Working more sustainably thanks to life cycle thinking

Over 20 years ago, we had a first Life Cycle Analysis performed for our own wine-bottling department. Since then, 'life cycle thinking' has slowly become the norm in the organisation.

Our Research & Development department develops tools that should help the rest of the group to quantify and validate efforts made in terms of sustainability. R&D engineer Steven Van Hemelryck: "Life cycle thinking plays a central role in the development of these tools. Since 2014, we have been using a matrix as a reference for discussions and decisions on making our fleet of company cars and lorries more sustainable for example."

"The matrix combines a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of a selection of fuel/vehicle combinations in 3 domains: ecology, economy and socio-technology. By analogy with this matrix, in 2017 we developed a similar method for renewable energy sources for electricity production."

Life Cycle Analysis

In addition to the tools to integrate life cycle thinking in as many departments as possible, the R&D&I department also provides LCA services for the rest of the group. (LCA = Life Cycle Analysis) "Since an in-depth LCA training in 2015, we perform a full LCA for nearly every technical R&D project, with as much primary data as possible", Steven continues. The first full LCA studies mainly took place at the end of a project, to support communication. This was the case for the liquid ice containers we developed. "Now, we are including this LCA from the start of an R&D or innovation project until the integration of the project in the organisation. We worked like this for the development of our own vertical farm, for example."

In order to support choices in alternative packaging, construction materials and auxiliary material for example, our colleagues at the Environmental Department carry out small-scale LCAs, the so-called screening LCAs. These screening LCAs, that are performed in-house with specialised software, are only intended for internal decisions because the results can only be considered as an indication.

Ecodesign

'Ecodesign' is also gaining increasing acceptance in the organisation. This design philosophy entails that you emphasise sustainability as much as possible starting from the design phase. "Ecodesign should allow us to deliberately work towards a final product that is as sustainable as possible, ecologically as well as economically and socially. Of course, this fits in completely with the philosophy of life cycle thinking."

Eco-score

Life cycle thinking is also finding its way to our store shelves more and more. After having performed several (R&D) test projects over the course of ten years, the Eco-Score for products was launched at the beginning of the year. The Eco-Score was first calculated for 2,500 of our private-label products and will become available (online) for all private-label products and national brand products later on.

Life cycle thinking has had the time to grow in a few specialised departments (environment, R&D&I) and has now become almost fully integrated in the entire organisation. "Of course, the relevant evolutions at R&D level are still monitored, and tested and implemented where possible", Steven decides.