‘Show us Your Numbers!’: Life Cycle Assessments as Marketing Devices

Jacob Hasselbalch*, Mark Cooper, Ludwig Bengtsson Sonesson, Johannes Stripple

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearch


Life-cycle assessments (LCAs) are emerging as the most important technique for determining the environmental impacts associated with all stages of a product’s life cycle from raw material extraction to final disposal. LCAs are increasingly intervening in and shaping the governance of sustainability transitions. We argue that one important manner in which they do so is by serving as obligatory passage points in the practice of sustainable production and consumption. Specifically, we are interested in the way LCAs are deployed as marketing devices, through which the sustainability credentials of different kinds of products are standardized and made commensurate before being communicated to consumers as a salient competitive metric that influences consumer choice. The aim of the paper is to investigate the effects of using LCAs as marketing devices. We draw on in-depth case studies of four examples of low-carbon innovations in heavy-emitting sectors: oat milk, bioplastic textiles, zero-waste grocery stores, and lab-grown meat. We find that three overall themes emerge from the use of LCAs as marketing devices, but variations exist between the cases: (1) LCAs re-shape niche-incumbent relations, (2) produce new subjectivities on the part of both producers and consumers, and (3) mediate between alternate trajectories of market development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventSASE 33rd Annual Conference: After Covid? Critical Conjunctures and Contingent Pathways of Contemporary Capitalism - Virtual, Duisburg, Germany
Duration: 2 Jul 20215 Jul 2021
Conference number: 33


ConferenceSASE 33rd Annual Conference
Internet address

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