of the product portfolio covered by cradle-to-gate Life Cycle Assessments
of Research and Innovation projects assessed for environmental impacts
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a tool for compiling the inputs, outputs and the evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of a product system throughout its life cycle.
Life Cycle Assessment help Solvay to:
- Make more sustainable and better informed strategic decisions by considering the full life cycle of products and services;
- Improve communication to customers on risks, hazards, and inclusion of environmental considerations, for example on carbon footprint and water footprint;
- Benchmark its performance and identify new areas for continuous improvement;
- Better identify potential areas for cost reductions along the life cycle.
At Solvay, LCA is widely used for sustainability assessment of the product portfolio (SPM), for R&I project evaluation, and for marketing purposes related to environmental and sustainability objectives.
Solvay Life Cycle Assessments are managed by a dedicated corporate team with direct links to all business units and services. Having a dedicated LCA team makes it possible to maintain a high level of staff competencies and coordinate updates of main methodologies and methods across the Group. LCA methodologies meet international standards - ISO 14040, ISO 14044, and ISO 14046 norms - and specific methodological developments are implemented by the corporate team.
The core LCA activity is based on recognized tools, software, and databases, and Solvay also develops his own database in relation with its business and innovation segments, for instance in Material Science or Battery development.
The LCA team is also called upon to support the business activity when it comes to customer relations by sharing environmental and LCA data on products in order to enhance understanding and environmental impact assessments along the value chain, from “cradle to grave or recycling”. Examples include the automotive sector and the construction sector.
Taking part in world class Life Cycle Assessment platforms
To maintain a high level of expertise, Solvay participates in collaborative platforms:
- High level research on Life Cycle Assessment methodologies: in 2012, Solvay joined the International Reference Centre for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services (CIRAIG) as an industrial partner. It is now in its second mandate, ending in 2021, for developing expertise in various aspects of Life Cycle Assessments;
- Association Chimie du Végétal in France on bio-sourced materials;
- SCORE Life Cycle Assessment platform: created in March 2012 to promote collaboration between industrial, institutional, and scientific actors; and to foster positive developments in overall environmental quantification methods, particularly in Life Cycle Assessments, to be shared and recognized at the European and international levels;
- World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Life Cycle Assessment projects;
- Roundtable for Product Social Metrics: an association of industry representatives and consultants for establishing guidelines for assessing the Social Impacts of Industrial Product Life Cycles.
Extensive cradle-to-gate Life Cycle Assessments were performed for 94% of products (by turnover share) placed on the market, compared with 93% last year. The fact that Solvay increased the percentage - even though its score was already high and despite the intense work required - proves that excellence is the driver.
The Solvay LCA team also manages its own product database representing more than 1,200 different chemicals and materials. This database is continuously updated to include the most recent industrial or innovation data.
Solvay assesses 100% of new Research and Development projects for their environmental impacts. For that purpose, it has specifically designed an enriched version of the Sustainable
Portfolio Management assessment tool for products and applications still under development. It benefits from the experience gained from several years of innovation project management. Accordingly, Innovation Projects are continually assessed as they progress in order to make sure the objective is maintained.
2019 key achievements
In addition to the ongoing collaboration regarding the SPM tool assessment, LCAs were specifically used in 2019 during the review process during which the Solar Impulse Foundation considered several Solvay applications for selection amongst the 1,000 solutions that protect the environment in a profitable way, such as:
- SOLVAir for flue gas treatment;
- Solef PVDF, used in battery applications;
- AGRHO S-Boost, a biostimulant for crop germination.
The LCA team provides measurable and relevant results in a life cycle perspective for these products in their specific applications.