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Integrating knowledge co-production with life cycle assessment

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
September 15, 2022

Over the last decade, the life cycle assessment (LCA) methodology has significantly advanced to enable more realistic impact simulations and predictions with spatial and temporal considerations. Nevertheless, knowledge created through LCA efforts is still largely used as an information source, rather than as a process to engage stakeholders with the implementation of recommendations and to foster prompt and adaptive decision-making and changes towards sustainability, see for example (Davenport and Friedman, 2022). Concerns have also been raised regarding LCA's ease of use as well as its capability in fostering communication, open discussion, and public participation (Cowell et al., 2002). Linking knowledge with actions is a common challenge that was coined the “loading dock” problem. It describes the one-way transfer of knowledge from research communities to stakeholders, and the resulting limited use of scientific knowledge in actual decision-making. The loading dock problem is a particular concern in sustainability science, as tackling “wicked” problems often requires productive collaborations between stakeholders and research communities. LCA needs a paradigm shift in how we include and engage stakeholders. Traditionally, the LCA community has positioned itself as an honest broker of information focusing on making “factual” claims that lack specific bias. The contextual values that drive stakeholders’ choices have been considered “not scientifically based”, according to ISO 14040/44. This perspective could largely explain why the LCA community has not embraced disciplines such as decision science, political science, or behavioral economics. Nevertheless, LCA is inherently value-laden. For example, the goal and scope are often defined by stakeholders that commission the study, which may or may not align with the perspective and values of other stakeholders who are impacted by or wish to use the results of an LCA study. Here we outline some barriers that may hinder linking LCA knowledge with actions.

Weiwei Mo
David Hart
Catherine M. Ashcraft
Mikhail Chester
Stefano Cucurachi
Zhongming Lu
Research Areas
Framework, Methods & Tools
Publication Type
Journal Article
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Mo, Weiwei, David Hart, Catherine Ashcraft, Mikhail Chester, Stefano Cucurachi, Zhongming Lu, Shelie A. Miller. (2023). Integrating knowledge co-production with life cycle assessment, Resources, Conservation & Recycling 188: 106650 CSS22-31