Ibero-American Network of Life Cycle Assesment
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Ibero-American Network of Life Cycle Assesment
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Mining (2 hits),

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Establishing basic Product Category Rules (PCR) in order to ensure achieving the Green Economy in emerging regions:
disacoupling PCR from the economic and commercial interests of big companies and consortiums


During the last decade, corporate social responsibility (CSR) required companies to adopt measures and tools for cleaner production and sustainable development. This become an important driver for sustainability in the production sector, and was also an effective vehicle to introduce these new concepts to several countries. This also helped to raise awareness in society of the relevance of taking care of the environment as well as the value of the biological richness of the planet for future generations. At the same time, new relationships and collaboration between industry and society started to be developed; under a novel approach for economic-social growth and the improvement of the standard of living, through a framework of respect to the environment.

What is the Problem?

In the present phase of world development, i.e. towards life cycle thinking and a green economy society has already been deeply instilled with the concept of sustainability. As part of public agenda of developing countries, the initiatives of the private sector have an important influence on general society and also on governmental agencies. These initiatives have the potential to fulfil the expectations of society regarding these areas and can also indirectly help governmental agencies to accomplish their own goals in social and environmental areas. Nevertheless, when these initiatives are promoted by large companies, powerful consortiums or transnational companies, their focus could be more related to economic and commercial purposes, becoming instead a good ?business and marketing opportunity? for companies. Nevertheless, to consolidate this process, companies need to be somehow recognized locally as conceptual and practitioner referees in subjects related to sustainable consumption and production.
Their huge financial resources, allow them to have significant capacity of implementation of projects, which usually include several levels of development and diffusion of their activities and ideas, and therefore has the potential to be denoted as corporations in a kind of "environmental crusade for the benefit of us all" , acquiring consequently public connotation and social and political influence. The practice that is becoming common in many countries of the region, may result in serious damage for the economy and sustainable development of the emerging countries, since it could turn out to be a factor that distorts the implementation of methodological standards for the sustainable consumption and production, like the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), by establishing models and patterns of reference that entail in their own intrinsic definition the skew provided by the economic interests of the companies, which are promoting them.


Not taking suitable measures means that big-size companies with economic and commercial interests beyond the regional, environmental and social ones could determine the standards for sustainable development, and then: establishing what is fine and what is not, what worth more and what worth less in sustainable consumption and production, and consequently what impacts or impact categories are the more relevant, what emissions to consider and which are their relation to particular sitespecific conditions, what is more significant for certain sectors in terms of environmental, social and economic impacts, and therefore what bears the greatest burden and therefore the allocation scheme to be used for a LCSA, etc.
In this context, consortium and big companies could become judge and part of these processes. Their economic and technical resources provide them with the ability and effectiveness: their headquarters provided them of knowhow, the necessary resources for expert development on LCA and other tools, making them prepared with solid arguments and scientific and technical discussion capacity to convince and promote themselves at different levels of society. But, in the other hand, as counterpart there are the social and governmental organisms, most of them with not enough monetary resources, and lack of the necessary knowledge and experience to discuss or to appropriately lead the development and application of these methodologies.
We also understand that out of this situation there is also latent risk for regional SMEs: being most SMEs suppliers of the big companies and transnational that demand to fulfil their environmental standards, conducting the SMEs to compete in technical disadvantage with foreigner suppliers coming from the developed world. Additionally as has already occurred, those SMEs that are able to accomplish the required standards, can be led to a sort of perverse system, in which the SMEs after improving their standards of environmental performance and thus diminishing their energy and material consumptions and their production costs, they were then demanded by the big companies to lower as well the prices of their products in the same proportion as they lower their production costs.

In the implementation of this type of initiatives, a common practice carried out by companies consists in getting the social organizations and governmental organisms involved from the start, and hence ensuring their acceptance and social validation, and simultaneously conform a politic-social action network that consolidates them and makes very difficult to influence these projects from outside, or publicly to criticize their results.


What could be a feasible solution?

Therefore it seems essential and necessary to adopt oriented measures to direct these processes toward the objectives of economic, environmental and social sustainability of the emergent and developing countries, disacoupling them of the economic and commercial interests of big companies and consortiums.

Therefore, we highlight the necessity of developing mechanisms for auditing and controlling those initiatives, projects and programs oriented to establish models of LCA or implementing as well other life cycle thinking tools.

We think that a direct way for this, based on standardized tools that already exist, is the promotion of the use of the product category rules (PCR), according to the ISO14025. Each country in agreement with a global standard frame will be able to establish for products a basic profile that must be fulfilled. This product profile can be settled together with all the producers of the sector and the import products will have to fulfil at least these basic profiles.

In the following phase countries would have to reach inter-sectoral agreements to make these profiles consistent for the country. These processes would agree between countries with commercial agreements. At the same time international basis regarding environmental and social terms would be established for avoiding that products out of specification could be deviated to other countries without regulations.

