Purpose: The aims of this study were to provide an up-todate overview of global, regional and local networks supporting life cycle thinking and to characterize them according to their structure and activities. Methods: Following a tentative life cycle assessment (LCA) network definition, a mapping was performed based on (1) a literature search, (2) a web search and (3) an inquiry to stakeholders distributed via the two largest LCA fora. Networks were characterized based on responses from a survey. Results and discussion: We identified 100 networks, of which 29 fulfilled all six criteria composing our tentative network definition (the remaining fulfilled four to five criteria). The networks are mainly located in Europe and the USA, whilst Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia are less covered regions. The survey results (from 25 network responses) indicate that LCA networks appear to be primarily small- to medium-sized (<100 members) and to include a large proportion of academia and industries, including small- and mediumsized enterprises, with much less involvement of authorities and non-governmental organisations. Their major activities relate to knowledge sharing and communication, support of case studies, and development of life cycle inventories and impact assessment methods. Networks in developing economies have different structures and activities than networks in developed economies and, for instance, more frequently have members from non-governmental organisations. Globally, an increasing trend in the formation of LCA networks over time is observed, which tends to correlate with the number of LCA scientific publications over the same time period. Continental distributions of networks also show a correlation with the number of LCA publications from the same region. Conclusions: The provided list of LCA networks is currently the most comprehensive, publicly available mapping. We believe that the results of this mapping can serve as a basis for deciding where priorities should be set to increase the dissemination and development of LCA worldwide. In this aim, we also advocate the creation of an online, regularly updated database of LCA networks supplemented by an online platform that could facilitate network communication and knowledge sharing.
International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 2013, Vol 18, p. 812-827
Application; Dissemination; Life cycle assessment; Publications; Stakeholder collaboration; Survey; Web search