Dr. James A. Fava Retirement
45 Years in Sustainability
Celebrating Jim Fava’s Legacy and Impact on the Future of Sustainable Performance
Dr. James A. Fava (Jim) is known for his holistic desire to make the world a better place. Deemed the “Father of Modern-Day Life Cycle Assessment”, Jim has been recognized as an industry leader for 45 years, making significant contributions to the sustainability and environmentalism movement. As a sustainability pioneer with a storied career, as well as serving as Executive Director for Anthesis Group, Jim has led with purpose and passion, supporting clients to drive business performance using sustainability as a catalyst.
It is with heartfelt gratitude that we announce Jim Fava’s well-deserved retirement, effective December 31, 2022. We have been honored to partner with him since he joined Anthesis in 2016. His incredible leadership has shaped not only Anthesians, but the clients, corporations, and communities he’s met along the way.
Collaborating for the Future of Sustainable Performance
What’s the next step to actualizing positive business impacts through sustainability? In Jim’s words: “We must co-create.” In all stages of product development, marketing, policy development, or other core business functions, we must scale up embedding life cycle thinking and LCA information into core policy and practices. LCA practitioners, designers and business managers must co-create tools and processes that accelerate the purchase and use of products or materials with positive sustainability and business impacts.
Taking Jim’s lead, we celebrate change as we look to the future of Anthesis and sustainability. We are thankful for the core principles he instilled in our teams and will honor his legacy through our continued efforts to activate sustainable performance across the globe.
Join us in congratulating Jim on his new adventures and well-deserved retirement with his wife in Costa Rica. His purpose will continue to drive Anthesians and future sustainability pioneers, as we continue our mission to shape a more productive and resilient world.
“First, I would like to thank everyone who I have connected with, learned from, and hopefully influenced their actions to help create a more sustainable world. When I look back on my career and life, it is their achievements for which I am most proud. I am excited to see the interest, commitment, and enthusiasm of the next generations as they prepare to tackle together the many environmental and social problems facing us. The future is co-creation: collaborating on the next generation of tools, in order to scale necessary information and deliver it at the right time, thus informing decision making. I look forward to observing all these changes with positive impacts, and hope that our paths will cross again.”
“We have much to thank the early pioneers of the sustainability movement for. They set the foundations, tested the methodology, proved the science and made sustainability solutions accessible. And they did this when the subject was unfashionable and on the periphery of what the world thought was important. Why? Because they knew at some point the world would have to pivot, and at that point people needed to be furnished with the know how to navigate the transition.
We are very blessed at Anthesis to be working with some of these early pioneers and it is always a great pleasure to be given the opportunity to honour them. Jim Fava will go down in the history of the sustainability movement as the ‘Godfather’ of Product LCA. World renowned, supporting many of the largest Companies in the world, bringing them together to share wisdom in a pre-competitive space, Jim has led a discipline, now regarded as mainstream for much of his 45 year career. The impact that Jim and his colleagues at Five Winds, many of whom are with Anthesis, has had is remarkable. But more importantly the impact that all this wisdom will have on Companies and their products going forward will ensure a legacy that will be increasingly rewarding.
Let me finish with a personal reflection. In all the times I’ve met Jim I’ve found him to be humble, caring and courageous. This is a rare mix to find in a leader and the way that Jim has graciously imparted his wisdom is an example to all of us looking to collaborate in our desire to redesign and regenerate the systems of our world.
I wish Jim a well-earned rest in his retirement and many fulfilling years to come.”
Career Milestones & Influence
Throughout his career, Jim has continuously mentored, educated, and advocated to make sustainability accessible. From his first introduction to the world’s environmental challenges working on the global USS Oceanographer, Jim observed the effects of pollution on our air, water, and land. This triggered his desire to live and work differently. When working as a consultant early on in his career, it became apparent that there was very little work dedicated to broader issues, such as packaging, climate, and the general impacts of products and consumption. This lapse created the foundation for his remaining career.
To address these broader issues, Jim not only developed tools and strategies that supported businesses and governments to understand the risks and opportunities associated with sustainability, but he also helped them understand the environmental and social issues that are material to them.
One of these tools was Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) – a methodology for assessing environmental impacts associated with the life cycle of a commercial product, process, or service. Jim was a trailblazer in positioning LCA as an essential methodology for addressing the world’s environmental challenges. His work expanded the supply and demand for LCA while influencing leaders across industries. Jim saw and still sees LCA as a means to an end – that is, more sustainability products and businesses.
