06 October 2015

The sustainability of Wallonia’s agricultural sectors: a challenge within the scope of life cycle ASSESSMENTS?

The aim is to make the agricultural and agro-industrial sectors sustainable by reconciling environmental and socioeconomic performance. CRA-W is involved in this by developing life cycle assessments (LCA).

The sustainability of Wallonia’s agricultural sectors: a challenge within the scope of life cycle ASSESSMENTS?

Agricultural sectors must ensure that their activities are sustainable by limiting their environmental impact while producing quality products in sufficient quantity in an economically profitable way. The industry has to strike a balance between meeting the expectations of consumers (e.g. carbon labelling) and society (e.g. river pollution) and satisfying the agricultural sectors’ own needs by optimising the means of production in order to ensure sustainability. LCA is a formal method (ISO or recognised method guidelines) for studying the relationship between agricultural products and sustainability. LCA aims to assess the environmental and socioeconomic impacts related to one or more issues (eutrophication, global warming, socioeconomic repercussions, etc.) linked to a product or service in the different phases of its ‘life’, from raw material production/extraction to disposal or reuse of the waste products.

A well-conducted product LCA throws up ways of alleviating impacts, in particular by identifying the life cycle phases that are the biggest contributors to those impacts, and guides decisions by identifying the most efficient uses for the product (in the case of cereals, for example, as animal feed or for energy). However, the quality of the LCA results depends on the accuracy of the data used, the models applied and specifically, in the case of agricultural products, taking local production conditions into consideration (e.g. yield, weather, working conditions, etc.).

Given CRA-W’s background in agricultural and food production research and the need to meet the challenge of reconciling the agro-industrial sector and sustainability, CRA-W has developed expertise in agricultural product LCA. And we would like to share that expertise with you.