Modelling the valuesphere and the ecosphere: Integrating the decision makers’ perspectives into LCA

  • Patrick Hofstetter
  • Thomas Baumgartner
  • Roland W. Scholz


Methods for Life Cycle Impact Assessment have to cope with two critical aspects, the uncertainty in values and the (unknown) system behaviour. LCA methodology should cope explicitly with these subjective elements. A structured aggregation procedure is proposed that differentiates between the technosphere and the ecosphere and embeds them in the valuesphere. LCA thus becomes a decision support system that models and combines these three spheres. We introduce three structurally identical types of LCA, each based on one coherent but different set of values. These sets of values can be derived from the Cultural Theory and are labeled as ‘egalitarian’, ‘individualistic’, and ‘hierarchic’. Within Life Cycle Impact Assessment, a damage oriented assessment model is complemented with both a newly developed precautionary indicator designed to address unknown damage and an indicator for the manageability of environmental damages. The indicators for unknown damage and for manageability complete the set of indicators judged to be relevant by decision makers. The weights given to these indicators are also value-dependent. The framework proposed here answers the criticisms that present LCA methodology does not strictly enough separate subjective from objective elements and that it fails to accurately model environmental impacts.


Assessment framework cultural bias, Cultural Theory decision support system ecosphere known damage Life Cycle Assessment Life Cycle Impact Assessment manageability perspectives precautionary principle uncertainty assessment unknown damage value frames valuesphere 


