Nicole Unger and Iris Kral, Symposium Chairs

The University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) was the proud host of this year’s SETAC Europe 24th Life Cycle Assessment Symposium, which was held 24–26 September 2018 in Vienna, Austria. The symposium has a long-standing tradition, and this year’s chairs, together with the BOKU-LCA platform and the entire BOKU university, were honored to carry on this tradition. This year’s theme was “The Role of LCA in Shaping the Future: Food, Fibre, Fertiliser, Fuel and other Resources.”

Resources are one of the key challenges for society as a whole, and these challenges not only apply to the full life cycle but also to resource availability and sourcing, through the use to the end of life of products. Therefore, the symposium focused on resources and the role LCA can play in shaping the future. By applying scientific methods to real-life problems—i.e., working with case studies—experts provided facts and guidance for decision makers as well as the general public, while clearly communicating study limitations and associated uncertainties. Scientific case studies can inform and facilitate the societal changes that are needed to alleviate pressing threats, such as concerns with regards to climate change.

LCA is and will continue to be an important tool in sustainability assessment, and BOKU is proud to have a diverse group of scientists using LCA in all kinds of scientific fields. We all, therefore, were happy to put a lot of mainly voluntary efforts, commitment and passion into planning and organizing this year’s symposium. We welcomed more than 150 participants in Vienna, who could choose between 18 sessions with 84 platform presentations running specifically in two or three tracks. The sessions covered renewable and non-renewable resources, energy, product and sector footprinting, infrastructure, as well as software, tools, databases and the theme of circularity and circular economy.

Each day of the symposium also featured a keynote speech, which were given by Hubert Hasenauer, BOKU University, on the efficient use of forest resources to shape our future; Mark Huijbregts, Radboud University Nijmegem, on new developments in life cycle assessments; and Serenella Sala, Joint Research Centre, on bioeconomy contributions to circular economy. Noteworthy for the symposium was that the keynote address were the first session of the day, and they drew large numbers of listeners each day.

Besides the scientific program, workshops by Ecoinvent and Thinkstep added to the information exchange. The workshop by Ecoinvent, titled “Future Developments of the Ecoinvent Database” shared insights on the upcoming developments of their database and assessing user needs, recommendations and ideas for future database updates.  Thinkstep offered a series of workshop opportunities and presentations on current topics in LCA and had active discussions with LCA practioners. These two workshops tied in well with the presentations on tools and databases.

A new format was also used at this year’s symposium, the PhD Corner. The aim was to help students expand their network as well as giving students the opportunity to talk about their work and challenges with their peers. The attendance of the PhD Corner was much higher than expected for a new event. Additional to the networking opportunity, the PhD Corner also included a “speed-dating” session for potential employment opportunities as well as a period for expertise specific discussion.

As stated earlier, there were many opportunities to network. At the welcome reception, participants could sample some of BOKU’s own wine and beer. The social dinner took place in the Schönbrunner Stöckl, located within the grounds of the Schönbrunn palace, which allowed attendees to enjoy a stroll through the palace grounds and view the sunset over Vienna.

We are very grateful for the nice feedback we have received from many participants and are happy to have had the opportunity to be part of this important conference series. We want to give our special thanks to all of SETAC staff who supported us so patiently throughout the last year as well as our sponsors, whose support was instrumental for the success of the event. Thank you!

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