Lifting the veil on the correction of double counting incidents in hybrid life cycle assessment

Abstract

Life cycle assessment (LCA) and environmentally extended input–output analyses (EEIOA) are two techniques commonly used to assess environmental impacts of an activity/product. Their strengths and weaknesses are complementary, and they are thus regularly combined to obtain hybrid LCAs. A number of approaches in hybrid LCA exist, which leads to different results. One of the differences is the method used to ensure that mixed LCA and EEIOA data do not overlap, which is referred to as correction for double counting. This aspect of hybrid LCA is often ignored in reports of hybrid assessments and no comprehensive study has been carried out on it. This article strives to list, compare, and analyze the different existing methods for the correction of double counting. We first harmonize the definitions of the existing correction methods and express them in a common notation, before introducing a streamlined variant. We then compare their respective assumptions and limitations. We discuss the loss of specific information regarding the studied activity/product and the loss of coherent financial representation caused by some of the correction methods. This analysis clarifies which techniques are most applicable to different tasks, from hybridizing individual LCA processes to integrating complete databases. We finally conclude by giving recommendations for future hybrid analyses.