Interpret and Communicate the Results

The interpretation of the results of the LCI depends on the purpose for which the analysis was performed. Before any statements regarding the results of the analysis are published, the analyst should review how the assumptions and boundaries were defined, the quality of the data used, and the representativeness of the data (e.g., whether the data were specific to one facility or representative of the entire industry).

The assumptions in analysis should be clearly documented. The significance of these assumptions should also be tested. For LCIs, sensitivity analysis can reveal how large the uncertainty in the input data can be before the results can no longer be used for the intended purpose.

The boundaries and data for many internal LCAs require that the results be interpreted for use within a particular corporation. The data used may be specific to a company and may not represent any typical or particular product on the market. However, because the data used in this type of analysis are frequently highly specific, ana lysts can assume a fairly high degree of accuracy in interpreting the results. Product design and process development groups often benefit from this level of interpretation.

The analyst should present the results of externally published studies comparing products, practices, or materials cautiously and consider the assumptions, boundaries, and data quality in drawing and presenting conclusions. Studies with different boundary conditions can have different results, yet both can be accurate. These limitations should be communicated to the reader along with all other results. Final conclusions about results from LCIs can involve value judgments about the relative importance of air and water quality, solid waste issues, resource depletion, and energy use. Based on the locale, background, and life style, different analysts make different value judgments.

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