Jim’s desire to grow the environmental movement extended beyond corporates, leading to many pre-competitive efforts that ultimately grew the market. This included chairing and running multi-stakeholder groups to address product sustainability issues.
- Chaired the ISO’s Strategic Advisory Group on the Environment (SAGE), recommending ISO to develop LCA standards; led the US delegation crafting the 1st generation of ISO LCA standards
- Chaired the inaugural Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Life Cycle Assessment workshops, laying the foundation for the modern day LCA
- Co-founded the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative
- Co-founded the Forum for Sustainability through Life Cycle Initiative (FSLCI)
- Founded the PSRT to connect companies with a shared vision to drive continuous improvement and connect product sustainability priorities to market value.
- Co-founded Five Winds International sustainability consultancy
- Awarded the lifetime achievement award in the field of LCA from the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA)
In 1979, SETAC was created to advance environmental science. Jim got involved in SETAC right away and helped develop a multi-stakeholder Pellston Workshop process. This created the foundation and focus for the next 30+ years of his career.
Through his work with SETAC, Jim learned how to chair and run multi-stakeholder groups to address product sustainability issues (i.e., PSRT). Jim chaired a series of SETAC Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) workshops. During these workshops, the members developed four books, which helped provide the technical and scientific framework for LCA.
- Technical Framework for Life-Cycle Assessment
- A Conceptual Framework for Life-Cycle Impact Assessment
- Life-Cycle Assessment Data Quality: A Conceptual Framework
- Guidelines for Life-Cycle Assessment: A “Code of Practice”
Jim’s early work with SETAC in helping to establish the grounds for modern-day LCA has earned him the unofficial title of ‘Father of Modern-Day LCA’. He was awarded the prestigious Rita Schenck Lifetime Individual LCA Leadership Award from the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment (ACLCA) in 2019.
Learn more about Jim's involvement with LCA
As Jim has always told everyone who seeks out his advice: “Family always comes first”.
Jim met his wife, Jane, in 1970 after returning to university after working and traveling around the world on the Oceanographer. They have been happily married for 52 years, and their family now spans five generations.
Jim’s generational family inspired the shift in his career from simply a job to a passion. He traveled with his immediate family often as his kids, Andrea and Evan, grew up, merging work travel with family time. Jane and Jim have continued to travel the world due to the flexibility of Jim’s career, spending 3-5 days working a week, and 1-3 weeks exploring the countries they visit.
Jim and Jane moved to Costa Rica officially in 2017, after many years providing training for federal and local governments and businesses on environmental issues in Costa Rica.
After Jim’s official retirement on December 31, 2022, he and Jane will continue living in Costa Rica, traveling, and visiting their growing family.
Chris Peterson, Director, sat down with Jim Fava for an informal chat about Jim’s career & life accomplishments, and his advice for young professionals just getting started in the sustainability world.
Watch the exclusive interview here:
“The biggest thing is thinking about what [your life] vision is, and then who are the players in that vision. Many of them are working in silos … We need to break down those silos, and bring Life Cycle Assessment to the beginning of the decision-making process.”
Jim’s professional accomplishments are complemented by the impact he’s made on others. Throughout his career, Jim’s character, passion, and humility have influenced the lives of many.
“Not long after I first met Jim, I quickly came to the realization that he is truly the OG of LCA. What a privilege it’s been, working with you for the last few years, Jim! I have always appreciated your humility, notwithstanding your OG status, and loved hearing a new story about your stellar career every time we host a new joiners’ lunch. Wishing you a wonderful retirement – you will be missed. Our loss is your family’s gain.”
CEO of North America and Asia Pacific, Anthesis Group
“Jim Fava has been extremely influential to me as a sustainability leader. He is known as the grandfather of LCA and he is one of the key figures in making LCA such a valuable tool for addressing the world’s most pressing environmental problems. I still remember when Jim came to JNJ and taught us an LCA 101 course; I am still using these principals today to make product improvements. I am so grateful to know Jim as a friend and thankful for his contributions to my knowledge, and for writing a chapter in my book Greener Products – students all over the world are learning how to make more sustainable brands thanks to him. I wish you much success in your retirement and I know you will never stop making the world a better place. Congratulations Jim on a fantastic career and thanks for everything you taught me!”
