Lesson 6: Overview of lca methods and software tools and the ECO-INDICATOR 99 method

In this lesson, we will delve into various methods and software tools used in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and explore the ECO-INDICATOR 99 method for assessing environmental impacts.

  • To create environmentally sustainable products, we require effective tools. LCA offers a range of methods, approaches, and software tools for assessing environmental impacts. These tools help measure a product’s impact on society, economy, and ecology. A 2006 study on LCA applications found that LCA is used for various purposes, including supporting business strategies, R&D, product design, education, product declarations, and more.
  • The most commonly used software tools for LCA studies are GaBi, developed by PE INTERNATIONAL, and SimaPro, developed by PRé CONSULTANTS. GaBi offers several tools, including GaBi 4, GaBi DfX, and GaBi LITE. SimaPro is a comprehensive LCA software for analyzing complex products and life cycles. It allows for modifications and expansions of databases and offers multiple impact assessment methods.


  • GaBi is a versatile software that supports all phases of the LCA study. It offers an extensive database and automated processes for calculating environmental impact categories.
  • SimaPro is a comprehensive LCA software that can compare and analyze complex products with complex life cycles. It provides flexibility in modifying databases and includes multiple impact assessment methods.


  • Among the most commonly used LCIA methods are: 
    • ECO-INDICATOR 99 [Goedkoop, 2001], 
    • EDIP – Environmental Design of Industrial Products [Wenzel, 1997], 
  • and methods that take into account both consumer requirements and “translate” them into technical language: 
    • QFD (Quality Function Deployment), 
    • EQFD (Environmental Quality Function Deployment).

ECO-INDICATOR 99 is a damage-oriented method for assessing the environmental impact of a product throughout its life cycle. It focuses on three categories of damage:

2.1 Human Health: This category assesses damage to human health in terms of Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALY). It considers impacts such as ozone layer depletion, climate change, ionizing radiation, and exposure to toxic substances.

2.2 Ecosystem Quality: Ecosystem quality damage is expressed as the percentage of extinct species in a region due to environmental stress. Biodiversity is used as an indicator, considering impacts like ecotoxicity, acidification, eutrophication, and land use.

2.3 Resources: This category evaluates the depletion of resources, specifically ores and fossil fuels, based on their concentration. The damage is measured as the surplus energy required for future mining.

2.4 Normalization and Weighting: Normalized values of damage categories are used to create dimensionless values. When weighting the categories, human health and ecosystem quality are rated equally important, while resource damage is rated as half as important. Different ECO-INDICATOR 99 methodologies exist, allowing for customization based on individual preferences.

2.5 Weighting: Weighting combines the normalized values into a single ECO-INDICATOR value, typically measured in mili-points (mPt). These points are used for relative comparisons between products, with 1 Pt equivalent to one-thousandth of the annual environmental load of an average European.



  • LCA offers a range of methods and software tools for assessing environmental impacts, aiding in the creation of sustainable products.
  • GaBi and SimaPro are prominent software tools used for LCA studies, offering extensive databases and flexible analysis capabilities.
  • The ECO-INDICATOR 99 method assesses environmental impacts across three categories: human health, ecosystem quality, and resources.
  • Normalization and weighting allow for customized assessments, considering the relative importance of different damage categories.
  • ECO-INDICATOR 99 provides a structured approach to evaluate and compare products’ environmental performance, aiding in sustainable design and decision-making.
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