Leistungen und Kompetenzen / Products and Competence
The international standard ISO 14040 recommends that a critical review should be performed for each Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study and strictly requires a review according to § 7.3.3 (panel) for such LCA-studies which are intended to disclose "comparative assertions" to the public. Such an assertion may state that a product-(good or service)-system A is better than or equal to system B under environmental aspects. This strict requirement by ISO 14040 was included into the norm in order to prevent the misuse of LCA - results in marketing: only carefully scrutinised studies can be used for such purposes.
The report by the review panel is part of the LCA-report and may be commented by the commissioner of the study and/or the practitioner (often a consulting firm specialised in LCA). These comments, if there are any, are also part of the final report. In this way the reader can form his or her own opinion about the quality of the study and the conclusions drawn. Is product A really better than B? Is the data reliable enough, the method appropriate, the allocations well chosen? And, above all, have the standards ISO 14040+14044 been observed?
These standards describe the main components of an LCA (Goal and scope definition, Inventory analysis, Impact assessment and Interpretation). For the reviewing team it is of paramount importance to examine the consistency of these components in a particular study. The panel members have to be neutral and independant of the commissioner and should not be in direct competition to the practitioner. Large LCA-studies often require international review panels, which are less likely to be biased by national political and / or economic interests. From personal experience, the ECOSOL surfactant study, ERFMI (resilient floor coverings) and UBA´s (Berlin) packaging study clearly belong to this type.
It should be mentioned that the early critical reviews (before 1997), which were called "peer reviews", were performed according to SETAC´s LCA-Guideline or "Code of practice" (1993). In these guidelines, which were elaborated at the Sesimbra workshop in Portugal, a peer review was proposed for the first time in order to improve the quality and reliability of LCA-studies. This is still a very useful document, since ISO 14040 does not specify any details, how a critical review should be performed.
Walter Klöpffer has been performing about 70 critical reviews either as chairperson or co-panellist. Not all studies reviewed were published and, therefore, the critical reviews are confidential and not mentioned here. In most cases, especially for industrial commissioners, confidentiality agreements are signed.
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