Esteé Lauder Companies
“I had no idea who Jim was or what he had already accomplished and established when I was given the opportunity to develop Whirlpool’s Sustainability Strategy and Plans from scratch. When I met Jim, I was full of questions, green (in the newcomer way), and full of excitement and confusion. Interestingly, Jim didn’t sell me a consulting package, he sat down, with his classic calm and reassuring voice, and decided to invest in me and help me understand what I had just stumbled upon, which was bringing purpose and impact to my life and work and how they could actually co-exist. Simply put, he took me under his wing, introduced me to the small but powerful group of thought leaders in the space through personal connections, the PSRT, UNEP-SETAC and other venues. Jim wanted to empower a new generation of sustainability leaders that were not green leaders, but could turn sustainability into a critical business imperative that would and should drive your enterprise strategy. I learned life lessons around the meetings in-between and after the meetings (including solving world issues over a “few” steins of good German beer), the power of influence, work life balance, and much more. Jim’s legacy will not be the father of LCA, but to me as the architect of modern sustainability. One that science and the impact of our products and work, can drive to a better world; that optimism and solutions will win out, not fear and doom and gloom. He showed me that we can solve the big problems we face, and he has built a coalition of the willing at some of the most powerful and influential brands and businesses in the world to do it. So I confidently say now, Happy retirement Jim, we are willing and now able to take it from here!
“It is my pleasure to share a few things about Jim: He is incredibly thoughtful, very kind, worldly, highly curious, and really smart. I am so incredibly grateful for having Jim as a friend, colleague and mentor for over a decade. He was instrumental in helping me to work through challenging initiatives at both Johnson & Johnson and Teva which contributed to both companies in becoming outstanding leaders in their respective sectors. Look forward to working with you as you guide the initial life cycle assessment work at Modern Meadow. Thank you for ALL your amazing impacts and I feel VERY blessed to have you in my life! Jim is someone who I have known for 15+ years and when he makes a commitment, he always delivers.”
Modern Meadow, Inc.
“I was a graduate student assistant to the local organizer of ISO TC 207 when I first met Dr. Fava in Seoul nearly 25 years ago. I read perhaps all of his formative works on LCA published till then. I was young and fearless enough to walk up to him after his talk and to ask critical questions. He was willing to take my questions seriously and talk to this crazy student of absolutely no importance at length, while well-known scholars of the field and other delegates were literally lined up to get ahold of him. While it was his work that formed the foundation of my LCA knowledge as a scholar and practitioner, it was his humility and character that taught me whom I want to grow into as a person. Thank you, Jim, for touching not only the brains but also the souls of many. It is true blessing to have you in our field.”
University of California, Santa Barbara
“As an architect and design educator, I am committed to improving design’s ecological profile through integrating LCA’s quantitative scientific methodology into the designer’s qualitative and creative activities. How incredibly fortunate are we all that Dr. James Fava, a leading founder of modern Life Cycle Assessment, knew from the start what it would take to increase and expand the impact of LCA to improve how we build our world. Jim understood that, with the right tools, many less technical disciplines can embrace this dynamically evolving sustainability framework; he saw that design, for instance, could directly benefit from data and standards produced by the scientific community in chemistry, physics, biology and the earth sciences. My own work in this field has its roots in what Jim started with SETAC over 30 years ago in the summer of 1990 at Smugglers Notch. For this, I am personally grateful.
Over these past three decades, Jim has tirelessly mentored, advocated, educated, and actively collaborated to make metrics based sustainability accessible to experts beyond LCA in complementary fields like design and commerce. He has made significant contributions to the general field of industrial ecology through a career generously spent developing and promoting both life cycle thinking and life cycle assessment. Jim’s vision and hard work will materially benefit the lives of generations to come.”
New Jersey Institute of Technology, Hiller College of Architecture
“Jim is one of those 100% sincere and genuine humans. There is never a false pretense or hidden agenda with Jim. While he is interested in learning about how to solve sustainability challenges, he is equally interested in learning about people, including what they care about, what motivates them, and what aspirations or ambitions they have. This is why everyone who knows Jim, respects and appreciates him. He has devoted his career to making the world a better place for the next generation and has done that in a way that includes, inspires, and brings people along with him. He never pretended he was the smartest person in the room, but instead was intentional about elevating other voices and connecting people when he knew they had shared challenges or aspirations. I never felt like an employee of Jim’s, but rather a co-collaborator who had something unique and valuable to contribute. This mutual respect for my colleagues and genuine curiosity about other people are values Jim instilled in me and tenets I have carried with me as I grew into leadership roles.”
