27 Jul 2023

Comparative Life Cycle Assessments provide advantages to companies looking to design products that make positive environmental contributions

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is one of the most accurate analytical tools for evaluating the environmental impacts of a product and its environmental hotspots. With careful application of life cycle methodology, Intertek's team of LCA practitioners create models to calculate a variety of environmental parameters, enabling our clients to make informed decisions about a product, service, or technology based on its environmental impact.

The standardization of LCAs has enabled the comparison of environmental impacts of different products, services, and technologies. A comparative LCA can compare the entire life cycle—including raw material extraction, production, and use and disposal—of a company's own products to similar products from the same or another company and can even allow for comparison against industry averages. Each comparative LCA is critically reviewed by an independent verifier. The resulting LCA analysis helps decision-makers choose materials and products that allow them to achieve their environmental goals. A comparative LCA is also used to examine how changing a product's design or manufacturing process can influence the product's environmental performance. Review of the LCA analysis is best during the research and development or product innovation stages, when companies can experiment with different product compositions, packaging materials, weight reductions, technology modifications, and other changes. A comparative LCA assists companies in determining the ideal combination of factors that yields the best environmental performance.

Here are some examples of comparative LCAs where Intertek supported clients in analyzing the environmental impacts of their product:

Example 1: Enabling the development and marketing of low-carbon products

A swimming accessory manufacturer undertook a comparative LCA to identify environmental hotspots across their product's life cycle and to seek areas for improvement, with the goal of allowing them to make environmental claims. The results showed that one of the major hotspots was the raw materials used in the manufacturing of the product. After learning this, the company chose to rethink their material choices and instead used bio-based materials in the manufacturing process, resulting in a 20% impact reduction in global warming potential (i.e., greenhouse gas or carbon dioxide equivalent emissions).1 Later, they were able to make environmental claims for the bio-based product post–critical review by the independent verifier.

Example 2: Quantifying the environmental benefits of innovative solutions

A beverage container manufacturer used comparative LCA to compare the environmental impact of a conventional container with a container manufactured using their novel technology. This novel technology eliminated the use of plastic, paper, and aluminum laminate traditionally used to waterproof containers and act as a barrier to keep its contents fresh. The company wondered whether their new approach could meet or outperform the already highly resource efficient conventional container in terms of environmental performance. In numerous scenarios, the comparative LCA repeatedly proved that the innovative solution had a lower environmental impact, as well as a lower cumulative energy demand and lower water consumption, than the typical container.

Example 3: Discovering more environmentally friendly packaging designs

A cosmetic company sought to analyze the environmental parameters from cradle-to-grave of two different packaging designs in order to select the one with the lowest impact. Comparative LCA was performed on a plastic jar in comparison to a refillable glass jar. The results showed that the refillable glass jar had significantly lower environmental impacts—up to many times lower than the plastic jar— across all metrics, making the company's decision to use the refillable glass jar much easier to justify from an environmental standpoint.


Each product or packaging iteration, material used, and production process has its own environmental advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, when deciding an alternative to pursue, it is important to thoroughly analyze each stage of the life cycle, from raw material extraction to disposal. Additionally, it is critical to remember that the environmental impact of a product is only one factor to consider, along with other equally important factors such as performance, cost, safety, quality, and social responsibility. Overall, a comparative LCA can help companies design and produce more environmentally friendly products by using a life cycle approach to decision-making and considering comprehensive environmental indicators.

We're Here to Help

Intertek supports companies from the product development stage to the safe release of the product into the market, enabling companies to communicate the environmental impact of their products in the right way. Using comparative LCAs while safeguarding quality, safety, and performance with our Green R&D solution, Intertek provides companies with a competitive edge by helping companies establish public claims on environmental improvements and reduce environmental impacts to meet carbon reduction targets.

To learn more about how we can support your business, visit: https://www.intertek.com/assuris/sustainability/.

1. Note that some bio-based materials may result in higher environmental impacts; hence, it is a good practice to integrate LCAs during the product development stage.


Kripanshi Gupta Intertek headshot

Kripanshi Gupta,
Senior Sustainability Consultant, 
Intertek Assuris

Kripanshi is a passionate sustainability professional engaged with clients on topics related to product and corporate sustainability. She has proven ability to engage with stakeholders to drive change management and business context of sustainable value creation. She has led successful projects on multiple sustainability topics such as life cycle assessment, environmental product declaration, ESG strategy and Framework development, sustainability reporting, materiality assessment, benchmarking, and BES 6001

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