It is not either necessary to invent nothing. It just would be enough to organize an EPD/PCR scheme under public control of the countries and not to leave these regulatory processes to be defined exclusively by private initiative.

Finally, we propose that these mechanisms are impelled and coordinated by pertinent governmental organisms, such as the economic and environment ministries, national centers for cleaner production, but which scientific and technical support must be based on the scientific communities and technical experts in these areas. In Latin America and other regions in the world, these communities have been grouped themselves in local and regional networks of life cycle assessment, such as the Ibero- American LCA Network, the African LCA Network, and many very active LCA networks at country level too.

In the cases that local networks do not exist, the PCR and EPD development could be coordinated with the regional network, which are able to identify local and regional experts and give technical support if necessary, and/or to act as guarantors for Estate organisms, NGO and for other natural organizations of the civil society.

Promocion de mecanismos para el desarrollo de bases de datos abiertas: plataforma necesaria para dar impulso al desarrollo sustentable y la econom?a verde en regiones emergentes


Atendiendo a la globalizacion de la economia y especialmente a las implicaciones economicas y ambientales de impactos a nivel planetario, se hace necesario disponer de un fondo documental transversal, de forma que sea posible conocer las variables que permitan determinar los impactos que afectan a toda la humanidad, especialmente en los productos transnacionales. Actualmente el consumidor no puede saber el impacto de un producto importado o de un producto elaborado con materias primas o energia procedente de otros paises o continentes.

Este fondo documental com?n se concretaria en una base de datos de formato compatible, en la que todos los fabricantes de productos o servicios deber?a volcar una serie minima de datos. Esta base de datos com?n deber?a poder determinar aspectos globales como la vulneraci?n de derechos humanos basicos, como proteccion de la infancia, derecho a educacion, derechos individuales y determinar variables que afecten a la preservacion de recursos no renovables fundamentales, materias primas, fuentes de energ?a y a la prevencion y proteccion contra impactos globales como agotamiento de capa de ozono, cambio climatico. La metodologia de analisis de sustentabilidad de ciclo de vida (life cycle sustainability assessment LCSA), permite la incorporacion de varios de estos temas en el analisis integral, que impulsa la comunidad de expertos en LCA, haciendo desde hace a-os una labor importante a nivel mundial en la recoleccion y seleccion de datos y desarrollo de modelos de impacto tanto gen?ricos como sitio espec?ficos y sector especificos. Pero sus esfuerzos se ven tambi?n limitados a causa de la disponibilidad de datos y acceso a la informacion y falta de medios formales para superar este problema.

Asimismo, el acceso amplio a informaci?n relevante y confiable, es fundamental para la implementacion de programas y pol?ticas de desarrollo sustentable y programas de mejora ambiental continua de procesos, servicios y productos, en paises emergentes. Los principios de Responsabilidad Social Empresarial en primer t?rmino, asi como las normas en todos los niveles, deben orientarse a promover el acceso a la informacion ambiental, social y economica, a gobiernos y a ciudadanos, a fin de compensar las asimetr?as existentes entre ?stos y las grandes corporaciones.


Mucha informacion referente a consumo y emisiones gen?ricas e impactos ambientales y sociales de sistemas productivos y de desempe-o ambiental de productos, se encuentra dispersa en la academia, sectores p?blicos y privados y aun siendo de acceso pueblico, muchas veces se desconoce su existencia y termina encerrada en cajones y archivos hasta finalmente perderles toda pista.

La Guia Global de Principios para Bases de Datos de Analisis de Ciclo de Vida, conocida tambi?n como la Guia de Shonan, recientemente lanzada por UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, identifica como crucial para el desarrollo de inventarios de ciclo de vida y por tanto para el analisis de ciclo de vida, que los tenedores y generadores de informacion desarrollen f?rmulas para incrementar la cooperacion y asi mejorar el acceso a informacion fiable. Capitulo 6 de la Guia Global de Principios:

- Governments are requested to launch national life cycle assessment (LCA) training and awareness activities in their respective countries.

- Global coordination among life cycle inventory (LCI) dataset developers and LCA database managers has been identified as a priority, together with capacity building and data Mining, to move toward a world with interlinked databases and overall accessibility to credible data.

- Huge amounts of relevant raw data, and even developed LCI datasets, currently are not easily accessible for LCA studies. LCA database managers and LCA practitioners for particular studies should do data Mining by working with actors who routinely collect data

. All stakeholders, including governments, industry associations, and commercial parties that manage and supply databases, should strongly increase their cooperation and coordination."

La Guia de Shonan tambi?n discute en forma detallada, el como los gobiernos y otras partes tenedoras de datos basicos que pueden usarse en generar inventarios de ciclo de vida, pueden tomar acciones para que sus grupos de datos pedan ser mas facilmente usados en esa direccion.