Executive Director, Anthesis Group
“What has impacted me most, personally:
Working alongside you in workshops, and observing at close range how you can simply take over the room, muster 100% attention of participants, and engage however many dozen brains into the task you are proposing… I particularly remember the ideation workshop for the sector level hotspots analysis approach, held in Paris, France (together with Mark Barthel, another giant!), and the one where we applied it in Pattaya, Thailand. I tried to observe your techniques and clumsily strive to apply them since then! I’d appreciate a few more lessons though…
I would also add your capacity to see the bigger picture and compromise to bring broad teams along. This I have observed most in the ILCB meetings in 2014-2016 when we were shifting towards a new strategy for the Life Cycle Initiative, adapting it to new times and realities.
What has impacted work and positive sustainability impacts:
While there would probably be a lot to talk here, and your contributions to the early years of LCA formalisation are probably top, what I have seen closest is all the work in making sense of the complex information and approaches from LCA through boiling it down to the Hotspots analysis guidelines. I’m not sure if you’d see the methodological framework and guidance as the culmination of it, but I have certainly experienced it as a critical deliverable that has continued to influence and deliver positive impact well beyond its initial remit. Most notably, this guidance is the backbone (as well as many of the muscles and organs) of what then became the UNEP publication on the value chain approach to SCP, launched in UNEA5.1 (led by One Planet Network and International Resource Panel following a request from UNEA4, but the Initiative should have been recognised as a third co-lead…). This value chain approach is informing the UNEP Medium-Term Strategy (MTS) 2022-2025, and it will probably continue influencing the way UNEP tackles high-impact sectors, so there! The whole point on impact is of course that the life-cycle perspective and approach allows us to tackle problems faster (by focusing on the hotspots / key drivers of impacts) and more efficiently (by pointing to potential unintended trade-offs): while selling the “life-cycle approach” has been taking a bit longer, people got the hotspots and the value chain… your clarity in bringing down a complex approach into a set of relatable bite-sized steps has been crucial in this.”
Llorenc Mila i Canals
“I first met Jim when I was working at Environment Canada and I was looking for a consultant to help us write a Life Cycle Management Guide for Business. That was 1996 an as usual with Jim, we were on the crest of the wave in terms of thinking how to integrate a life cycle perspective into decision-making. He was at Roy F. Weston at the time and was trying to grow a practice focused on products and sustainability. He created a forum – the Product Sustainability Round Table – to help clients understand and track the ISO environmental management standards and it was in that forum, between the standards negotiations, that Jim, myself, Konrad Saur and Steve Young started a conversation about what an international consultancy focused on improving the sustainability of products would look like. We launched Five Winds International in 1998 at the San Francisco ISO TC207 meeting and we were very anxious and excited. The morning of the launch we ate breakfast in a Chinatown restaurant and had an animated conversation about our main messages and how to describe our services. After about hour a gentleman sitting next to us came over to our table and said we seemed very excited about what we are doing but that he had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. It was lesson in humility that we carried forward into our work with Jim leading the way. Five Winds character as a company reflect Jim’s management philosophy, honest, professional, client first orientation, and humble. There are so many lessons I got from working with Jim but I think the most important one was leaving space for people to say what they think. He never imposed his views and masterfully facilitated people to a common view on challenging issues. A skill that the sustainability community needs to emulate more.”
“A true Friend understanding the power of collaboration and recognising the need to grow the concept of lifecycle thinking and LCA in Industry, if we want to address the global challenges.”
“Jim, I admire you, because of four main reasons:
a) I like you as a human being very much. The globe would need more person like you.
b) You are an early starter in “understanding” life-cycle sustainability. When I started in 1994 in this “brand new topic”, you already co-authored the “code-of-practice”. You are really a pioneer.
c) You are an authentic, honest and holistic thinking person spreading the word and finding solutions from a systems perspective and as a win-win for all involved stakeholders.
d) You are persistent not to give up, but to “try try again” to link scientific knowhow and practical application in a way that benefits people, profit, planet directly and not only in the future.
