Life Cycle Tools

There is a range of practical life cycle tools that companies can use to discover areas for improvement or to address risks. On this page we help you choose the tool that is best for your supply chain sustainability project. We have provided you with practical information and links to useful life cycle tools, which you can begin using right now. The tools will open up financial, environmental and social benefits for your business. They range from simple and inexpensive tools to detailed and more costly tools.

Your life cycle management toolkit

This easy-to-use guide lists life cycle tools that are suitable for your business – whether you are getting started on life cycle thinking or are experienced professionals.

Begin with the simpler, inexpensive tools at the top of the table. You will not necessarily need to undertake a full (environment or social) life cycle assessment.

Tool Description     Business value Resources/links  
Life cycle map Process ‘tree’ of
a product or
service including
key inputs and
outputs (use and
throughout the
supply chain
  • Improves understanding of each life cycle
    stage for all supply chain partners
  • Identifies value and opportunities as well
    as ‘hotspots’ and risks for further
  • Provides an opportunity to engage within
    your organisation and with supply chain

PACIA’s Quickstart series (especially Quickstart 3)

PACIA 8 Step Guide
(Steps 2, 4, 5)

Sustainability Victoria
life cycle management
Matrix or table
that identifies activities
and impacts
associated with
a product or
  • Identifies priority spending areas to
    generate the greatest return
  • Improves understanding of impacts at
    each life cycle stage
  • Rapid and inexpensive way of identifying
    indicators/areas of concern
  • Encourages collaboration along the
    supply chain
  • Builds on knowledge of ‘hotspots’
    obtained in life cycle map

PACIA’s Quickstart series (especially Quickstart 3)

Sustainability Victoria
life cycle management

The European Chemical
Industry Council’s The
Sustainability of Products,
What’s it all

Measures carbon and greenhouse
gas emissions for
a product, service
or organisation
by tracking (eg)
fuel and energy consumption,
and process
  • Provides information that improves
    understanding of the sources of a
    significant financial and environmental
    cost, and a key concern for stakeholders
  • Helps to identify potential areas of
    process inefficiency and cost savings
  • Provides information often requested by
    government, supply chain partners and
    key stakeholders including the

Greenhouse Gas Protocol
Product Life Cycle
Accounting and
Reporting Standard

Carbon Trust carbon
footprinting software

International standard
for carbon footprint of

Energy mass
Measures the flow
of energy through
a site or process to
determine the
quantities used
  • Identifies energy losses (eg heat or
    steam), the knowledge of which can
    be used to improve processes to deliver
    significant energy and cost savings
  • Identifies energy flows that maynot have
    been known/difficult to measure
  • Identifies areas for further investigation
  • Helps reduce energy inputs in the products
    and services organisations make or deliver
Energy Savings
Measurement Guide
Life cycle
Assesses financial
costs related to a
product or service throughout its
life cycle  
  • Identifies elements of a product or service that significantly contribute to life cycle cost
  • Improves understanding of costs and savings opportunities
  • Helps decision-making or evaluation including
    product selection or design optimisation
  • Often used to make procurement decisions
AS/NZS 4536:1999
Life cycle costing
– an application guide
life cycle
Tool that systematically
evaluates environmental
costs and benefits
of a product or
service throughout
its life cycle  
  • Identifies opportunities for improved
    environmental performance
  • Informs decision-making, including design
  • Assists eco-labelling and environmental
    product declarations, and promotes benefits
    of a product or service for competitive

IS014040 and ISO14044
Environmental Management
Life Cycle Assessment

United Nations Environment
Program and Society of
Environmental Toxicology
and Chemistry’s The Life
Cycle Initiative
Social life
cycle assessment
Relatively new
technique that
assesses the social
and socio-economic
benefits and
impacts of a
product or service
throughout its
life cycle  
  • Provides information to consumers, supply
    chain partners and retailers seeking more
    visibility and understanding of the human
    costs and benefits of products and services
  • Improves understanding of social and socio-
    economic risks in your supply chain
  • Complements environmental life cycle
United Nations Environment
Program Guidelines for
Social Life Cycle

Download PDF version of this table

Simpler tools

Simplified and qualitative life cycle tools are life cycle mapping, assessment matrices and carbon footprinting.

Life cycle mapping and assessment matrices are essential starting points to help you understand where to derive the most benefit within your supply chain. They will be useful even if you pursue more detailed assessments later.

As you work your way through these simpler tools, a staged approach can help you build on knowledge gained (for example, of problem areas or ‘hotspots’).

You can apply life cycle mapping and assessment matrices quickly and inexpensively, working with supply chain partners to improve and share your knowledge and understanding of business processes – which can help you create business value or address risks.

These tools can be used to:

  • Question long-held assumptions
  • Highlight areas of the business that you have not considered previously
  • Foster collaboration within your business and along the supply chain.

For carbon footprinting, no expensive software is required and relevant data is often collected as part of business operations.

This tool helps you measure and understand the impacts of carbon use and greenhouse gas emissions through costs and energy price forecasts. The complexity of your business will determine the complexity of carbon footprinting.

More detailed tools

More detailed life cycle tools include life cycle costing, energy mass balance and life cycle assessments.

If you need to understand and quantify all the activities and impacts of a product or service throughout its life cycle, you may need to use a full environmental or social life cycle assessment.

These assessments are based on comprehensive data collection and analysis of impacts, compiled by experts with specialised software, training and knowledge. Typically, you would use these assessments when more detailed and accurate assessments are needed, for example when required by external organisations such as consumers, business partners or governments or to provide information for capital investment decisions.

These tools usually focus on environmental factors, but more recently similar approaches have been used to assess social factors such as human rights, working conditions, health and safety, cultural heritage, governance and external socio-economic benefits and impacts related to business products and services.

Uses for detailed environmental and social life cycle assessment include sales support, marketing and performance improvement as well as:

  • Technology assessment
  • Product design
  • Benchmarking products or services with those of peers
  • Environmental and social reporting
  • Eco-labelling.

Numerous life cycle inventory databases provide data to support life cycle analysis. Common databases include the Australian life cycle inventory (AusLCI) portal.

Life cycle costing has some similarities with life cycle assessment, but assesses costs related to a product or service over its entire life cycle rather than material flows or impacts. Potential customers can use this tool to help choose products or services.

You can use energy mass balance to account for energy flows (for example, at production facilities). A similar approach can be used for other resource flows, such as water. This technique provides information to help identify opportunities for improvement, and feed into energy efficiency studies.