Updating and Road-testing Life Cycle Inventory Data Review Criteria: Toward Global Consensus and Guidance On Data Quality Assessment

Integr Environ Assess Manag. 2020 Jun;16(4):517-524. doi: 10.1002/ieam.4268. Epub 2020 Apr 30.


Data quality of life cycle inventory background databases should be ensured in order to be useful for life cycle assessment (LCA) studies. However, databases do not always have procedures to evaluate the quality of the data sets in place. The Global Guidance Principles for LCA Databases of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) provide, among others, recommendations to enhance data quality through improved documentation and review. Flagship 2a in Phase 3 of the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative aimed to enable the practical implementation of these recommendations with the development of review criteria and the testing of these criteria on 3 national databases. After a pilot-testing phase, this project entered a more mature road-testing exercise, of which the results are presented in this paper. The review criteria have been updated and provide more emphasis on goal and scope documentation completeness and include a new cluster of criteria that evaluate the materiality of the data set. The updated criteria have been applied to national databases of Thailand, Australia, and Chile. All databases would benefit from additional documentation, for example, on system boundaries, the reference model, sampling procedures, and cut-off criteria. Furthermore, conducting the review was enabled by extensive documentation and data accessibility in LCA software. Communication of the criteria to the database managers enabled them to anticipate data quality requirements of the global LCA community and improve the data sets in advance. Reviewers sometimes had a different interpretation of the criteria, which suggests that there is room for additional fine-tuning of the process guidance and exemplification of review criteria. This project has demonstrated that the criteria are applicable to and provide useful feedback for databases with different levels of maturity and contribute to improving quality of life cycle inventory (LCI) data. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2020;16:517-524. © 2020 SETAC.

Keywords: Data review criteria; Life cycle assessment; Life cycle inventory; National database; Road-testing.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Consensus
  • Data Accuracy*
  • Ecotoxicology*
  • Quality of Life*