New ISO specification to help establish environmentally sustainable products

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The first ISO technical specification for data documentation of life cycle assessments is expected to highlight environmental problems and areas for improvement in the production of goods and services.

The ever-increasing demand for products and services is putting added pressure on the environment. Exploitation of resources and manufacturing of products are creating potentially devastating stresses on the natural world. The new technical specification ISO/TS 14048, Environmental management – Life cycle assessment – Data documentation format, will facilitate the process of evaluating the impacts that a product has on the environment over its entire life, thereby encouraging the efficient use of resources and decreasing liabilities.

ISO/TS 14048 costs 128 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat. The new standard is the work of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 207, Environmental management, subcommittee SC 5, Life cycle assessment.

Life cycle assessments (LCA) offer a strategy for organizations to acquire sound environmental information on products and services and therefore influence decisions on materials, production methods, distribution, and disposition approaches.

The basic aim of LCA is to evaluate the environmental burdens associated with a product, process, or activity by identifying and quantifying:

  • energy and materials used and wastes released to the environment;
  • assessing the impact of those energy and materials used and releases to the environment;
  • identifying and evaluating opportunities to effect environmental improvements.

The assessment includes the entire life cycle of the product, process or activity, from extracting and processing raw materials to manufacturing, transportation and distribution; use, re-use, maintenance, recycling, and final disposal.

ISO/TS 14048 provides special requirements and guidelines for the preparation, conduct and review of life cycle assessment (LCA) and life cycle inventory (LCI) data, with a view to developing environmentally improved products and services over their whole life cycle.

It is intended to facilitate transparent reporting, interpretation and review of data collection, data calculation, data quality and data reporting as well as facilitating data exchange, by specifying and structuring relevant information.

The new technical specification is aimed primarily for data suppliers, LCA practitioners and LCA information system developers.

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