Historically, a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was primarily used for research purposes. It’s no surprise that most LCA software share this background. The first LCA tools were developed within universities. Even today, many tools that help calculate Life Cycle Assessments have strong ties to the academic field.
From academic to business solution
Life Cycle Assessment tools have been around since 1990. With sustainability, climate change and the circular economy being more publicly debated topics, the market for LCA tools itself has also developed.
Today, there are many different LCA tools available. And they all serve different purposes. Some still share the academic background of LCA, yet others have been developed to help businesses measure their environmental footprint. Some are focused on specific industries, while others can be used in many different industries.
In this article, we will give you an overview of the most popular LCA tools (our own solutions, Ecochain Helix and Ecochain Mobius, as well as the four other most established LCA solutions SimaPro, GaBi, oneClickLCA and openLCA). We will compare their functionalities as well as compare them side by side in a table.
Who is this overview useful for?
This guide is supposed to provide a quick overview into the world of LCA software and when to use which tool. However, each sustainability challenge is different. We are happy to help if you have any questions – reach out!
As you can also read in our LCA Beginner’s Guide, the goals of an LCA can be very different. For this overview, we’re focusing on the solutions that are most used commercially.
LCI Databases: Backbone of LCA calculations
Life Cycle Assessment calculations rely on Life Cycle Inventory data. Whilst many tools offer their own databases, most databases are commercially available for a fee. That means that that data has to be taken into consideration when calculating the price of an LCA tool.
LCA Software – Overview
This overview helps you get more insights into the world of LCA software. We have summed up the results in the table below.
|Free version||No||Free trial||Yes||No||No||Free trial|
|Software or Online?||Online||Online||Software||Download||Download||Online|
LCA Tools Comparison
Ecochain Helix helps companies measure & improve the environmental footprint of complete product portfolios, large-scale processing & manufacturing sites. Efficiently. It is focused on company-wide footprints. That means that it is designed to provide high-level steering information to the company and provide dashboards of the environmental performance. At the same time, Ecochain enables you to create footprints and EPDs for your entire portfolio, all at once.
Ecochain is used in a number of different industries, from construction to packaging, food, agriculture, and chemicals.
openLCA is the cheapest solution in our list – because it’s free. openLCA is an open-source LCA solution, which means that it is attractive for anyone starting off in the LCA world without a big budget. However, openLCA also has extensive deep-dive functionality, which also makes it useful for users with a more technical background. openLCA Website
Note: Any LCA tool relies on the databases you want to use. openLCA provides access to many different databases, and many of them are not free.
Ecochain Mobius is thé easy-to-use product footprint tool. Learn to measure & improve the environmental footprint of your product in no time, with the easy interface and extensive in-tool guidance. Get access to the world’s biggest environmental impact database for information on any material, ingredient, or component. Test alternative materials & designs and benchmark your product to industry standards. Fast, Easy, Credible.
SimaPro has been established for more than 30 years and is probably the most well-known LCA Tool in the market. SimaPro is used primarily in the academic field and by experienced LCA consultants. SimaPro is a complex application with many optional add-ons that make it very versatile, and it enables its users to dive deep into the LCA calculations of a product. SimaPro Website
Like SimaPro, GaBi has been established since the mid 90’s. It is also a very established LCA tool, being used in many industries, especially in its home market, Germany. Just like SimaPro, GaBi is a rather technical solution with many potential add-ons for product development. GaBi is used especially by consultants, but also in-house. GaBi Website
OneClickLCA is the only application in our list that is specifically designed for one industry – the construction sector. Because OneClickLCA focuses on one specific industry, it offers many functionalities specifically needed for the construction sector. This is why the solution from Finland caters well to certificates like LEAD and BREEAM. OneClickLCA Website