Corporate Users-Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment - Carnegie Mellon University

Information for Corporate Users

The EIO-LCA on-line tool provides a quick and easy, initial assessment of the life cycle resource consumption and environmental impacts of an industry sector.  The results provide a first-level evaluation of the sector and its supply chain, enumerating the direct impacts (impacts from the industry sector and its suppliers) as well as the indirect impacts (impacts from the supplier's supplier and further up the supply chain). As noted elsewhere, EIO-LCA is free for non-commercial use, and commercial use licenses are available.

The EIO-LCA results can be used to estimate the carbon footprint of an industry sector, both within the industry itself, and from its supply chain.  The EIO-LCA results help corporate users to quickly identify where impacts are occurring so that changes to operations can target areas where they will be most effective.  

For example, with the recent push to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels, a plastics company has been asked by its customers to switch from petroleum-based feedstocks to bio-based feedstocks.  However, the petroleum-based feedstocks are only a small portion of the fossil fuels purchased by the industry sector.  An analysis with the eiolca.net tool indicates that the U.S. industry sector "plastics packaging material, film and sheet" purchases more fossil fuel in the form of coal indirectly through its purchases of electricity to operate its facilities (including manufacturing facilities, R&D facilities, office buildings, etc), and the overall purchases of petroleum-based products is quite small.  A more effective way for the company to reduce dependency on fossil fuels would be to change electricity providers to ones offering more renewable power.

The EIO-LCA on-line tool has also been used by corporate users as a screening tool prior to doing a full-fledged LCA to identify areas where more intensive focus should be placed.  Results from the tool can also be used to supplement information gathered via a process-based LCA project.  The results provide an estimate of the impacts of industry sector operations where more specific information is not available.   

For example, steel manufacturing requires copious amounts of coal for both processing into coke, which is a raw material for the steel making process, and for use as a fuel for operating the steel making facilities.  Finding information on the coke processing operations and the steel making operations would be relatively simple for a steel manufacturer, as detailed information about the energy consumed, raw materials purchased, and emissions and wastes generated would be available internally.  However, information about the burdens of mining the coal would be much harder to collect as external companies perform these operations, and the source of the coal might be highly dependent on economic factors (i.e., the spot price of coal or immediate availability) rather than consistently from a single facility.  An analysis with the eiolca.net tool for the U.S. sector "coal mining" can serve to provide results for these operations.

What next? 

Go to the Method page for a primer on life cycle assessment, how the EIO-LCA method works, and how it compares to process-based LCA. 

The Models page has information about the various economies modeled with the EIO-LCA method here on the site. 

The Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University offers assistance and partnerships with life cycle assessment projects.  We offer workshops to individuals and corporate groups to learn more about life cycle assessment, the EIO-LCA method, and using the technique in your operations.  We also work with companies who are exploring LCA projects in a variety of ways - as external reviewers of LCA materials to meet ISO 14040 requirements, to developing projects from the ground up.  For more information about working with the Green Design Institute, contact our Executive Director.