FAQ - Sustainability

Why are Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) important?

To truly understand a product's environmental 'footprint', its entire life cycle needs to be evaluated. This is known as LCA. Through this form of assessment environmental effects associated with a product's manufacture may often be counterbalanced over time by a reduction in transportation and installation coasts and the benefit of a long, beneficial, low-impact life. For example, emissions associated with PVC window production compared to wooden windows are far outweighed by decades of energy-saving benefits and not having to replace them as quickly or apply preservative paints or chemicals.

PVC products perform favourably in terms of energy efficiency, thermal-insulating value, low contribution to greenhouse gases, low maintenance, and product durability.

Recent life-cycle studies show the health and environmental impacts of PVC building products are comparable to or less than the impacts of most alternatives.

Why could PVC be good for sustainable development (environment, economy, society)?

Since the acceptance of the concept of Sustainable Development (SD) (world conferences of Rio de Janeiro 1992 and others) it became accepted that SD is based on three pillars, namely ecology, economy and society.
The environmental impact of PVC products has been investigated in numerous studies, quantified in many life cycle analyses and compared many times to products made from alternative materials. The latest and most comprehensive study was a Review commissioned by the EU1. It showed PVC products to be comparable to alternatives in their environmental impact. The strongest aspects of PVC products are performance and cost; PVC products are amongst the lowest cost products for a given performance (see also Q 2). Low cost products can positively contribute to all areas of SD:

  • Low cost products save scarce money, so they are favourable to a sustainable economic development.
  • Low cost products are more affordable to socially disadvantaged people, not only in industrialised but more so in developing countries and the money saved can be used to optimise social development. Both points are favourable to sustainable social development.
  • The money saved by low cost products can be used to optimise ecological development, so they are favourable to sustainable ecological development too.
  • The huge potential impact of low cost products made from PVC can be shown easily: With only 0.5 % of the cost of PVC-products one can compensate the entire energy demand (100%!) and the entire Greenhouse Gas effect (100%!) caused by them. Investing this small amount of money into environmental improvements allows it to create products which are much better in these important environmental categories than all alternatives.
  • The social aspect of products is not assessed well enough up to now, except for the positive economical/social points mentioned above in this chapter and the health impacts on workers in the PVC industry: After many years of sustained efforts, workers safety has reached a very high standard in the chemical industry altogether compared to other industries.