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Implementation of life cycle management practices in a cluster of companies in Bogota, Colombia

Moreno, Oscar Alberto Vargas, Swarr, Thomas E., Asselin, Anne-Claire, Milà i Canals, Llorenç, Colley, Tracey, Valdivia, Sonia
The international journal of life cycle assessment 2015 v.20 no.6 pp. 723-730
United Nations Environment Programme, business enterprises, cleaning agents, decision making, energy, learning, life cycle assessment, marketing, models, polypropylenes, polystyrenes, product development, screening, stakeholders, supply chain, viability, Brazil, Cameroon, Colombia, India, Peru, South Africa, Uganda
PURPOSE: The UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative has been promoting the development and dissemination of a life cycle management capability maturity model (LCM CMM) to fully operationalize and eventually mainstream LCA into all facets of business, including product development, marketing, and strategic decision-making business processes. The capability framework defines a logical sequence of skill building based on the experiences of sustainability leaders that can speed learning for companies with less mature programs. Business improvement projects are designed to incrementally expand the span of concern from company objectives, to value chain viability, and ultimately to societal needs, while broadening the base of information and engaging a wider set of stakeholder views. METHODS: The UNEP/SETAC sponsored pilot tests of the LCM CMM in Cameroon, Uganda, South Africa, India, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. The results from the pilot conducted by Secretaria Distrital de Ambiente (SDA) and a network of 22 companies in Bogotá, Colombia, are presented to illustrate how the capability approach can be applied and highlight lessons learned to promote further dissemination of life cycle practices. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The companies were able to apply the concepts to develop accurate, representative assessments of organizational maturity and to identify reasonable improvement projects that delivered some financial value in the short term, addressed a management system gap identified in the maturity assessment, and could be completed within the schedule deadline of the contract (∼6 to 9 months). The projects included an LCA of cleaning products, collaboration among three companies to find a better solution for managing a waste stream of coffee “silver skins,” a streamlined assessment of acrylic products, an LCA of disposable polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS) cups, and a qualitative screening of operations of a transit company. The paper discusses how the results of the studies were used to identify specific improvement projects tailored to the specific needs and priorities of each company. CONCLUSIONS: The pilot projects showed that the capability maturity approach had intuitive appeal and the companies were able to apply the concepts to their organizations with limited technical support and identify an appropriate improvement project with LC relevance. This suggests there should be less emphasis on LCA as a tool to identify projects and more as a method to gain insights for effective implementation of business-relevant projects. One key question is how to sustain the energy and ongoing improvements fostered by this pilot program.