Fashion needs to adopt Life Cycle Thinking

Did you know that the first apparel industry Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was conducted in 2007 by Levis?

LCA provides detailed information about inputs and outputs present in the manufacturing of a product, but it requires technical knowledge, time and investment to be conducted.

In comparison to in-depth Life Cycle Assessment, Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) is a more accessible way for fashion brands to assess their product’s socio-environmental impacts. This framework does not replace an LCA, but is a great method towards building holistic sustainable products!

But what exactly is Life Cycle Thinking?

“Life Cycle Thinking is a systemic framework that takes a holistic view of the production and consumption of a product or service and assesses its impacts on the environment through the entire life cycle.” (Source: Quantis)

In the process of designing a new product, or re-evaluating an existing one, Life Cycle Thinking, helps to assess the environmental and social impacts at the different stages of the product’s life. This helps to find sustainable alternatives for the resources needed, and to reduce the negative outputs generated.

There are three different scopes in which LCAs are traditionally conducted:

  • cradle-to-gate; from resource extraction to the store.
  • cradle-to-grave; from resource extraction to use-phase and disposal.
  • cradle-to-cradle; from resource extraction to the return of the product or material, back into remanufacturing and use.

At Regenerate, we encourage the companies we work with, to follow the cradle-to-cradle scope, to ensure a circular Life Cycle Thinking framework.

Life Cycle Thinking in the fashion value chain can be stimulated within companies’ product development teams, with the support of systemic framework exercises, such as our canvas tool in the image.


In the training sessions we offer, we use the Life Cycle Thinking Canvas, as the first step to assess a specific product. On each step, we break down inputs and outputs, such as: energy, water, material resources, manpower, chemical discharge, CO2 emissions and waste generation.

For vertically integrated companies, this exercise is straightforward, and the leverage points are easier to reach. In companies with more complex supply chains, identifying inputs and outputs represent a bigger challenge, but through the exercise, teams recognize which suppliers they need to reach out to get this information and map the impacts of their products.

Send us an inbox if you want to know more about our dynamic approach to Life Cycle Thinking and how we can help you in this process.