  1. Adams, J. (1995): Risk. UCL Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Ahbe, St.;Braunschweig, A.;Muller-Wenk, R. (1990): Methodik für ökobilanzen auf der Basis ökologischer Optimierung. Schriftenreihe Umwelt Nr. 133, Bundesamt für Umwelt, Wald und Landschaft (BUWAL), BernGoogle Scholar
  3. Asselt van, M.;Rotmans J.;den Elzen, M.;Hilderink, H. (1995): Uncertainty in Integrated Assessment Modelling; a Cultural Perspective-based Approach. GLOBO Report Series No.9, RIVM Report No. 461502009, BilthovenGoogle Scholar
  4. Asselt van, M.B.A.;Beusen, A.H.W.;Hilderink, H.B.M. (1996a): Uncertainty in Integrated Assessment: A Social Scientific Perspective. Environmental Modelling and Assessment 1: 71–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Asselt van, M.B.A.;Rotmans, J. (1996b): Uncertainty in Perspective. Global Environmental Change 6 (2): 121–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ayres, R.U.;Somonis, U.E. (Eds.) (1994): Industrial metabolism: restructuring for sustainable development. United Nations University Press, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  7. Barnthouse, L.;Fava, J.;Humphreys, K.;Hunt, R. et al. (1997): Life-Cycle Impact Assessment: The State-of-the-Art. Report of the SETAC North American Workgroup on Life Cycle Impact Assessment, PensacolaGoogle Scholar
  8. Beentjes, C.;Wrisberg, N.;Ywema, P.E. (1995): The Social Value of Life Cycle Assessment, financed by SPOLD Brussels, DraftGoogle Scholar
  9. Berg, M.;Scheringer, M. (1994): Problems in Environmental Risk Assessment and the Need for Proxy Measures. Fresenius Environmental Bulletin 3 (8): 487–92Google Scholar
  10. Brenot, J.;Bonnefous, S.;Marris, C. (1998): Testing the Cultural Theory of Risk in France. Risk Analysis, Vol. 18, No.6, 729–739CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. BUWAL (1998): Methode der ökologischen Knappheit - ökofaktoren 1997. Schriftenreihe Umwelt Nr.297, öBU/BUWAL, BernGoogle Scholar
  12. Douglas, M. (1982): Cultural Bias, in Douglas M. (ed.), In the Active Voice. Routledge and Kegan Paul, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Douglas, M.;Wildavsky, A. (1982): Risk and Culture; An Essay on the Selection of Technological and Environmental Dangers. BerkleyGoogle Scholar
  14. ExternE (1995): Externalities of Energy. European Commission EUR 16520 EN, Volume 1–6, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  15. Fischhoff, B.;Slovic, P.;Lichtenstein, S.;Read, S.;Combs, B. (1978): How Safe is Safe Enough? A Psychometric Study of Attitudes towards Technological Risks and Benefits. Policy Sciences 9:127–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frischknecht, R.;Braunschweig, A.;Hofstetter, P.;Suter, P. (2000): Human Health Damages due to Ionising Radiation in Life Cycle Impact Assessment, to be published in Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2Google Scholar
  17. Goedkoop, M. (1995): The Eco-indicator 95. Final Report and Manual for Designers, AmersfoortGoogle Scholar
  18. Goedkoop, M.;Hofstetter P.;Müller-Wenk, R.;Spriensma, R. (1998): The Eco-Indicator’98 Explained. The International Journal on Life Cycle Assessment 6 (3) 352–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goedkoop, M.;Spriensma, R. (1999): The Eco-indicator’99, Adamage-oriented method for Life Cycle Impact Assessment. VROM, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  20. Guinée, J. (Ed.) (1999): Life Cycle Assessment in environmental policy. Update of LCA methodology Guide & Background documents of 1992 by Heijungs, R. et al., Draft version, http:// Scholar
  21. Hauschild, M.;Wenzel, M. (1998): Environmental assessment of products. Part 2, scientific background, Chapman & Hall, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  22. Heijungs, R.;Guinée, J.B.;Huppes, G.;Lankreijer, R.M.;Udo de Haes, H.A.;Wegener Sleeswijk, A.;Ansems, A.M.M.;Eggels, P.G.;van Diun, R.;de Goede, H.P. (1992): Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Products; Backgrounds & Guide. LeidenGoogle Scholar
  23. Hofstetter, P. (1999): Top — Down; Arguments for a Goal-Oriented Assessment Structure. Global LCA Village, http://www., ETH ZurichGoogle Scholar
  24. Hofstetter, P.;Braunschweig, A.;Mettier, Th.;Mueller-Wenk, R.;Tietje, O. (2000): Dominance Analysis in the Mixing Triangle: Graphical Decision Support for Comparisons with LCA. Journal of Industrial Ecology (in press)Google Scholar
  25. Hofstetter, P. (1998): Perspectives in Life Cycle Impact Assessment; A structured approach to combine models of the technosphere, ecosphere, and valuesphere. Kluwer Academic Publishers, BostonGoogle Scholar
  26. Holling, C.S. (1977): Myths of Ecology and Energy, in Proceedings of the Symposium on Future Strategies for Energy Development. Oak Ridge pp.36–49Google Scholar
  27. Holling, C.S. (1986): The Resilience of Terrestrial Ecosystems: Local Surprise and Global Change, in Clark, W.C.; Munn, R.E. (Eds.), Sustainable Development of the Biosphere. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  28. IFIAS (1974): Energy Analysis Workshop on Methodology and Conventions. International Federation of Institutes for Advanced Study. Guldsmedshyttan, SwedenGoogle Scholar
  29. ISO (1997): Environmenral Management — Life Cycle Assessment — Principles and Guidelines. EN ISO 14040, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  30. Jager, W.;van Asselt, M.B.A.;Rotmans, J.;Vlek, C.A.J.;Costerman Boodt, P. (1997): Consumer Behaviour; A Modelling Perspective in the Context of Integrated Assessment of Global Change. Globo Report Series No.17, RIVM Report No.461502017, BilthovenGoogle Scholar
  31. Jungermann, H.;Slovic, P. (1993): Charakteristiken individueller Risikowahrnehmung. in Bayerische Rück (Hrsg.), Risiko ist ein Konstrukt. Knesebeck Verlag, 89–107Google Scholar
  32. Keeney, R.L.;Raiffa, H. (1976): Decisions with Multiple Objectives: Preferences and Value Tradeoffs, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Kortman, J.G.M.;Lindeijer, E.W.;Sas, H.;Sprengers, M. (1994): Towards a Single Indicator for Emissions — an Exercise in Aggregating Environmental Effects. IDES AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  34. Krewitt, W.;Mayerhofer, P.;Trukenmüller, A.;Friedrich, R. (1998): Application of the impact pathway analysis in the context of LCA; The long way from burden to impact. Int. J. LCA 3 (2) 86–94Google Scholar
