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Helix - Explained: Overview and settings

This article provides a general overview of Ecochain Helix and explains different account settings

Artjom Janssen avatar
Written by Artjom Janssen
Updated over a week ago

Overview in Ecochain Helix

In order to work with Ecochain Helix, the navigation bar is essential. The navigation bar can be found and is always located at the top of your browser. The navigation bar contains several tabs, or buttons, which are explained in detail below:

  • The (currently) selected year

  • The data (Input)

  • The output (Results)

  • The Recalculate button

1. Selected year

In Helix, data is filled in on an annual reporting basis. The navigation bar displays the selected year and offers the opportunity to switch between years. As such, Helix enables you to create LCAs at the company level on an annual basis, while data from previous years can still be accessed.

Additionally, for each year it is indicated to what extent the input data has been entered, which is visualized with a green bar. This enables you, as a user, to get a quick overview at a glance of the current progress made in a particular year.

It is also possible to copy data from one year to another year. When clicking on an empty year (a year that does not contain any input data yet), Helix will ask if you would like to copy data into this empty year. You can then either:

  • Copy data from a selected year, or

  • Continue to the empty year without copying.

2. Select data level

The ‘Input’ menu is used to navigate through the 3 different levels: (1) company, (2) process and (3) product. Once your company data is entered for these three levels it is possible to see the ‘cradle-to-gate’ results, which encompasses all life-cycle modules associated with resource extraction (module A1), transport to the production plant (module A2) and production of the product (module A3).

It is also possible to model a product scenario beyond the factory gate (4). The ‘product scenario’ tab allows the user to include the use (module B), as well as the demolition and/or waste stages (modules C & D) of the product life cycle.

3. Results

LCA results are available once the data entry exercise is filled in, and complete. The results section allows you to examine a wide variety of statistics, such as the environmental impact on a company, process, product, and material level.

4. Recalculate button

The recalculate button allows you to quickly update your newest data entries. This way you can update any adjustments that have been made to your input data, and Helix will (re)calculate the results based on any changes made.

Exporting Excel files

If you want to make (additional) analyses of your results, we recommend you to export your current data and make changes in the exported file with Excel or any other editor that supports xslx files. Using the import function you can upload large amounts of data to Helix. Exporting Excel files from Helix works in (almost) the same way at every level in Helix (company, process, product, results, etc.):

  1. In this example, we will be exporting Usages & Emissions as seen in the figure below

  2. Make sure you are working in the correct year, as indicated in the top-left of the navigation bar

  3. Click ‘Export’

  4. When the download starts, a message prompt “Export has started” appears in the top-right of the screen for a few seconds

  5. The Excel file is downloaded in the background of your browser. This can take several minutes, depending on the size of the requested data exported

  6. Once the download is finished, your browser will send a notification, and a message prompt stating “Export completed” will appear in the top-right of the screen for a few seconds

  7. Now you can open the Excel file, make changes, and save it on your local disk

Importing Excel files

You can use the import function to upload large amounts of data to Helix in bulk. Importing data with the import tool will never delete any data. Importing Excel files to Helix works in (almost) the same way at every level in Helix (company, process, product):

  1. Click ‘Import’;

  2. A new window appears, in this example the importing of product compositions is described (see figure below);

  3. Click ‘Select an xls file’;

  4. Select the specific Excel file you want to import into the application from your local disk;

  5. Click ‘Open’;

  6. Your selected file will appear on the screen;

  7. Click ‘Preview changes’ to monitor the change

  8. Check if the uploaded file was successfully read (see screenshots below);

  9. Click on ‘Changes’ to see which changes will be made;

  10. After inspection, click on ‘Save Changes’ to confirm and save the data you have imported.

Note: when exact duplicate lines are present in the Excel file, only the first row within the document will be imported. If this is not desired, check the imported Excel-file and rename the duplicate items.

Account settings

To access the general settings page in Helix, click on the following icon, in the top-right corner of the navigation bar. You can use the settings environment to check, or change:

  • your password,

  • language of Helix,

  • your company logo,

  • database, and calculation methods

  • or to invite, and provide access to other users

In the unfortunate event that you lost your login password, please go to the login page of Helix, and click on the 'Forgot password?' tab. Alternatively, use the following URL.

User roles

Users of company accounts can have 3 different roles:

  • Ready-only: this role enables a user to only view data in the account. No changes of data, (ecoinvent) datasets, or settings can be made. A read-only user can export data from Helix.

  • Editor: This role enables a user to do the following things:

  1. Change or add values and datasets in the account and link items with the link symbol

  2. Complete (full) Life Cycle Assessments

  3. View all results

  4. Change the language to their preference

  • A user with an editor role cannot do the following things:

  1. Lock levels - freezing a page for auditing purposes

  2. Publish products in the publicly viewable database

  3. Invite other users

  • Admin: this role enables a user to do everything that is possible in Helix. In addition to the functionalities of the editor, the admin can:

  1. Lock levels

  2. Publish products in the Helix database

  3. Invite other users

Calculation method

To adjust the calculation method, click on ‘Calculation method’ in the settings environment. The following page will appear:

  • Standard database: This dropdown determines which impact items – like electricity and diesel - are selectable in the company footprint page (Usages & Emissions) and what values are linked to these items. Select a standard database for your country, or select English/International if your choice of preference is not available.

