This article was originally published on Stanford News.


“Consumer goods companies often rely on life-cycle assessments (LCA) to figure out the potential consequences of how they design products and source ingredients. This kind of assessment, while sophisticated, often lacks detail about how the products affect natural resources such as land, water and biodiversity.

A team of researchers from Stanford University and the University of Minnesota, in a partnership called the Natural Capital Project, along with researchers from Unilever’s Safety and Environmental Assurance Centre, developed a new kind of assessment to integrate these impacts in a more detailed way. They call it Land Use Change Improved Life Cycle Assessment, or LUCI-LCA. It’s designed to help researchers or companies more accurately predict impacts of new designs and sourcing.

The researchers tested this new LCA by evaluating the potential environmental impacts of two bio-plastic products that could be produced from sugarcane grown in Mato Grosso, Brazil, or from corn grown in Iowa. Their approach – which includes more accurate data about the regional land composition than the traditional LCA – came to different conclusions about which option would be more environmentally responsible. The group published the results in the April 21 issue of Nature Communications.

“The size and reach of multinational companies is stunning, on par with that of many nations,” said Gretchen Daily, professor of biology at Stanford and senior author of the paper. “When we think about how to bring human activities into balance with what Earth can sustain, corporations have a major role to play in decoupling economic growth from environmental impact.”…”

Read on at: Stanford News.