Existe evidencia de funcionalidad de las bases de datos abiertas: las nuevas generaciones de cientificos y profesionales ocupan fuerte y crecientementemente sitios de generaci?n y desarrollo de temas en internet y las bases de datos que alli se generan, como es el caso de wikipedia, exhibe la condicion de autorregulacion en el tiempo, generando informacion de alta calidad y grupos de trabajo y discusion entorno a temas relevantes. Conociendo este fenomeno, expertos en el mundo han empezado a desarrollar herramientas abiertas para centralizar y compartir informacion, que permiten la mejora de procesos, al compartir informacion sobre indicadores de desempeoo de redes de proveedores y consumidores.

Por tanto hay ya una base metodologica y empirica, que en todo caso es necesario aun estructurar y orientar hacia los objetivos del establecimiento de mecanismos a nivel de gobiernos que permitan el desarrollo de bases de datos abiertas de informacion relevante y fiable, como plataforma para el desarrollo sustentable.


De manera concomitante, los Gobiernos y la sociedad civil, a trav?s de acuerdos p?blico privados deberan desarrollar y compartir estrategia tecnologicas para re-construir la informacion ambiental a partir de los registros existentes en cualesquiera formatos y sujetos que puedan aportarlos, a fin de generar progresivamente una aproximacion a lineas de base globales para los ecosistemas en todos sus niveles.

Desarrollar protocolo de acuerdos internacionales, que permitan que la informaci?n generada por las empresas para su propio desempeoo operacional, pueda quedar disponibles para el uso de la comunidad y del Estado, a trav?s de mecanismos que generen valor para las empresas como retribucion a compartir la informacion, los cuales no han sido del todo desarrollados.

Cabe destacar que la forma de creacion y mantenimiento de grupos de datos (datasets) y bases de datos se puede realizar de formas muy variadas, dado el actual nivel de desarrollo tecnologico, pero es fundamental un compromiso tanto a nivel gubernamental de los paises como tambi?n a nivel internacional, que lleve a que cada pa?s garantice la disponibilidad de estos datos en un formato compatible. Por tanto que sea posible verificar, por ejemplo, que en los casos de productos para los cuales la cadena de suministro sea transnacional o en temas de comercializacion, se pueda garantizar que los impactos sociales, econ?micos y ambientales de ?stos, est?n enmarcados al menos en un minimo internacionalmente acordado.

Consideramos que Rio + 20 es la instancia en la cual se puede asumir un compromiso de este tipo en un plazo razonable, de manera que se pueda seguir un procedimiento similar a las agendas 21, en las que cada pais en forma voluntaria se va suscribiendo al compromiso y mientras tanto se desarrolla un protocolo que permita ir agregando bases de datos.

Los principios de Responsabilidad Social Empresarial en primer t?rmino, asi como las normas en todos los niveles, deben orientarse a promover el acceso a la informacion relativa al desarrollo sustentable a gobiernos y a ciudadanos, a fin de compensar las asimetrias existentes entre ?stos y las grandes corporaciones.

De manera concomitante, los Gobiernos y la sociedad civil, a trav?s de acuerdos p?blico privados deberan desarrollar y compartir estrategia tecnologicas para re-construir la informacion ambiental a partir de los registros existentes en cualesquiera formatos y sujetos que puedan aportarlos, a fin de generar progresivamente una aproximacion a lineas de base globales para los ecosistemas en todos sus niveles.

Profundizacion de la gestion administrativa en materia de evaluacion de impacto ambiental

La mayor?a de los paises cuenta con legislacion que exige la evaluacion de impacto ambiental previa a la ejecucion de proyectos que involucran ocupacion o transformacion del entorno, generacion de desechos y sustancias toxicas y alteracion o impactos significativos al medio ambiente natural y/o tecnoestructura. Sin embargo, la gestion ambiental gubernamental asociada a dichas normas resulta deficiente en varios aspectos que es necesario fortalecer desde el punto de vista institucional:

a) Adecuada estandarizaci?n de los procesos de revisi?n de los Estudios Ambientales, y que involucren los otros aspectos de la sustentabilidad (desarrollo social y economico, respeto a los derechos humanos basicos).

b) Ampliacion de la integracion de informacion disponible para la revision: tanto las normas como las tecnolog?as deberian converger para permitir integrar progresivamente dichas informaci?n no digitalizadas, dispersas, o en lenguajes incompatibles, de tal manera de permitir superar la vision atomizada.

c) Potenciacon del acceso a las tecnologias TIC

d) Revision critica de la Evaluaciones Ambientales y de informacion disponible: las comunidades ACV/LCA agrupadas en redes nacionales y regionales conformadas por expertos en las diversas areas que comprende el LCSA, constituyen una base para que los paises emergentes establezcan procedimientos (gu?a de calidad) de recoleccion, eleccion y revision critica de datos. Se debe proover las alianzas entre los gobiernos locales con las redes nacionales y regionales, las cuales tambi?n pueden ser la base para el desarrollo de est?ndares b?sicos de grupos de datos.
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