What is a life cycle assessment?

Christian Nagler
June 6, 2019
Sustainability
Just like a commercial balance sheet, a life cycle assessment shows incomings and outgoings. But instead of focusing on cash flows, it looks at the material and energy flows associated with a particular product, a service or an entire company.

Material and energy flows

What exactly do these terms refer to? Material flows refer, by way of example, to the life cycle of the paper that we use to print out documents, among other things. The term “energy flows” is used to describe all types of energy consumed, such as electrical or heat energy. 

And since we are on the topic of energy: 100% of the electricity used to supply our biggest locations in Switzerland, i.e. Basel, Bern and Lugano, comes from hydropower.

Baloise’s life cycle assessment

The material and energy flows shown in our life cycle assessment reveal the resources consumed by Baloise’s major office buildings and data centres. In order to allow the figures to be compared and to show us how our consumption has developed, the assessment comprises not only the figures for the current year, but also the figures for the previous two years. But even with information from prior years for comparison, it is difficult to gauge what the figures actually mean. In order to make the figures easier to grasp, we have included them expressed in both relative and absolute terms.

Water consumption as an example

Absolute water consumption:

2016: 47,128 m³ 

2017: 47,768 m³ 

2018: 45,421 m³

Water consumption in litres per employee per day: 35 litres

Mobility and emissions

In addition to energy, paper and water consumption, as well as the volume of waste and the various types of waste, our life cycle assessment also includes information on business travel, the mode of transport used and the CO2 emissions. This means that you can see at a glance that business travel within the company amounted to 4,290 km per employee in 2018, with air travel accounting for 23.1% of trips, cars accounting for 52.3% and public transport accounting for 24.6%. We generated 2,833 kg of CO2 emissions per employee in 2018. 
 

Specific measures - across the entire Group

In addition to ongoing moves to reduce our energy consumption and the creation of a new recycling concept for the Head Office in Basel that is currently under way, customers and employees in Basel have been able to charge their electric vehicles for free using solar power since 2015. 

In Germany, FRIDAY introduced a system in 2018 giving customers the opportunity to do their bit for the environment by offsetting the CO2 emissions that they cause when driving.

In Luxembourg, Baloise takes part in the government platform for coordinating carpooling, while in Belgium, Baloise recently invested in the sustainable The Link building in Antwerp, which is seen as a prototype for office life in the future due to the fact that it is virtually energy-neutral. 

Over the last ten years, we have taken a whole range of measures to slash our heat energy consumption by around 35% and our consumption of electrical energy by 30%. These figures relate to the Baloise Group’s major office buildings and data centres. We have performed various analyses, taking the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement into account, to evaluate a variety of energy-saving measures that will continue to be implemented in the individual countries over the coming years.

Why are we doing this?

The average person in Switzerland was responsible for 4.5 tonnes of CO2 in 2017. We are still well below this figure, with 2.8 tonnes per employee. Unfortunately, however, this figure does not reflect the total emissions produced by our employees, who obviously also have a life outside of work. Nonetheless: Per capita emissions are to be cut to 1 to 1.5 tonnes of CO2 by 2050 in order to help defuse the climate crisis and stop the planet’s temperature from increasing by more than 1.5°C to 2°C. As we spend a lot of our time at work and also travel for business purposes, we as a company are committed to reducing our CO2 emissions on an ongoing basis, doing everything in our power to optimise our material life cycles. Unfortunately – or fortunately –, depending on how you look at it, Baloise has no control over its employees’ lives outside of working hours. We are nevertheless focusing on raising awareness and providing background information and tips on a range of issues relating to sustainable development, some of which can also be applied to our home lives.