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Boosting Life Cycle Assessment Use in European Small and Medium-sized Enterprises: Serving Needs of Innovative Key Sectors with Smart Methods and Tools

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Web tools to strengthen the environmental impact of SME products

Science has significantly advanced tools such as life-cycle assessment (LCA) for improving the environmental performance of products, but many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) remain reluctant to use them. An EU initiative developed web-based solutions to encourage LCA use.

Digital Economy icon Digital Economy

The reasons for this hesitancy include the costs and expertise required to run the LCA studies. The EU-funded LCA TO GO (Boosting life cycle assessment use in European small and medium-sized enterprises: Serving needs of innovative key sectors with smart methods and tools) project set out to tackle these issues and devise methods and tools for sectors such as bio-based plastics, industrial machinery, electronics, renewable energy, sensors and smart textiles. Simplified methods and tools were developed to meet the specific needs of SMEs in the target sectors, mainly support in design and in the assessment of environmental benefits of a technology, product or system. These include product carbon footprints based on technology parameters of printed circuit boards and key environmental performance indicators for smart textiles. Selected product category rules were also developed to guide SMEs. The web tools were then made available as open source software and adapted for other sectors. They were tested in seven case studies involving suppliers, end-product manufacturers and engineering companies. To date, more than 600 users have registered to use the tools that are now publicly available online. Project partners carried out free mentoring for SMEs through workshops, site visits, web tutorials and online support. The mentoring programme trained 117 SMEs across 6 sectors, and external SMEs produced 99 published case studies. An accredited training course based on the developed methodologies was designed and a series of seminars were held to present the various web tools. LCA TO GO introduced a free in-house web toolbox for SMEs that provides exact information to match ongoing needs. These tools will boost business-to-business communication and improve the environmental performance of SMEs' products, which will in turn increase European competitiveness.


SME products, life-cycle assessment, environmental performance, refurbishment, ecodesign, smart textiles, circular economy

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