When we conduct critical reviews, our main objective is to guarantee a minimum but sufficient quality standard, from a scientific and technical point of view, as well as the consistency with the international ISO 14040 standard. Our aim is more about supporting the implementation of the life cycle assessment (LCA) and improve its quality rather than to discover every calculation error nor to perform an administrative ISO-check. The following three points are important for us:
Strengthen the people conducting the LCA: In a comparative LCA the probably most important question a reviewer always needs to put is: would the result of the LCA be the same if the customer was the manufacturer of the other compared product? The answer to this question is crucial for the study and the practitioner to be objective and credible. Especially in cases where the results are against the expectations of the client, the reviewer will be able to support those who conducted the study with an objective position.
Sparring partner for LCA practitioners: it is the duty of a reviewer to discuss the following aspects: Evaluation of the orders of magnitude of the results, recognize and discuss the relevant decisions, recognize and discuss the relevant scenarios and options, carry out an uncertainty analysis.
Finding significances: though the term “significance” is mentioned several times in the ISO norm, it is often not sufficiently addressed in an impact assessment or the interpretation of results. This can be explained, among other things, because methods that can weight the different environmental impacts into a single score result, allowing establishing a statement on its significance, cannot be applied under the ISO norm for comparative LCAs expected to be published. Nonetheless, as a reviewer, we recommend analysing one or two single score method results in order to check the order of magnitude and the relevance, even if these results cannot be mentioned in the LCA report.
We have applied these principles to the more than 50 reviews we performed. We use a pragmatic process where we focus on the most relevant aspects and take our part of responsibility. This allows us to perform efficient reviews at a reasonable price, for short LCA evaluations as well as complex LCA studies with ISO standards.