  • LCA standard to be used: The dropdown determines which impact categories (output) are visible in the application. Impact categories indicate the environmental impact of the modeled product or activity for specific environmental flows, such as climate change or ecotoxicity. These impact categories are incorporated throughout the application and in exports. EF v3.1 is an example of a LCA standard. The following settings are recommended:

Frequently asked questions and issues

Why are my results different, when I have not changed anything in Helix?

This might be due to a database update. LCIA databases, like ecoinvent, are updated approximately every 6 months. This might result in slightly different dataset values in the database, that are used in the purchasing page of Helix. When your materials are linked to one of those updated datasets, the final results of this material can slightly differ as well, which might change your end-product results.

Why can't I see any CO2 or MKI/ECI (Environmental Cost Indicator) results?

This issue might occur when the account (re)calculation is not completed yet in the background. You can finalize your results by clicking on the recalculate button. Another reason for missing MKI/ECI results could be that the account settings are not set correctly. This can be changed under the calculation method section of the settings page in the application.

"After adjusting a material name in the composition, the old name is still visible in the 'add materials' option list"

After changing a material name in Ecochain Helix, the software will consider this as a new material and will remember the old name as well. For materials this can be solved by removing the old name under purchasing by using the 'cross' behind the name, after removing the dataset. You should not forget to add the right dataset first to the 'new' material.

"No products match the criteria"

This is a statistical error that is formed when products are formed with compositions, but no usages & emissions and/or processes are filled in (yet), in the account. This problem can be solved by filling in a small, insignificant amount (e.g. 0,0000001) kg of water at company level in the usages & emissions page. Next, you should create a process and allocate 100% of this water usage to it. In the process x product page, choose the 'custom' distribution method and untick all boxes that occur, and click 'save'. Recalculate the account. All statistics are now visible without this process being allocated to the product.

Ecochain Helix errors

During the implementation process in the Ecochain Helix application, the following error cna occur in certain situations.

To resolve this error, the following situations and associated solutions are plausible:

  1. When changing the company name in an existing account. After the error occurs, click the previous page in your browser menu. You'll be back on the settings page, but the company name is changed to what you inserted.

  2. Error when viewing results, but for another Helix user the results look fine. Delete cookies in your browser.

  3. When clicking on Results, an error occurs. When this happens in a copied account, it might be due to the calculation method settings being set incorrectly. This can be changed under settings > calculation method in the software.

  4. When errors occur while importing excel files, see below.

Excel and import errors

It is important to realise that the import function adheres to strict formatting, without which the Helix application cannot process the data in your Excel file correctly. The easiest, and safest way to ensure that this is the case is to base the imported data on an exported format. The Excel-format should:

  • Adhere to the pre-configured format of the respective Helix page, and contain data at that specific stage of the process. This means that no changes can be made in either the number of columns or column titles in the respective import file;

  • Not contain any formulas. If the cell value was determined by a formula, please ensure that it is pasted as a value (number) if it is to be imported into Helix. Use the ‘paste special’ option in Excel to avoid cells containing formulas.

  • Not contain any values that derive from cells that are not within the boundaries of the table. The ‘Look Up’ or referral functions should not be used, as Helix will not be able to follow that reference made outside of the Excel file.


Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) databases can be used to select datasets for the used materials. The two main LCI databases available in Helix are Ecoinvent and the Dutch Nationale Milieu Database (NMD). Ecoinvent is one of the largest and most recognized LCI databases in the world. The Nationale Milieu Database (NMD) is an LCI database focused on the construction sector in the Netherlands.

Creating a sub-account

If you have a paid Helix account, you can create a sub- or supplier account for a company, in the following way:

  1. Click on the company account name in the navigation bar.

  2. Click on "All your companies".

  3. Below your company click on "create new company" (green button).

  4. A smaller screen appears. Fill in your own company name with -supplier behind or the name of your supplier.

  5. Fill in "industry", "sub-industry" and "country".

  6. At "account type", tick the box "secondary account" and select the primary account of your company. Save the settings.

  7. A (free, limited) sub-account has been created.

  8. To invite other members to this sub-account, click on your company name in the navigation bar, and select the supplier account.

  9. Go to the settings in the sub-account

  10. In the left panel of the settings menu, click "Users".

  11. Fill in email address at "invite users" and tick 'read-only', 'editor' or 'admin' (depending on the role you want to attribute to the invited user).

  12. Send the invitation.

  13. Contact Ecochain to switch the free sub-account to a paid account, if you need full access to all account privileges.

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