  35. Lindeijer, E. (1994): The Valuation within LCA: Aim, Criteria and Procedure, inUdo de Haes, H.A.;Schaltegger, S.;Hofstetter, P. (Eds.), First Working Document on Life-Cycle Impact Assessment Methodology. Workshop held at ETH Zurich from July 8–9, 1994 pp.l63–170Google Scholar
  36. Marris, C.;Langford, I.H.;O’riordan, T. (1998): A Quantitative Test of the Cultural Theory of Risk Perceptions: Comparison with the Psychometric Paradigm. Risk Analysis, Vol. 18, No.5, 635–647CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mengel Jørgensen, A.-M. (1996): LCA Stakeholders and Weighing of Environmental Problems; a Theoretical Approach to Differing Valuation Criteria. AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  38. Mettier, Th. (1999): Der Vergleich von Schutzgütern — Ausgewählte Resultate einer Panelbefragung. inHofstetter, P.;Mettier, Th.;Tietje, O. (Eds.), Ansätze zum Vergleich von Umweltschäden. 9. Diskussionsforum ökobilanzen, UNS-ETH Zürich, ISBN 3-906734-06–4Google Scholar
  39. Müller-Wenk, R. (1997): Safeguard Subjects and Damage Functions as Core Elements of Life-Cycle Impact Assessment. IWö-Diskussionsbeitrag Nr.42, St. GallenGoogle Scholar
  40. Murray, Ch.J.L.;Lopez, A.D. (Eds.) (1996): The Global Burden of Disease, Volume I of Global Burden of Disease and Injury Series. WHO / Harvard School of Public Health/ World Bank, Harvard University Press, BostonGoogle Scholar
  41. O’Riordan, T.;Rayner, S. (1991): Risk Management for Global Environmental Change. Global Environmental Change 1 (2): 91–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. OECD (1995): The Life Cycle Approach: An Overview of Product/Process Analysis. Technology and Environment, OECD/GD(95)118, ParisGoogle Scholar
  43. Owens, W. (1998): Life Cycle Impact Assessment: The Use of Subjective Judgements in Classification and Characterisation. Int J LCA 3(1): 43–6CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Potting, J.;Hauschild, M. (1997): Predicted Environmental Impact and Expected Occurrence of Actual Environmental Impact. Part I: The Linear Nature of Environmental Impact from Emissions in Life Cycle Assessmenr. Int J LCA 2(3): 171–7; Part II: Spatial Differentiation in Life-Cycle Assessment via the Site-Dependent Characterisation of Environmental Impact from Emissions. Int J LCA 2 (4)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Pottinc, J.;Schöpp, W.;Blok, K.;Hauschild, M. (1998): Site-dependent life-cycle impact assessment in acidification. Journal of Industrial Ecology 2 (2):63–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rayner, S. (1991): A Cultural Perspective on the Structure and Implementation of Global Environmental Agreements. Evaluation Review 15(1): l75–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rayner, St. (1987): Risk and Relativism in Science for Policy. In Johnson B.B., Covello V.T. (Eds.), The Social and Cultural Construction of Risk, pp.5–23Google Scholar
  48. Rayner, St.;Cantor, R. (1987): How Fair is Safe Enough? The Cultural Approach to Societal Technology Choice. Risk Analysis 7 (1): 3–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Scheringer, M. (1999): Persistenz und Reichweite von Umweltchemikalien. Wiley-VCH, WeinheimGoogle Scholar
  50. Scheringer, M.;Berg, M. (1994): Spatial and Temporal Range as Measures of Environmental Threat. Fresenius Envir Bull 3: 493–8Google Scholar
  51. Schmidt-Bleek, F. (1993): MIPS Re-Visited. Fresenius Envir Bull 2: 407–12Google Scholar
  52. Schwarz, M.;Thompson, M. (1990): Divided we Stand; Redefining Politics, Technology and Social Choice. University of Pennsylvania PressGoogle Scholar
  53. SETAC (1993): Guidelines for Life-Cycle Assessment: A ‘Code of Practice’. Workshop Sesimbra, 31.3.-3.4.1993, BrusselsGoogle Scholar
  54. Steen, B.;Ryding, S.-O. (1992): Swedish Environmental Research Institute, Federation of Swedish Industries, The EPS Enviro-accounting Method. GoteborgGoogle Scholar
  55. Thompson, M.;Ellis, R.;Wildavsky, A. (1990): Cultural Theory. Westview Print, BoulderGoogle Scholar
  56. Thompson, M.;Rayner, St.; Cultural Discourses, in Rayner, St.; Malone, L. (Eds.) (1998): Human Choice and Climate Change. Vol.1, Batelle Press, Columbus OhioGoogle Scholar
  57. Timmermann, P. (1986): Mythology and Surprise in the Sustainable Development of the Biosphere, in Clark, W.C.; Munn, R.E. (Eds.), Sustainable Development of the Biosphere. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  58. Udo de Haes, H.A.;Wrisberg, N. (Eds.) (1997): Life Cycle Assessment: State-of-the-Art and Research Priorities. Results of LCANET, a Concerted Action in the Environment and Climate Programme (DG XII), LCA Documents, Volume 1, Eco-Informa Press, BayreuthGoogle Scholar
  59. Udo de Haes, H.A.;Jolliet, O.;Finnveden, G.;Hauschild, M.;Krewttt, W.;Müller-Wenk, R. (Eds.) (1999): Best available practice regarding impact categories and category indicators in Life Cycle Impact Assessment. Background document for the second working group on Life Cycle Impact Assessment of SETAC-Europe (WIA-2). Int.J.LCA 4 (2) 66-74/ 4 (3) 167–174Google Scholar
  60. Volkwein, St.;Klöpffer, W. (1996): The Valuation Step in LCA: Part I: General Principles. Int J LCA 1(1): 36–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. VROM (ed.) (1994): Policy document on products and the environment. Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM), The HagueGoogle Scholar
  62. Weber, O.;Scholz, R.W.;Bühlmann, R.;Grasmück, D. (1999): Risk Perception of heavy metal soil contamination and attitudes to decontamination strategies. UNS Working Paper 19, Natural and Social Science Interface, ETH ZurichGoogle Scholar
  63. WHO (1947): The Constitution of the World Health Organization. WHO Chronical 1: 29, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  64. Wrisberg, N.;Gameson, T. (Eds.) (1998): CHAINET Definition Document, European Network on Chain Analysis for Environmental Decision Support. CML LeidenGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Ecomed Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ORISE Research FellowNational Risk Management Research LaboratoryUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesNatural and Social Science Interface (UNS)Zurich

Personalised recommendations