Introduction to the Database

The ecoinvent database contains more than 20’000 reliable life cycle inventory datasets, covering a range of sectors.

Jan 1st, 2024

See the updates on the newest version of the ecoinvent database here.

These include agriculture and animal husbandry, building and construction, chemicals and plastics, energy, forestry and wood, metals, textiles, transport, touristic accommodation, waste treatments and recycling, and water supply, among other industrial sectors. 

See all sectors here

Each activity in the ecoinvent database is attributed to a geographic location. Geographic locations, otherwise referred to as "geographies", are reported using internationally accepted abbreviations as part of the dataset’s name. As the ecoinvent Database is a background database, the aim is to cover activities in the most relevant geographies for the selected product or service. At the same time, geographic coverage is dependent on data quality and availability. Thus, almost every activity in the database features a dataset representing the process globally, meaning the average global production. 

For each dataset in the ecoinvent Database, Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) scores for several impact assessment methods (such as “IPCC 2021”, “EF v3.1”, or “ReCiPe”) and corresponding impact categories (such as “climate change”, “human toxicity”, “water use”, or “land use”) are available. 

The structure of the database allows users to trace the impacts of their products throughout the supply chain and understand their results. Moreover, it grants flexibility as it allows different uses of the data depending on the users’ needs. Apart from the LCIA Database Fundamentals Impact Assesment scores for individual products, users may, for example, also be interested in emission profiles, bills of materials, material flows, mass, water and carbon accounts, or average technology mixes. 

The ecoinvent database is a library of activities representing industrial or agricultural processes, each generating a resulting product. Each of these activities can also be called a unit process (UPR). Over 20’000 processes covering around 3’500 distinct products across all economic sectors are included in the latest version of the ecoinvent database.

The processes in the ecoinvent database represent the average production conditions within a geographical location, rather than company-specific or site-specific conditions. For example, the ecoinvent database would contain a process for the average banana production in Ecuador, rather than for banana production at the farm of a specific fruit company. Furthermore, the contained products are primarily intermediate products rather than final consumer products. For example, the database would contain wheat flour but not pasta made from that flour. 

Database Overview 

The database overview file describes the contents of the database. The following information is contained in the file: 

  • Activity Overview

    The activity overview for the undefined data and each of the 4 system models provide a list of all datasets that are available in the database for the respective system model. Datasets for specific processes can be searched for by activity name or by using the United Nations industry classification system, ISIC (International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities). Additionally, each dataset is assigned to one or more sectors (e.g., Electricity, Wood, Transport, etc.), which allows to easily identify processes that belong to the same sector. Datasets can also be searched based on the product(s) they produce, either using the product name or based on the CPC (Central Product Classification) of the product. 

  • Ecoinvent Geographies

    The geographies used in the ecoinvent database are listed. The type of geography (country, region, etc) is provided, as well as information about how the geographies overlap each other. 

  • LCIA Methods

    The list of all indicators of the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) methods for which ecoinvent calculates impact scores is given. The versions of the methods are provided, as well as information on where to find the documentation and original source of the characterization factors of the different methods.

Data Quality Guideline 

This data quality guideline describes the methodology behind the modelling of the ecoinvent Database. It contains information on the applied LCA methodology, the general structure of the database, specific guidelines for data submission, a description of the review process, as well as a detailed description of the system models.