use Life Cycle Assessment to Quantify and Reduce your Scope 3 Emissions


Unlike Scope 1 and 2 emissions, Scope 3 emissions are far harder to control and track accurately, but they are key to reaching net zero. With Scope 1 and 2, an organisation will normally have the data required to convert direct purchases of gas and electricity into a value in tonnes of GHGs. Most organisations are unlikely to have the same insight when it comes to suppliers of other goods and services.

Life cycle assessment (LCA) can be used to quantify Scope 1-3 emissions by providing information on the environmental impacts of systems, services, and products, throughout the entire life cycle. It therefore enables you to accurately and efficiently plan and deliver a road map to reduce emissions in line with a net zero strategy.

Life Cycle Assessment

Life cycle Assessment (LCA) can be used to provide information on the environmental impacts of processes, services and products, throughout the entire life cycle. LCA stands for Life Cycle Analysis and is also known as ‘cradle-to-grave’ analysis. LCA refers to the assessment of environmental impacts of a product throughout its life cycle from its raw materials to disposal or recycling. The various stages considered in assessing the environmental impacts start from the extraction of raw materials and move toward material processing, manufacture, distribution, use, repair, maintenance, and disposal or recycling (ScienceDirect, 2022).

  • To support clients with identifying cost/emission hotspots (baseline) for a particular product/service
  • For R&D work on alternative manufacturing processes and or materials
  • To communicate this information to stakeholders and customers (i.e., Environmental Product Declarations)

How Alfa Energy uses LCAs to assess environmental impacts of products/systems

Our LCA service involves a comprehensive life cycle inventory of energy-materials that are essential across a client’s specific product/system value chain. We do so by calculating the cumulative impact of the associated emissions and costs. The aim is to provide a systems view of the environmental profile of products/services. We adopt a hybrid LCA approach combining input output (IO) models and process-based LCA for a complete system boundary. This approach is widely recognised as a more accurate approach, as process-based LCA (on its own) could suffer from incomplete system boundaries (accounting for parts of a supply chain that are difficult or impractical to map).

The suggested hybrid approaches are based on the intended use purpose of an LCA and help define the extent and content of the assessment. We always consider the information needs of our customers and define each study case-by-case. In order to better understand the primary and support processes of a company (context of organisation), we initially conduct a supply and value chain analysis to identify and categorise key actors and activities and help scope intervention points to optimise cost and environmental performance. This entails a first-level analysis to provide a sectoral/industry level assessment and categorisation of suppliers (based on net spend/emission).

Using LCA to identify the carbon and cost hotspots, we conduct supply chain configuration and supply chain optimisation. The supply chain configuration work involves scenario modelling, considering alternative supply chain routes/networks and comparing short vs long supply chains among other solutions.

Together, these measures will provide a comprehensive system-view assessment of a company’s operations and suggest realistic decarbonisation strategies. These strategies could entail improving supply chain performance and efficiency, balancing supply and demand, helping procure sufficient raw materials for manufacturing and distribution (meet demand based on triple bottom line efficiency).

Life Cycle Costing (LCC)

Life Cycle Costing maps the total cost of ownership of a product / service / system throughout its entire life span (cradle-to grave costs). LCC is best used to evaluate the procurement of a new product/service and can provide informed decision making on how (and where) to reduce costs throughout the different stages of the product life cycle (raw material acquisition, manufacturing/processing, use-stage, maintenance, end of life). LCC does not consider the depreciation cost associated with the capital cost.

Traditionally, costing approaches mainly focused on the up-front cost (capital cost) of manufacturing or procurement of a product/service. These approaches failed to account for post-sales costs and could also result in missing important transaction costs associated with business function interrelationships. In other words, a company choosing a particular material or manufacturing process with a low upfront cost could fail to account for higher postsale costs such as maintenance, use-stage, customer service, and disposal costs. Furthermore, if LCC is used in parallel with LCA it could provide decision-makers with important information required when substituting or comparing a high energy intensive material or manufacturing process with alternatives. This could be fed back to the research and development team and used in future procurement and design decisions.

Environmental Product Declarations (EPD)

An EPD is a standardised document used in both B2B and B2C communication. It transparently and scientifically describes the environmental impacts of your system/product/service. EPDs are validated by a third party and as such can be used to compare with EPDs for other products/services if the same product category rules are applied. The most common sector making use of EPDs is the construction sector, but  increasingly it is becoming popular in other industries.

The comparability of EPDs is one of its strengths, as it can help offer credible and verified data concerning the environmental performance of products (based on LCA standards and principles). At Alfa Energy, we aim to follow applicable product category rules, comply with EPD guidelines, and most importantly include customer-driven approaches (using transparent communication).

Our team has over a decade experience in conducting LCA studies, in a variety of different sectors (energy, aviation, agrifood, automotive, mining and other service sectors). We have conducted LCA studies for both internal use purposes (e.g. R&D) and public stakeholder communication. For more information, please contact Alfa’s Principal Consultant Seyed Ebrahimi

Dr Seyed Ebrahim

Dr Seyed Ebrahimi joined Alfa Energy (an Edison Energy company) in January 2022 as a principal consultant within the sustainability division. Ebrahimi has extensive research and consultancy experience in sustainable operations, data science, and technology applications in the real estate, energy, finance, aviation, agro-food and automotive sectors. He is well-versed in GHG emissions mapping scopes 1, 2 and 3, green supply chain strategies, net zero business strategies, life cycle assessments, the circular economy, industrial-urban symbiosis and environmental mitigation strategies.