Guest column: The new normal of life-cycle thinking

Home Columns Guest column: The new normal of life-cycle thinking

by Derek Young

Part 1

Today’s marketplace requires new kinds of thinking so companies can remain competitive and profitable while meeting the expectations of consumers and addressing the changing nature of issues such as resource availability, globalization and environmental regulation.

Concepts such as life-cycle thinking as well as demand for increased transparency involve changing the way products are developed, designed, made, distributed, used and the manner in which they are disposed. This holistic approach reflects that business must consider all of these aspects on the journey toward sustainability.

Businesses must learn to eliminate waste, use resources efficiently, design products that provide greater value to the consumer, understand the attributes of their products in-use, and ensure those products have viable end-of-life solutions.

According to Quantis, a life-cycle consultancy, “Life-cycle thinking is defined as a production and consumption strategy aimed at taking into account all the impacts—environmental, economic and social—a product or service will have throughout its life cycle, from cradle to grave…Each life cycle stage [is impacted by], resource and energy consumption and impacts created…life-cycle thinking aims to minimize the negative impacts while avoiding transferring the problem from one lifecycle stage to another. Applied to product design, production processes and a decision-making aid, life-cycle thinking is an essential concept for implementing sustainable development.”

Including product design in a company’s sustainability efforts is extremely important. While the application of life-cycle thinking begins with design, life cycle assessment (LCA) is a tool that helps take into account all phases of a product’s lifespan.

This can be done through material selection, weight, packaging, transport, use and end-of-life. Value is provided when products are designed with all life cycle phases in mind and when it is done without sacrificing product performance.

Invista’s Performance Surface & Materials business has increasingly used LCAs to help fuel sustainability efforts and product evolution. This longer-life benefit gives products what we call a “first life advantage.”

Invista defines first life from when a carpet is installed until it needs to be removed due to unacceptable appearance and/or performance. By designing products with a longer first life, the potential for replacement is reduced, which can benefit the environment.

Our fibers are designed to last longer. In fact, based on a statistically representative sample of commercial carpets of comparable construction, styles and colors, products made with our Antron branded fibers can last up to 75% longer than the majority of other yarns.

Putting this into perspective, it means they can have up to 38% less energy consumption and 42% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Looking at it another way, for every 1,000 square yards of carpet produced using our commercial fiber is akin to eliminating the annual emissions of three cars or the power needed to light 50 homes a year.

In part two, we will look at how other industries are applying life-cycle thinking to their everyday business and why designing products with durability and performance provides a positive sustainability story.

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