Nutritional Life Cycle Assessment: Setting a New Research Agenda


Many stakeholders are interested in the question of how to assess the environmental impacts of healthy diets, and in exploring solutions for minimizing trade-offs between nourishing populations and safeguarding the environment. Life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have an important role in contributing to solutions because they evaluate the environmental impacts of different practices, products and systems, and nutritional LCA (nCLA) studies are increasingly common because they focus on assessing nutritional value alongside the environmental impacts of food systems.

In 2021, the FAO completed a research project on development and application of nLCA for assessment of food items. The outputs included a report on Integration of environment and nutrition in the life cycle assessment of food items. In this seminar, Professor McLaren will summarise this work and how it has informed development of an action research programme proposal for FAO on using nLCSA (nutritional Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment) for trade-off assessment in food systems.


Speaker summary

Professor Sarah McLaren is Director of the New Zealand Life Cycle Management Centre (NZLCM Centre), and Professor in Life Cycle Management at Massey University, New Zealand (NZ). Her research focuses on development and application of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and related approaches such as planetary boundaries, industrial ecology and the circular economy.

Sarah has promoted uptake of Life Cycle Management in New Zealand as a founding Committee member of the Life Cycle Association of New Zealand (LCANZ) and member of the Technical Advisory Group of the Australasian Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) Programme. She has served on the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor’s Rethinking Plastics Panel, Ministry for the Environment’s Planetary Boundaries NZ Advisory Board, and represented NZ on the ISO Water Footprint Working Group. She works with organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ), BEACON Bioeconomy Research Centre Ireland, and the NZ Food Awards to translate Life Cycle Management into practical action.