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LCA data and LCA databases

LCA database provider ecoinvent provides exclusive insights

The ecoinvent Centre in Switzerland and thinkstep AG based in Stuttgart, Germany offer background databases for Life Cycle Assessment. The GaBi databases and the ecoinvent database are the market leaders in this field.

I am grateful for the willingness to participate in the following short interview on LCA databases shown by Dr. Gregor Wernet, Executive Manager, at the ecoinvent Centre.

We receive exclusive insights, among others, into upcoming developments and learn about the vision of how the ecoinvent database may look like in 5 years from now.

Bild Gregor Wernet




Dr. Gregor Wernet, Executive Manager, at the ecoinvent Centre.



What do ecoinvent 3 users particularly appreciate about the database?

Users above all appreciate the wide range of products and processes covered by the database, as well as the database’s international orientation. They also appreciate the transparency of the data and the choice of several system models that allow a good adaptation to specific standards and requirements.

What kind of highlights and innovations are planned or in progress for the next update and when is it expected?

Only four months ago, the release of ecoinvent 3.2 allowed, among other things, the updating of all power data. The next version, ecoinvent 3.3, is scheduled for the summer of 2016 and will include a first part of the world food database, including foods such as coffee, fruits and vegetables.

How do you and your team assess the utility and importance of ecoinvent for creating product environmental footprints or organizational environmental footprints?

ecoinvent is already being successfully used in over 80% of pilot projects in the PEF/OEF. The PEF requires background data transparency on unit process level, something ecoinvent fully supports. This EU requirement confirms ecoinvent’s focus on clear, comprehensible results – only transparent background data allow you to have real confidence in results. The specific requirements of the PEF, such as specific rules for the modeling of waste and recycling, can be mapped in ecoinvent by means of a system model, ensuring that methodological inconsistencies do no result in the failure of user projects.

What other questions do you consider as being especially important?

The question for us at ecoinvent is: “Why is a transparent database important?” or even particularly relevant.

In ecoinvent, users can trace the environmental impacts of their products step by step throughout the product lifecycle, all the way back to the “cradle”. Each number, every emission can be individually identified and tracked. This allows you to gain insights that would never be possible without transparency. The target audience for studies and reports also gains confidence in this way – ecoinvent is transparently traceable even for non-customers. Environmental studies are often challenged, and accusations of “greenwashing” can arise quickly without database traceability – ecoinvent’s transparent database can counteract this from the beginning.

Thank you Gregor!

Also read the article on data as a success factor for LCA.


  • I would be keen to know if Ecoinvent have plans to return to publishing Multioutput processes with the basis for allocations published and adaptable to other contexts? I would be keen to know when the economically allocated datasets could be truly fully economically allocated without exceptions for electricity and oil refining? I would be keen to know when the Ecoinvent data can be restored to fully comprehensive mass/elemental/thermodynamic balance so that the data can be used in compliance with ISO14040/4? This can be achieved by not misusing economic allocation where the known inputs and outputs are already known and only using allocation for transformation processes where mass/elemental/thermodynamic balance can be retained in the fractional shares of the originally balanced inventories!

    • Hi Nigel,

      Thanks for your questions. I’ve seen your comments and contribution also on the LCA discussion list, so I assume Gregor Wernet is already aware of these questions. I don’t know ecoinvent plans related to your questions. From my experience there has not yet been any LCA database, also not in the past of ecoinvent, that reflects “fully comprehensive mass/elemental/thermodynamic balance”. This becomes obvious as we’re looking at a huge number of units used in Life Cycle Inventories, while for “full mass and thermodynamic balance” you would expect kg and kJ as the only units to be used, with the result of easily checking for mass balance. I fully agree that specially mass balancing is an important principle to ensure consistency and completeness. Thermodynamic balance and modeling I do not see too often reflected in Life Cycle Inventories, as the energy is mostly “used” thus occurring only the input side of the inventory and except for being a product (electricity, heat, cooling) no kJs on the output side.