“What gets measured gets done”: the importance of life cycle data

We all know that climate change is the biggest global challenge. We all need to work towards a reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – and ideally become carbon neutral by 2050.

How can this be achieved?

We all have to contribute. For example: consumers can switch to electric vehicles and reduce CO2 emissions significantly when driving; in buildings we can invest inbetter insulation, reducing energy use and related CO2 emissions for either heating or cooling; investors can shift capital to sectors emitting less CO2; and industry can work on its energy efficiency and shift to more renewable energy sources to reduce CO2 emissions from production processes.


NI Members start collecting life cycle data


Collective reduction of CO2 emissions since then

Nickel Institute member companies have been collecting life cycle data since 1999. These data show the energy intensity of their production processes as well as the amount of CO2 emitted. The data are updated on a regular basis, allowing us to show the progress of NI member companies in reducing  GHG emissions. The data show that Nickel Institute  member companies collectively reduced their CO2 emissions by 9% since 1999.

Updated data ensure that, for example, changes in mining and processing technologies, processed ores and concentrates as well as changes in ore deposits are taken into consideration. Such data are used, for example, in compiling Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) to compare products or services from an environmental perspective, assessing the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) or preparing Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs).

Between 2018 and 2019, the Nickel Institute conducted a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on behalf of its members on nickel products (Class 1 nickel, ferronickel and nickel sulphate) in order to provide stakeholders with up-to-date, reliable life cycle data.

Strict protocols are employed:

  • The data are compiled by an independent third party.
  • The data and the report are subject to a thorough review by a science expert before the data is published in a report that is publicly available upon request.

Life cycle Management, Life cycle data, Life cycle inventory, Life cycle impact assessment…

What’s included in life cycle data?

Life cycle management describes how materials, products and infrastructure are best managed from an environmental perspective through their complete product cycle. For nickel, it covers primary production (mining, processing, refining), first use (e.g. stainless steels, alloys, plating, batteries), end uses (e.g. transport, engineering, construction, electronics, tubular products and metal goods) and the end-of-life management of nickel-containing products (i.e. collection and recycling of nickel for return to use).

The latter is important as, for metals such as nickel, the impact associated with initial production can be amortised over time, depending on how often the nickel is recovered at the end of one product cycle (e.g. nickel batteries or nickel-containing stainless steel) and re-used in another. Thus the full ‘life cycle’ of nickel is different from, and is usually much longer than, that of the products in which it has been incorporated.

Life cycle data comprise all production stages of nickel and nickel products. The basis is the Life Cycle Inventory (LCI), where inputs and outputs of each production stage are gathered. The LCI is used to conduct the Life cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA).

The LCIA calculates various environmental impacts, such as Global Warming Potential (GWP). These impacts are the basis for conducting Life Cycle Assessments (LCA).

A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a comparison tool used by end users, regulators or other decision makers to determine the best product from an environmental perspective.

Collecting and analysing life cycle data is a big undertaking for the Nickel Institute and its member companies. It is part of their commitment to ensuring that good quality environmental data on their products is freely available, enabling the best choices to be made by downstream users.

What gets measured gets done’ and the data shows that progress is being made by the industry towards the shared goals of mitigating climate change.