Goal and scope definition

Framing Goal and Scope in the Context of Emerging Tech:

The Goal and Scoping phase is important for all LCA.  There are several aspects of the Goal & Scoping phase that become critically important to define for emerging technologies due to the unique challenges associated with forecasting relevant data associated with ultimate product performance and the underlying inventory of a future state. LCA practitioners should pay particularly close attention to providing transparency during this stage and defining the purpose of the emerging technology LCA. 

Guiding Questions to ask when defining Goal and Scope for an emerging tech LCA:

  • Funding requirement
  • Internal viability assessment
  • Benchmarking
  • Define metrics such as technology and manufacturing readiness level. 
  • How do we apply to characterize a product system rather than an individual technological widget?
  • How much do we know about the technology’s ultimate function?  Are there other comparable technologies that might be used to estimate process and efficiency improvements as it develops?
  • Define market readiness level - established vs. emerging
  • Is how it will be used obvious? Will the environmental impact depend on how it is used and/or the level of market penetration it may have or which incumbents it displaces?
  • Doesn’t make sense to perform a comprehensive LCA at early TRL
  • When does it not make sense to do an LCA?  Is there ever a “too early stage?”
  • Focus more on sensitivity and uncertainty impacts
  • Use of bounding scenarios - development of envelope to assess under what conditions the technology is unfavorable or favorable
  • Avoid confusing stakeholders/decisionmakers with false level of certainty
  • Bergerson, J. et al., Life cycle assessment of emerging technologies: Evaluation techniques at different stages of market and technical maturity
  • Guinée, J.B., Cucurachi, S., Henriksson, P.J. et al. Digesting the alphabet soup of LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 23, 1507–1511 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-018-1478-0

The Five Primary Challenges

Challenge #1 - Function/Functional Unit


Challenge #2 - Foreground/Background Data


Challenge #3 - System Boundary Sensitivity/Uncertainty


Challenge #4 - Comparisons Systems


Challenge #5 - Critical review considerations