ISO 14040/14044 (Life Cycle Assessment)
A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a valuable tool to determine the environmental impact of specific products. With an increasingly standardized methodology as well as a solid scientific basis, LCAs play an equally important role in product marketing, process optimization, and the legislative context. To ensure the credibility of Life Cycle Assessments, third-party validation is essential. GC-Mark, a registered trademark of DQS, is a standardized third-party validation methodology.
Life Cycle Assessments: An Unstoppable Trend
Whereas studies of environmental impacts have been focusing on GHG emissions for a couple of years now, there is an increasing awareness that an exclusive focus on GHG does not cover the whole story. If we want to understand the full impact of a product, it is vital to take into account all environmental impacts across its entire life cycle.
ISO 14040 and ISO 14044
The leading standards for LCA are ISO 14040 and ISO 14044. Whereas ISO 14040 describes the general principles of life cycle assessments, ISO 14044 covers the specific requirements and characteristics of life cycle assessments. According to the standards, an LCA typically consists of four phases: the definition of the goals and scope, the compilation of an inventory of flows and elements, the impact assessment, and finally the interpretation.
Critical Review: A Third-Party Validation Of The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
For LCA studies that are intended for the public, the ISO standards require a review by experts. The review statement and comments must be included in the final LCA report. DQS has the know-how to guide you through the review process, to validate the findings, and to chair a review commission in accordance with ISO 14040 and ISO 14044.
The process starts with the client’s needs and expectations. DQS wants to learn about the client’s organization, its management system, size and types of operation. Together both parties will define objectives for the assessment and/or certification, including applicable standards and specifications.
DQS will provide a detailed offer for assessment and certification services, tailored to individual client needs, based on the information provided initially. A written contract will specify all relevant deliverables as well as applicable assessment and certification criteria.
A pre-audit can serve as initial performance or gap analysis, identifying strengths and areas for improvement. For larger assessment and certification projects a project planning meeting provides a valuable opportunity for the client to meet the lead assessor and develop a customized assessment plan for all functions and locations involved. Both services are optional.
The assessment procedure itself begins with review and evaluation of system documentation, goals, results of management review and internal audits. During this process, it will be determined whether the client’s management system is sufficiently developed and ready for certification. The assessor will explain findings and coordinate any required activities to prepare for the on-site system assessment.
The assigned auditor team will audit the client’s management system at the place of production or service delivery. Applying defined management system standards and specifications, the assessment team will evaluate the effectiveness of all functional areas as well as all management system processes, based upon observations, inspections, interviews, review of pertinent records, and other assessment techniques. The audit result, including all findings will be presented to the client during the closing meeting. Required action plans will be agreed upon as necessary.
The independent certification function of DQS will evaluate the audit process and its results, and decide independently about issuance of the certificate. The client receives an audit report, documenting the audit results. When all applicable requirements are fulfilled the client also receives the certificate.
Either semi-annually or at least once per year, there will be an on-site audit of the critical components of the management system. Improvement potential will be identified, with a focus on continual improvement and sustained effectiveness.
A management system certificate is valid for a limited period of time, frequently for a maximum of three years. At the end of this cycle, a re-audit will be carried out to ensure the ongoing fulfillment of all applicable requirements. Subject to this fulfillment, a new certificate will be issued.
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