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A day in the life of a life cycle assessment officer

Here at Carbon60, we love placing people into roles that have a positive impact. What makes us even happier is when those people tell us how much they love their jobs.

One such person is Darcy Kelly. She’s a Life Cycle Assessment Officer at Innospec, a global speciality chemical company. This is one of the most interesting roles we recruit for – one which is especially relevant in a world where sustainability is at the forefront of people’s minds. We thought it was worth sitting down with Darcy to find out more about the company, her role and her route into it.

If you’re interested in a career in chemical engineering, focusing on sustainability, take a look at our Q&A with Darcy.

Tell us briefly what a Life Cycle Assessment Officer does.

Part of the answer is in the name – we analyse and assess the entire lifecycle of a product. The aim is to look at all the processes that are involved in making and bringing a product to market. This will enable us to see which has the biggest impact on the environment. It’s then about finding solutions that can improve this.

What exactly does Innospec do and what attracted you to them?

Innospec is a Speciality Chemical company. They have three core business units: Performance Chemicals, Fuel Specialties and Oilfield Services. 

Our Performance Chemicals business manufactures chemicals which are used in products sold in the personal care, home care, agrochemical, and mining markets. We develop cutting-edge, high-performance solutions for our customers’ processes or products that help contribute to a more sustainable environment. 

The Fuel Specialties business is an industry leader in the development and production of innovative fuel additive technology for a range of fuels. Our additives help improve fuel efficiency as well as reduce harmful emissions.

Our Oilfield Services business offers a full range of speciality products and technical field services for drilling, stimulation, production and midstream applications. These services are available in the US, South America, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific. These products help improve operational efficiency.

This is one of the things I like most about Innospec. They're trying to make things like engines and consumer products last longer, which contributes to a better environment. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

My day involves a lot of data collection, looking at all the key points of the product lifecycle from start to finish. I look at the materials involved – what are they, where are they coming from and how do they get transported from point to point? As a result, I engage with suppliers to gain a more in-depth understanding of the raw materials we use in our processes. 

How did you get into the role?

This was a brand new role that Innospec created. More and more of their customers were asking for Life Cycle Assessments, so they brought me in as a graduate to train up. Currently, I’m working with our external consultancies to analyse all the processes and hotspots, but eventually, I’ll be conducting these myself.

What are some of the most important qualities a Life Cycle Assessment Officer needs?

I think a passion for data and statistical modelling helps, which wasn’t a problem for me as I loved Maths – It might sound geeky, but it’s true! Collecting and analysing the data is quite a time-consuming process so you need patience and good attention to detail. Communication is another key aspect – both written and verbal – as you need to present your findings and suggestions. 

The other really important thing I’ve found you need is an open mind. You may have a solution that would make things better from a sustainability point of view – but what if it’s more expensive? You then need to do a lifecycle cost assessment and try to find a balance that works for the business.

You mentioned you came in as a graduate – tell us a bit about your previous history and any influences that made you venture into this field.

I studied Maths, Chemistry and Physics for my A Levels. Maths was what I enjoyed most but my family encouraged me to delve into Science as there are more opportunities there. I studied Chemical Engineering at university as I knew it’d give me lots of options for my career.

One of the modules I studied was actually around Life Cycle Assessments, and I knew when I graduated I wanted to work in sustainability. I wasn’t 100% sure what that would be so I took a break after university. When I saw this role with Innospec, I thought it was perfect. This means I get to analyse a wide range of products and processes, meaning the skills I learn will apply to a range of applications. 

What have you learnt since starting this role?

There’s so much I’ve learnt. However, one of the main lessons is that, while sustainability is a collaborative effort – the bigger companies have the biggest impact, so that’s where the difference can be made. So being in this role makes me feel like I can contribute more to sustainability.

How does it feel to be a woman who works both in chemical and engineering? That’s pretty unique!

It’s something I’m very proud of. At university, most of the people on my course were men, although we did have a Women in Science and Engineering Society that I was a part of. I’m so pleased to be where I am.

Just as important is the fact that I’m doing something which aligns with my values. Not many people from my course ended up in sustainability, but again, it was something I was passionate about. I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey takes me next!

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