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Life cycle assessment and eco-innovations: what kind of convergence is possible?

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Publication details

JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
DateE-pub ahead of print - 23 Mar 2018
DatePublished (current) - 20 Jun 2018
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)1103-1114
Early online date23/03/18
Original languageEnglish


Generation of goods and services are highly dependent on the use of natural resources. Until very recently, there was an implicit belief that the physical expansion of the economic system could be unlimited, as if the planet would have conditions and time enough to recover and continue to supply resources. This belief implies a confidence in an economic system that would provide whatever is necessary for a continuous growing production and consumption. Even believing that technology alone is not enough to solve the current environmental problems, it is certain that it can collaborate to mitigate
climate change and to adaptation to changes in the environment. By bringing environmental aspects into discussions, eco-innovations can affect and transform the innovation system in order to create sustainable processes. However, the main challenge towards the transition to a more sustainable, cleaner and more equitable society is to set innovation in a new context, as until very recently it only considered the economic variables. This change means to value the social and environmental dimension of the
innovation. In addition to eco-innovation, Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is spreading in the industrial environment, offering promising perspectives. LCA is considered a valuable methodology in the environmental sustainability of industry. In this context, the present study addresses LCA and its relationship with the generation of eco-innovations. Drawing on contributions from literature on eco-innovation and LCA, the paper analyses available evidence on this relationship in a context of the transition towards sustainable development. To structure the debate, the paper offers a conceptual approach and an illustrative case on international researchers' and practitioners’ perceptions on the potentially positive
relationship between eco-innovation and LCA. The study gathers data in the Web of Science (WoS) Core Collection and in Scopus, in order to provide a picture of the distribution of documents retrieved from these databases, dealing with both eco-innovation and LCA topics. The paper concludes that the
convergence of the eco-innovation and LCA studies is quite plausible, but at least in its initial phase, the literature that unites both themes is scarcely found in publications in the area of innovation, being more frequent in the area of engineering and management that usually addresses LCA studies.

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© 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy.

    Research areas

  • Eco-innovation, Life cycle assessment, ecological crisis, Environmental impacts, Natural resources, sustainable consumption and production

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