Special Issue: Charting the Future of Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment

15 April, 2016

Deadline for submissions: April 15, 2016

Journal of Industrial Ecology

Call for Papers:

Special Issue:

Charting the Future of Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment


The Journal of Industrial Ecology invites you to submit articles for a special issue, Charting the Future of Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment in Industrial Ecology, by April 15, 2016.[1]

Nearly a decade ago, the concept of life cycle sustainability analysis (LCSA) emerged and it has been widely discussed and debated ever since. Based on those experiences, this is a good time to assess the progress of LCSA and grapple with its continued development. What exactly does the contemporary community consider LCSA to be, and what are the major challenges to LCSA?

Some view LCSA as a broadening of environmental LCA (E-LCA) to also include economic (through life cycle costing; LCC) and social impacts (through social LCA; S-LCA). Others view it as a trans-disciplinary framework for the integration of models rather than a model in itself. In this latter view, LCSA then not only looks at enlarging the scope of indicators, but also at the expansion of the object of analysis from products to sectors to whole economies. This implies deepening of modeling to both better characterize and include more mechanisms. LCSA thus works with a plethora of disciplinary models and guides selection of the most appropriate to address specific sustainability questions. Structuring, selecting, and making those disciplinary models available for application to different types of life cycle sustainability questions is a central challenge. Within this broader view, traditional E-LCA still has its value fulfilling one specific requirement of this broader life cycle sustainability framework.

The expansion of E-LCA towards LCSA is a consistent and natural progression to the achievement of the overarching goal of assessing the relative sustainability of a system.  In this light, three questions need to be addressed: First, what form should the integrated concept take in order to include technological innovation, economic valuation, and social systems?  Second, what are the precise classifications of application? Traditionally, LCA has been successfully applied at the product level.  Can LCSA be applied at the organizational level or the economy-wide level?  If so, what are the rules for boundary definition?  And, how do these different levels of applications relate?  Third, international consensus has been achieved regarding the most important sustainability aspects to address through the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Is it possible for LSCA to adapt and adopt methods to quantify and measure progress toward sustainability?

Further, will this expansion of E-LCA to LCSA enhance our ability to apply life cycle thinking in the use of other industrial ecological tools and concepts, including industrial symbiosis and material flow analyses? 

This special issue seeks answers to these questions as part of our concerted effort as a community to reinforce the pertinence of the life cycle concept and industrial ecology to the latest thinking in sustainable development.

Jeroen Guinée, Leiden University, the Netherlands, Thomas Gloria, Industrial Ecology Consultants, USA, Bhawna Singh, Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU), Norway, and Harn Wei Kua, Department of Building - School of Design & Environment, National University of Singapore will serve as guest editors.

The Journal of Industrial Ecology is an international peer-reviewed bimonthly, owned by Yale University, headquartered at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and published by Wiley-Blackwell. It is the official journal of the International Society for Industrial Ecology.

Suggested Topics for the Special issue

Appropriate topics for this special issue include:

  • LCSA framework. As argued by some, LCSA is a framework rather than a method in itself and may need to be practically elaborated differently for different life cycle questions. Examples of such elaboration are welcomed as well as further developments of the framework, elements, and methods for LCSA.
  • Social life cycle indicators.  The challenge to develop appropriate, preferably quantitative, and practical indicators for S-LCA has been present ever since S-LCA was proposed. Most efforts so far have focused on finding and developing ways to include social impacts using impact categories and indicators, similar to environmental LCA. Here, we particularly invite papers focusing on the question of whether it is really appropriate to model social LCA on environmental LCA, and if S-LCA diverges from E-LCA, will it still maintain its identity as LCA?
  • Integration of tools. As part of LCSA integration, a combination of existing industrial ecology tools may be sought to best address certain questions. Examples of how and why this has been done in practice are welcomed.
  • Experiences from allied communities. LCSA aims to combine and sometimes integrate different methods.  As LCSA becomes more ambitious in this respect, there are surely lessons to be learned from, for example, other forms of sustainability modeling or the integrative assessment and climate modelling communities that have faced similar challenges in the past. In order not to re-invent the wheel again, experts from these allied communities are invited to share their experiences
  • Scenario assessment. LCSA is also sometimes referred to as life cycle scenario assessment. To address sustainability challenges, emerging technology scenarios are increasingly assessed on a life cycle basis. How should the future in life-cycle based approaches be modeled, what systems should be assessed, and how should relevant data be collected for these emerging systems?
  • Policy relevance of LCSA. How can LCSA methods be effective in informing and guiding the overall sustainable development of society? How can LCSA results be best communicated?

How to Submit

Manuscripts should be original, previously unpublished, in English, and between 3,500 and 6,000 words in length excluding references and tables. Submission implies that the manuscript has not been submitted for publication elsewhere and that it will not be submitted elsewhere while the review process is underway. Papers should be submitted electronically via ScholarOne Manuscripts (formerly Manuscript Central) at <http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/jie>, indicating that they are intended for the special issue on “LCSA.” Details about the preparation of the manuscript can be obtained from <http://jie.yale.edu/author_resources> or from the editor.  All submissions will be peer-reviewed in a single blind process using at least two reviewers.

[1] Papers completing the review process prior to the release of the special issue will be posted online as soon as they are accepted for publication and typeset.