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Explained: LCI databases

Learn about life cycle inventory (LCI) databases - the main secondary data source in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA).

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

Product and process databases

LCI databases contain an inventory of all the natural resources consumed and all substances emitted into the environment during the entire life cycle of a product, process, or activity. These datasets are sourced from scientific literature, or aggregated industry data. During an LCA, these datasets are used as a proxy when there is no or insufficient primary data on products and activities involved in the supply chain or production process. The inventory of input and output flows are then translated into environmental impacts by a Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) method.


Ecoinvent database was created by the Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories. Ecoinvent is the World’s leading LCI database containing over 18.000 unique datasets. The datasets in ecoinvent cover a wide array of products, services, and processes, from building materials to food and from resource extraction to waste management. Nowadays, Ecoinvent is widely considered the largest, most consistent, and most transparent database on the market.

Ecoinvent has been continuously expanded since 2003. Ecoinvent v3.6, currently available in Helix and Mobius, contains 18121 datasets. Version 3.6 was released in 2019. The ecoinvent data landscape includes 2,200 new and 2,500 updated datasets, and 247 more products and greatly expands its geographical coverage on numerous countries and regions, such as Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, India, Peru, and South Africa.

New datasets were added regarding Agriculture, Building & Construction, Chemicals, Textiles, and several other sectors. Textiles especially received a major update and now offer new data on the production of an expanded range of natural and synthetic fibers, such as organic cotton, silk, linen, and polyester. Specifically, the sector now includes datasets that cover the following: production of cotton, linen, jute, kenaf, and mulberry data; silkworm rearing (sericulture); yarn manufacturing of all types of fiber; weaving and knitting of textiles; and dyeing and finishing processes.

More information can be found on the Ecoinvent website.

Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) database

The European Commission proposed the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method as a common way of measuring environmental performance (Commission Recommendations 2013/179/EU ). The PEF is the EU-recommended Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based method to quantify the environmental impacts of products (goods or services).

The Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, has been leading the EF project. The project officially began in 2013 and it has been divided into 2 phases: The Pilot phase (2013-2018) and the Transition phase (2019-ongoing).

During the pilot phase PEF/OEF methods were tested by 27 different industry sectors and about 20 Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCRs) and Organisation Environmental Footprint Sectoral Rules (OEFSRs) were developed. To apply these sets of rules for the calculation of the PEF/OEF profile of a product/organization, the processes used require both primary (company-specific) and secondary (background) data.

Whilst the primary data are to be produced by the organization applying the PEFCR/OEFSR (or one of their suppliers as specified in the PEFCR/OEFSR), the secondary datasets are to be available to the final user through the PEF database. The development of the PEF database has been one of the main deliverables of the pilot phase. This database is the result of a collaboration between the JRC and several knowledge institutions, such as Ecoinvent, Cycleco, FEFAC, Quantis, and Sphera. Access to the PEF database is granted for free (with or without registration) for users who develop PEF/OEF studies within the existing PEFCRs/OEFSRs.

PEF database v2.0, currently in Mobius, was released in 2019. This version is compatible with EF v2.0 method. The JRC is currently working on updating to PEF database v3.0, which will among other updates be compatible with the latest Life Cycle Inventory (LCIA) method available, EF v3.0 method.

Note: The European Commission states you may use the Environmental Footprint database 2.0 free of charge if you are conducting PEF or OEF studies exclusively under the approved product groups and sectors, which have been approved during the EF pilot phase and as defined in the PEFCRs and OEFSRs listed, and following the terms and conditions of the EULAs of all data providers exclusively until 31st December 2021 (permitted use).

More information is available on this website.

Nationale Milieudatabase (NMD)

The NMD database is an LCI database developed by the Dutch National Environmental Database Foundation. This database was created to be able to make an unambiguous calculation of the environmental performance of construction works in the Dutch context. The database covers a wide range of building materials and construction-related services.

NMD v3.3, currently available in Mobius and Helix, was released in 2021. This new version uses Ecoinvent v3.6 as a background information source.

More information is available on this website.

ELCD (European reference Life Cycle Database)

Since its first release in 2006, the ELCD (European reference Life Cycle Database) comprises Life Cycle Inventory (LCI) data from EU-level business associations and other sources for key materials, energy carriers, transport, and waste management. The respective data sets are officially provided and approved by the named industry association.

Currently, ELCD v3.2 is available in Mobius.

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