NEWS & NOTES ❘ staff reports
How to Validate an LCA
Educate yourself – and your potential clients – with these tips from
the Paperboard Packaging Council for evaluating industry studies.
The scope of industry studies like life cycle analyses (LCAs) is broad and complex; it falls on the shoulders of the reader to evaluate the accuracy of the results and the fairness of the methods used. It’s easy to be biased. Asking the right questions and reviewing the results with a critical, even skeptical eye will go a long way toward mak- ing them meaningful and useful.
Here are nine questions to help determine if a study is
grounded in scientifically based research:
1. Was the study conducted by a reputable research firm? Organizations will occasionally
hire a research firm they know will focus on the data that
support their point of view and ignore the data that don’t.
Confirming that a research firm has a reliable reputation
for unbiased work is the first step in determining a study’s
validity. See what other studies the company has conducted
and if there has been any online “chatter” about the validity
of their work.
2. Was the research conducted in the U.S.
or elsewhere? Since international standards and practices vary widely, data should optimally be culled from sources that are geographically aligned with the report; e.g., U.S.
sources for data relating to U.S. manufacturing practices.
3. When comparing data among varying
industries (such as plastics, paperboard,
glass, etc.), are the dates of the studies
comparable? Although it’s sometimes impossible to
find research that has been conducted on varying industries
within the same year, it’s important to note that industries
and trends can change dramatically in a relatively short period of time. Therefore, a good study should clearly disclose
the date when the source data was generated.
4. If the study is a comparative one, have
the results been vetted by a third party?
Whenever a company or organization conducts a study
within its own industry – especially if its findings support
that very same industry – it’s vital that a qualified third party
scrutinize the results to confirm the study’s credibility.
5. How was the data collected and from
how many sources? While it’s easy to generate an
informational study from a single source, it’s often neces-
sary for researchers to gather data from a variety of sources
to thoroughly complete their research. Unfortunately, life
cycle studies of substrates and/or packaging are often gen-
erated by consulting firms that use different approaches.
Even so, the data may be valuable for comparative or infor-
mational studies. To ensure credible findings when compil-
ing data from various reports, it’s important that research-
ers identify and disclose any differences in the scope and
methodologies used to compile the source data.