Research Needs and Challenges from Science to Decision Support. Lesson Learnt from the Development of the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Recommendations for Life Cycle Impact Assessment
Environmental implications of the whole supply-chain of products, both goods and services, their use, and waste management, i.e. , their entire life cycle from “cradle to grave” have to be considered to achieve more sustainable production and consumption patterns. Progress toward environmental sustainability requires enhancing the methodologies for quantitative, integrated environmental assessment and promoting the use of these methodologies in different domains. In the context of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of products, in recent years, several methodologies have been developed for Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA). The Joint Research Center of the European Commission (EC-JRC) led a “science to decision support” process which resulted in the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook, providing guidelines to the decision and application of methods for LCIA. The Handbook is the result of a comprehensive process of evaluation and selection of existing methods based on a set of scientific and stakeholder acceptance criteria and involving review and consultation by experts, advisory groups and the public. In this study, we report the main features of the ILCD LCIA recommendation development highlighting relevant issues emerged from this “from science to decision support” process in terms of research needs and challenges for LCIA. Comprehensiveness of the assessment, as well as acceptability and applicability of the scientific developments by the stakeholders, are key elements for the design of new methods and to guarantee the mainstreaming of the sustainability concept.
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