India, with a population of 1.3 billion, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. As the second-most favorable outsourcing destination after the United States, and one of the top 16 countries for imports and exports, India is an integral part of the global value chain. Under these premises, resource constraints are inevitable, and adopting a western lifestyle is unaffordable. Instead, there is a strong need for sustainable production and consumption, and a generally sustainable life style. This has led to a number of sustainability initiatives of both voluntary and mandatory nature, where LCA plays an important role.

Mandatory sustainability reporting to SEBI
A recent development and major driver for LCA, is the reporting initiative by The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). SEBI mandated the top 500-listed organizations to submit an annual business responsibility report on their activities related to environment, stakeholder relationships and governance. For product sustainability specifically, companies need to detail ‘Design for Environment’ applications of three products or services, and quantify reductions in environmental impacts. Many companies that are not required to submit this report, do so for brand and awareness reasons.

Voluntary rating scheme Greenco
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) initiated the voluntary rating system Greenco (short for green company) a few years back. It rates companies based on their sustainability commitments and achievements, and LCA contributes considerably to the overall score. Companies can use the rating and logo for brand communication.

Global reporting to CDP and GRI
Other important global standards that leverage LCA information are the CDP Scope 3 reporting scheme and GRI G4. GRI G4 extended the scope of reporting to cover the key sustainability issues identified during materiality analysis while giving major focus to the value chain of a product. LCA plays a predominant role in identifying the environmental hot-spots in the value chain of the product. Linkages can be established with reporting requirements of various other GRI environmental aspects. For CDP, more and more Indian companies report to the Corporate Value Chain (Scope 3) Standard, accounting for emissions from 15 categories of scope 3 activities, both upstream and downstream of their operations. LCA provides the framework to transparently evaluate the impact of these 15 categories.

LCA in India s embedded in sustainability reporting but not widely adopted
So as you can see, LCA is tightly embedded in any sustainability reporting framework. And a couple of companies, research institutes and public organizations have done an LCA or two. Nevertheless, it’s not as widely adopted as you would think, although it can deliver other benefits than reporting, resource efficiency and cost savings for example. Companies still struggle with it, and this is the main reason: Data.
The lack of India specific Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) data has been the main hurdle for many companies so far. A very important consideration is the fuel mix of the country. India is dominated by the use of fossil fuels (coal, lignite, peat), natural gas, diesel etc. whereas the contribution from renewable, nuclear, and hydro energy is very small. Because of this reason, none of the global datasets are comparable to the Indian scenario. Sanjib Bezbaroa, Executive Vice President & Head, Corporate EHS, ITC Limited, confirms: “Over the years, ITC has carried out several LCA studies of its products which have helped identify opportunities for resource conservation and also introduce environmental considerations into the product / service design stage. The major challenge in carrying out LCA studies however is the absence of India-specific LCI datasets. Such databases will result in more meaningful assessments which in turn, will better inform decisions at the organizational level and policies at the regulatory level.”

thinkstep just released India-specific LCI database
The availability of Indian LCI datasets is critical for companies to obtain representative, robust, reliable LCA results. To meet this challenge, thinkstep recently released the LCI extension database for India, with more than 130 LCI datasets specifically for India. Indian companies now have access to GaBi India, a software and database bundle with more than 350 India relevant datasets specially tailored to the Indian market.

For more information, please contact your local GaBi representative.