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May 16, 2012 – Life Cycle Approaches Key to Canada’s Competitiveness

Market access for our resources and goods will be at risk if we don’t act, says Round Table

Ottawa – May 16, 2012 – The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy today released a new report – requested by the Minister of the Environment Peter Kent – that identifies the need for Life Cycle Approaches in environmental and economic decision-making by companies and government.

A Life Cycle Approach is a systematic way of looking at the life of a product, technology, or process. By identifying and understanding the inputs and impacts that exist throughout life cycles, we are better able to measure and reduce associated costs to our economy and environment.

Canada’s Opportunity: Adopting Life Cycle Approaches for Sustainable Development sets out risks faced by Canadian companies to comply with increasing foreign government regulations and emerging market demands that require product life cycle disclosure and stronger environmental standards. Foreign governments are already imposing requirements on the content of goods sold in their jurisdictions – such as standards for renewable fuel content in transportation fuels. Using resources efficiently — from extraction to disposal — is no longer a simple matter of local determination; it is increasingly a matter of global importance.

Life Cycle Approaches support environmental stewardship by compelling firms to increase efficiencies in their production processes and internal operations, and consider environmental factors in their decision making. There are clear opportunities for companies that take this route and adopt a Life Cycle Approach to achieve better supply-chain performance, internal operation efficiencies, and increased institutional capacity that enhances innovation.

“Life Cycle Approaches to sustainable development are increasingly becoming the gold standard for assessing the economic and environmental sustainability of a product or policy,” said NRT President and CEO, David McLaughlin. “They help companies meet new market demands and governments make better long-term policy decisions that integrate the environment and economy together.”

The EU and its member states are leading the way in the use of Life Cycle Approaches in public policies and programs, while other countries have adopted aspects of this approach, including Japan and the U.S. In the last decade or so, Canada has not actively pursued the development and implementation of policies and programs based on Life Cycle Approaches in a coordinated manner or to the same extent as leading countries. Focus has mostly been on reducing product waste and disposal which is just one aspect of Life Cycle Approaches. At present, Canada has no life cycle information database accessible by government and business, little interaction to date between governments and industry on trends and needs, and no real support for businesses seeking to excel and be competitive in this area. Support for applying Life Cycle Approaches across federal government departments is scattered and uneven with no designated centre of expertise or responsibility.

Here in Canada, the private sector is in front of government in considering and applying Life Cycle Approaches. “Europe and the United States are further ahead in the mainstreaming of life cycle applications, which should act as a driver for action here in Canada too. It is our belief that there is nothing more critical to enabling the “step change” toward sustainability, for businesses big and small, than creating a collaborative, pre-competitive approach to life cycle deployment.” said David Smith, Vice President, Retail Strategy, Sobeys Inc.

“At Canadian Tire we are constantly innovating to ensure an enhanced customer experience, strong competitive position and positive environmental outcomes,” said Tyler Elm, Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Business Sustainability, Canadian Tire Corporation. “Using Life Cycle Approaches makes sense to us as a means of reducing costs such as energy, finding efficiencies in our supply chain and delivering the products and services that our customers want. This is key to our overall business sustainability strategy and bringing competitive value while reducing environmental impacts.”

Canada’s Opportunity sets out the NRT’s proposed course of action for moving ahead on adopting Life Cycle Approaches to sustainable development in a comprehensive and consistent way.
Specifically, the report calls for a 24-month action plan to get on top of the issue focusing on:

  • Development of a Canadian-specific life cycle database accessible to business and governments
  • Establishment of a business/government external advisory panel to identify key industry sectors at risk and actions to support economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability
  • Development of product category rules to ensure better international harmonization of standards
  • Federal government leadership in the application of Life Cycle Approaches to its own internal operations and policy decision making.

“Market access for our resources and goods will be at risk if we fail to apply Life Cycle Approaches to our products and policies,” said NRT’s Vice-Chair Mark Parent. “These risks manifest themselves through non-tariff trade barriers imposed by foreign countries and restricted market access because of private sector supply-chain requirements.”

The report has been sent to the Minister of the Environment for his consideration and is available with the NRT’s formal letter to the Minister on the Round Table’s website:


Marie-Josée Lapointe
Director, Communications and Public Affairs
National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy
613.943.2054 / 613.617.4436