“Life cycle thinking” is a holistic approach that looks at the economic, environmental, and social impacts of a product or process along its value chain, with the goal of minimizing those impacts.
Traditionally, cost and environmental improvements of products and processes were focused on manufacturing operations and plant management. Expanding this focus to include other areas of the value chain – such as resource extraction, distribution, use, and end of life management – has led to a much more thorough understanding of the environmental and societal impact of a product or process.
Life cycle thinking helps to prevent the shifting of impacts or burdens, allowing organizations to address areas needing improvement while ensuring that those actions will not have a negative impact elsewhere along the value chain.
Life Cycle 101
A number of life cycle tools have been developed to put life cycle thinking into practice; some of these include environmental Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), carbon footprint analysis, eco-labeling, social LCA, and Life Cycle Costing (LCC). Many organizations today have adopted a Life Cycle Management (LCM) approach for their business. Life cycle tools help inform their decisions about improvements across the supply chain to achieve more environmentally friendly, cost effective, and/or sustainable products and processes. Adopting LCM often leads to increased revenue/profit, lower costs, and strong corporate responsibility.
Life cycle thinking facilitates opportunities for improvement at each life cycle stage
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