Status and prospects of life-cycle assessments, carbon- and water footprinting studies in South Africa

Purpose Using the current state of life-cycle assessment (LCA), carbon-, water footprinting, and EPDs in South Africa, this work explores the challenges and opportunities for scholarly development in these areas in the country. Methods Being a relatively small LCA community in South Africa, academics, consultants, and other stakeholders were approached to provide lists of known studies, with further reports, that may have been missed, obtained through internet searches. Information was collated on database development, capacity building, and other aspects and presented here in a single paper. Results and Discussion While the authors are aware of companies working on LCA and related studies, hidden in confidential reports, we were able to find 27 LCA, 17 water-, 12 carbon footprinting, and 10 EPD studies. Although these studies have potential advantages for policymaking and business, their number, implementation, and impact remain limited. Conclusion While previously seen as an academic exercise, life-cycle thinking has been adopted by industry, private consultants, and the South African National Cleaner Production Centre (NCPC-SA), amongst others. Growing interest has led to the creation of several training courses available at academic institutes, the NCPCSA, and consulting firms, ranging from basic understanding to advanced use of software packages and modeling techniques. The development of a national LCI database, and further exposure and opportunity for LCA studies, are important steps to hopefully spur LCA in southern Africa in the future.
Postprint Article
carbon footprint, water footprint, sustainability
Harding, K.G. et al. 2021. Status and prospects of life cycle assessments and carbon and water footprinting studies in South Africa. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 26, pp.26–49.