Most important in the operationalization step is to find a sustainable business model. It’s often easier to find funding for the creation of a database than for the further development and maintenance. Several funding options have already been mentioned: public, private and in-kind.
For the operationalization different options could be pursued:
- Continued public funding: in many countries having a national database is seen as a prerequisite for robust metrics on the environmental performance of products, services and organisations. For that public funding is made available. It is, for instance, how ecoinvent has started.
- Licenses: one way of establishing a sustainable income is through the sales of licenses to the data. The main background databases, ecoinvent and GaBi, operate on this model, although one of them is a not for profit and the other commercial.
- Memberships: people or organisations pay to become a member. These membership fees are used to maintain and extend the database. Members can get benefits in return, like access to the database. The membership contribution can also be in kind.
- Philanthropy: funding from foundations can be sought after. Often this will be in the form of a grant.
For any business model it’s key that there’s clear added value of a database. This will generate a foundation for a viable business model and create a business case for the use of LCA.
Other aspects that require attention in the operationalization phase are:
- Risk management
- Monitoring progress
- Routines for database maintenance
- Business case for National Databases