Life cycle indicators are essential to monitor progress towards sustainable consumption and production, with particular focus on the decoupling of environmental impacts from economic growth. The framework developed for life cycle based indicators include:
- Resource indicators: the main focus is on the overall EU eco-efficiency indicator, which provides insights into decoupling environmental impacts from economic growth
- Basket-of-product indicators: reflect the environmental impact and the resources used that are associated with the final consumption of an average citizen in the EU27 over the entire life cycle of goods and services
- Waste management indicators: assess the environmental impacts related to the management of the—environmentally—most important waste streams.
Macro-level monitoring indicators are required in the following policy areas:
- Sustainable use of natural resources without environmental burden shifting in a globalised economy as stressed in the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources (COM(2005) 670)
- Goods and services (products) and their environmental impacts within and outside European Union over their entire life cycle as emphasized in Integrated Product Policy Communication (COM(2003) 302)
- End-of-life of products as a leverage for a higher material and energy resource efficiency and reduced environmental pressure of waste management as addressed in the Thematic Strategy on the Prevention and Recycling of Waste (COM(2005) 666)
- Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan (COM(2008) 397)
- Europe 2020 Strategy – Resource Efficiency Flagship Initiative (COM(2011)21)
The need for such indicators was recognized in the 3rd International Life Cycle Thinking Workshop, organized by the JRC in January 2007. This workshop also defined the necessity for robust and consistent underlying life cycle data and methods.
Indicators supporting modern policies have to take the life cycle view of the links between consumption and production on the one hand, and resource use, environmental impacts and waste generation on the other. This life cycle perspective is also a global perspective; therefore, it is not enough to consider domestic activities only. This means that the indicators should consider the environmental impacts occurring abroad, but driven by national or European demand for imported goods.
Weighting of environmental impacts is required to provide an indicator of the total environmental impact and present it as the overall single score, following the environmental mechanism. This is complemented by the sub-indicators for specific impact categories and/or areas of protection.
- Life cycle indicators for resources, products and waste: framework
- Life cycle indicators for resources, products and waste: resources, resource-efficiency, decoupling
- Life cycle indicators for resources, products and waste: basket-of-products
- Life cycle indicators for resources, products and waste: waste management
- Recommendations for life cycle-based Indicators for Sustainable Consumption and Production in the European Union
- Manfredi S., Goralczyk M. (2013) Life cycle indicators for monitoring the environmental performance of European waste management. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. volume 81, December 2013, Pages 8–16