Susan Iliefski-Janols, new chairman: ”Swedish Life Cycle Center is a catalyst for the development of the life cycle area”

Friday, 20 January, 2023

She has been there from the start of the Swedish Life Cycle Center and has seen the life cycle perspective reach more and more parts of society. The center’s new chairman, Susan Iliefski-Janols from Essity, is passionate about crucial current day sustainability issues and strongly believes in the center as a catalyst for the development of the life cycle area.

Susan Iliefski-Janols has substantial experience of the benefits of the life cycle perspective in industrial development from being in charge of Essity’s sustainability work in innovations, products and services. She points out that it is partly about operational tools and measurement methods, partly about strategies and how we can contribute to SDG 12 – the UN’s global goal of sustainable consumption and production.

“To me the life cycle perspective is an opportunity for overview and a holistic view on sustainability work, where environmental and social issues can be combined. It’s important to make everyone in the company see how it’s all connected, and to establish a way of thinking free from ”silos”, where the life cycle perspective becomes naturally incorporated into all work”, she says.

Essity, which has been one of the Swedish Life Cycle Center’s partners since its inception in 1996 (under the previous company name SCA), has high ambitions in their sustainability work. Susan Iliefski-Janols has experience from many projects and development work, where life cycle thinking has gained an increasingly prominent role. The company has gone from mainly using life cycle assessments in innovation work, to measuring the development of the entire range of goods where all aspects are included: production of materials and products, development, use and after use. Today, the life cycle perspective is integrated into sustainability goals for innovations, packaging and climate. In addition to measuring the environmental impact on climate, water and air through the entire value chain; social aspects such as supplier standards for the suppliers, safety in the factories and safe materials in the products are complementary to the environmental LCA.

“Sustainability work is extensive and challenging. That’s why it’s much easier to get it right if you bring the life cycle perspective into it”, she says.

The center drives life cycle thinking in Sweden

Susan Iliefski-Janols believes that the Swedish Life Cycle Center is an important factor behind the fact that knowledge about life cycle issues has increased in Sweden and has become a more important part of the sustainability work of many companies and government agencies.

“The Swedish Life Cycle Center has definitely pushed life cycle thinking forward in Sweden. We have contributed to better methods of measuring and better standards, not to mention to important research results. It is a great strength that we are a partner-driven organization where we have government agencies as well as institutes, companies and academia with us. It means that we have a relevant agenda and gain a deeper and broader dialogue with many perspectives”, she says.

As life cycle issues have received more attention in Sweden as well as globally, she also sees that the center has developed and broadened its focus.

“When we started, we were a West Swedish network. Today, we have established ourselves as a national, significant actor in the life cycle area, with extensive international contacts. And we have gone from primarily focusing on measurements and calculations to broadening our perspective and seeing that different types of communication are needed for different target groups”.

Many future challenges

Going forward, Susan Iliefski-Janols sees several exciting challenges where the center can play an important role. One of them is to deal with the climate issue in combination with circularity, since the two perspectives don’t always go hand in hand.

“We must combine well-being, climate and circularity thinking right from the start when we create innovations. It requires better circularity indicators that can drive circular solutions with less climate impact. I think we need to work more on how we can best combine the two perspectives”, she says.

Biodiversity is another area that has received increasing attention in the wake of climate change. Susan Iliefski-Janols believes that more knowledge and development is needed about how the life cycle perspective can be used to capture impacts on biodiversity and impact from land and water use and additional approaches may be needed.

“I think we need to consider how life cycle assessments can be combined with other ways of thinking. By certifying our value chains, we ensure that we work with renewable materials in a responsible manner. How can we combine this with a life cycle approach?” she says.

Another challenge is getting more medium-sized companies to work with the life cycle perspective. Many large companies such as Volvo, SKF and Essity have long been involved in the center. Now it’s time to bring in more companies, she believes.

“Working with life cycle issues takes time and resources and requires persistence. It may be easier for larger companies to make those priorities, but I think we need to continue to spread the benefits of life cycle work to also capture the medium-sized companies”.

What are you looking forward to as the new chairman?

“I want to continue building on everything that is already working well! The life cycle area is constantly evolving, with new requirements and new legislation at the EU level. We must follow the development and continue to communicate with our stakeholders in order for the life cycle perspective to have a positive impact on society’s sustainability work, and to lead to a good dialogue with everyone who uses products and services. I also want to contribute to the continued development of our international network. Because the life cycle perspective is not a Swedish phenomenon, and the issues we deal with are global”.

Text: Ulrika Ernström


About Susan Iliefski Janols

Is: Vice President of Sustainability Products & Services at Essity
Does in her spare time: Susan enjoys being out in nature, doing organic cultivating in the garden, exercising, watching inspiring movies and cooking good food with family and friends.
Why are you passionate about sustainability and the LCA perspective? “There are great challenges facing our fellow human beings and our planet today. I believe that the combination of big and small steps leads to a better world. So, I would like to inspire more people to work with social and environmental issues within sustainability”.