Life Cycle Assessment is a powerful science-based tool we use to estimate the carbon footprint of our products.
The Sourceful Life Cycle Assessment methodology is backed by leading LCA scientists and experts. It has secured verification against ISO (International Organization for Standardisation) standards, which ensures that the methodology meets the requirements for the leading international initiative for quality, rigour and international standardisation in LCA.
Here’s a deeper look at why you can trust our methodology.
What did Sourceful do?
In our mission to make supply chains more sustainable, we believe actions must be driven by robust and science-based data (read why good data matters when it comes to impact here).
On our platform, we deliver data on billions of product variants, without compromising on the depth of analysis for each of those. Our LCA data is cradle-to-grave, which means we include the impacts from material extraction through to final disposal, leveraging supplier-specific data.
Traditional LCA reviews are expensive, time-consuming and usually applicable to a single set of product specifications. Instead of reviewing each product variant, which would result in billions of reviews, we chose to define a Sourceful-specific methodology to be reviewed against ISO standards (14040 and 14044). Reviewing a methodology allowed us to ensure that the LCA of all product variants on our platform were estimated using a consistent, ISO-conformant approach. This way, every time a business views carbon footprint data on a product they are designing, they see accurate and high-quality LCA results that conform to the leading international standards.
Our LCA team worked with an independent panel of leading LCA experts over a period of six months to critically review and refine Sourceful’s generalised LCA methodology. This review from an external independent panel is the process required to verify conformance to ISO standards.
Our white paper containing the results of their review, as well as details on our methodology is available upon request. Please reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is ISO?
ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization, a globally recognised independent organisation that develops and publishes industry standards; everything from food and safety standards to carbon footprinting standards. Their aim is to ensure quality, rigour and international conformity on different topics across most industries. Each standard created by ISO is developed by independent expert panels and there are now over 20,000 standards.
Why use ISO?
By bringing together experts and stakeholders from all over the world, ISO standards are core to every business that wants to lay credible and robust foundations.
Our calculations allow businesses to see real-time carbon footprint data for all variants of our products. But carbon footprint modelling (known as Life Cycle Assessment modelling) can be subjective, and if not properly validated, can be at risk of over or understating the environmental impact of different products.
To maximise the robustness of our information, we commissioned an independent panel of leading experts to verify our Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology against the ISO standards for life cycle assessment: ISO 14040 and 14044. The international standards for conducting life cycle studies/assessments on a product’s environmental footprint, including the carbon footprint.
The conformity of our LCA methodology to these standards enables:
Consistency: each result on the platform is estimated per the same consistent LCA methodology, which conforms to the leading international standards for LCA. This allows for consistency not only for each product but across products.
Robustness: each section of the methodology has been scrutinised by an independent panel of experts, and refined per their recommendations.
Dynamism: verifying a method enables us to apply it to millions of combinations within seconds, including the specific product a business is considering in that moment (rather than having to wait for a full bespoke study to be conducted).
Why is an independent review so important?
While the world is adapting to the reality of climate change, the concept of sustainability has piqued the interest of many companies. However, “green”, “natural”, or “sustainable” products are often advertised to us without any information on their actual environmental impacts. And when data is shared, there is little depth to back it up.
If we are to make supply chain sustainability achievable for every business, we need to ensure the information we share is reliable, transparent and backed by experts in the field.
By having an independent panel of experts assess our methodology, we can provide businesses with the reassurance that the carbon footprint data on our platform is based on a robust methodology that conforms to the leading international standards for life cycle assessment.
The critical review statement conclusion was verbatim the below:
“The methodology as presented is in conformity with ISO 14040 and ISO 14044 following the critical review procedures of ISO 14071. The review panel found the methodology and its execution to be satisfactory for the defined goal and scope of the study."
04 February 2022
Our full review statement is available on request. Contact us at email@example.com.
Meet the panel behind the review
Ellen is an LCA specialist at PRé Sustainability, a global sustainability consultancy and developers of one of the world’s leading LCA software, SimaPro. Ellen works to provide clients with data-driven sustainability insights, with Life Cycle Assessment at the core of her work. Ellen was the chair of this panel.
Dr. Aiduan Borrion
Associate Professor and Co-director of the Circular Economy Lab at University College London. Dr. Borrion’s research is focused on developing quantitative sustainability methods and tools to support the design and delivery of technology, systems and services to help achieve net zero, using a life cycle assessment (LCA) approach.
Max Sonnen is the managing director and founder of Ecomatters, a sustainability consultancy with a specialism in life cycle assessment. His experience spans complex LCA modelling, independent review and tool development projects, both for large companies and public sector institutions such as the European Commission.
“PRé was happy to be involved in the critical review of Sourceful’s LCA methodology. We support their aim to make LCA results available to support decision making, and the methodology used to generate these results is critical for the reliable assessment of global warming potential."
- PRé Sustainability, chair of the independent critical review of Sourceful’s LCA methodology, 2022
What about the data?
We have detailed above how we ensure that our methodology and approach is aligned to the international standards for LCA and is robust per leading practice in the field. But where do we source the data itself from?
To calculate the carbon footprint of our products, we rely on a combination of supplier-specific data, industry references (backed by industry associations or peer-reviewed academic journals) and emission factors.
Supplier-specific information is gathered on exactly how each product is made, how much material goes into each unit, where and how much material is wasted, the specification of each component and the locations and transport methods used to ship the product to and from the factories.
The primary data is then converted into carbon footprint results by using emission factors. Emission factors provide an estimation of the greenhouse gas emissions from a particular process, such as for the average production of a kraft paper sheet in Europe. ecoinvent (cut-off system model) is our primary source of emission factors, as the “world’s most consistent and transparent life cycle inventory database”. However other sources are used to plug gaps, such as the UK government GHG Conversion factors.
A critical step throughout the process is assuring the quality and relevance of the data point. We have developed a strict methodology for data quality assessment, where each supplier-specific and emission factor data point are interrogated for geographical, technological and temporal accuracy. This provides a score which is assessed against quality thresholds; if it does not meet the threshold, a better data point is to be found. The quality thresholds are materiality driven, such that the items contributing the most to the total carbon footprint are required to hit a higher standard.
The final assurance step is to sign-off all assumptions and dataset choices with the supplier; this provides an added layer of checks to ensure the appropriateness of modelling choices.
Read more about our LCA approach here.