I always loved to work with you on SETAC and UN level to get as much as possible aspects applied in a useful and constructive way. I like to close with a quote of Mahatma Gandhi thats fits to our work in LCA.
‘First they try to ignore you, then they laugh about you, then they try to fight you and in the end you win.’ ”
“While working with Jim at Five Winds International, I learnt an important lesson about competition in the sustainability consultancy space. We used to have a rather tense relationship with some of our frenemies. When discussions stalled because both sides defended their market share, Jim intervened and said: Let’s grow the market together, rather than dividing it and fighting over the small pieces. This advice still resonates with me today. Being a Managing Director in a sustainability strategy consultancy myself now, I often remind myself that we are just parts of a larger ecosystem, which comes into its full potential when we collaborate and leverage our diversity to build a global movement.”
Dr.-Ing. Ivo Mersiowsky
Quantis GmbH & Co.
“Through my activities as UNEP officer responsible for the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative I got to know Jim Fava as a creative leader systematically advocating for the use of life cycle thinking in companies by life cycle management. In this way, he contributed to the generation of business value and positive sustainability impact through a wide range of industrial sectors. In 2015 we co-founded with colleagues the Forum for Sustainability through Life Cycle Innovation (FSLCI). Again here, in preparing for this launch and then in making the organization growing, Jim Fava showed vision, direction and support that were crucial to leverage the power of our community in promoting life cycle innovation as a path to foster sustainability.”
Prof. Dr. Guido Sonnemann
University of Bordeaux
“I have been lucky enough to work with Jim for my entire career. From the first time I had a chance to meet him in-person, at my first Five Winds International company retreat, I was impressed with how invested he was in sustainability, but more importantly, how passionate he was about bringing people along for the ride. Jim is unmatched in his ability to bring people into the conversation. Beyond all of his directly impactful work, I think he has magnified it thousands of times through that ability to broaden the conversation rather than try to lead it. I’ve been in numerous situations where he could have easily dominated a roundtable discussion based on his experience, but instead he will often focus on listening to everyone in the room. Then, in a few short sentences, pull together a broad, complex conversation into a series of thoughtful, actionable and practical next steps.
One of my favourite experiences with Jim was at another company retreat early in my career. Jim had asked me to facilitate a series of all-staff workshops which was something I had not yet done in my career and I was nervous. I remember sitting down with him the night before for a great heart to heart discussion on my own career, our families, our work and so on. I thanked him for the opportunity to take a lead on facilitating, but I also told him that it felt a bit like I was being tested and that I better do a good job! He did his famous Jim chuckle under his breath and said, “Well…. it kind of is a test!”. But being the person Jim is, he followed that up with so much encouragement and his rationale for why he knew I would succeed at it, that rather than leaving the conversation intimidated or nervous, I left more confident than ever. I went on to work more closely with Jim for many years and he has continued to challenge and encourage me the whole time. I know he has done similar things for so many people because whenever I mention his name to a mutual contact, they always smile and they always have a positive story they want to share about Jim. So while he may be retiring I will hold to my theory that his name will continue to be the safest name-drop that you can bring to a conversation – everyone loves Jim! Thanks for everything Jim.”
Director, Anthesis Group
Jim, thank you for your vision to start Five Winds (one of the few niche sustainability consulting firms that existed decades ago), and for giving me the opportunity to be part of such a passionate team of people working on sustainability well before it was accepted and trendy. I learned so much working with you on early, ground-breaking projects (e.g. developing sustainability standards, supporting research and collaboration at industry associations, etc.) and will forever be grateful for the opportunity to join and lead the Product Sustainability Roundtable (PSRT) for 5 years, which is still the highlight of my career! Through the PSRT, we formed deep relationships with sustainability leads across a number of large companies in different sectors and met (and travelled!) with them four times a year to openly discuss challenges and best practices in sustainability – it was a ton of fun, and I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without that invaluable experience. Working with you on these projects, I learned a lot from your experience and wisdom – things like the importance of taking a lifecycle approach and prioritizing ‘hotspots’ where you can have the most impact, and using sustainability concepts to create long-term commercial value. It’s really neat to see how the ISO standards and foundations of good sustainability management that you helped to build throughout your career are being applied globally now that sustainability is ‘mainstream’. Thank you for your 45+ years of contributions to sustainability, and your mentorship and friendship. Enjoy your retirement – you’ve earned it!
Associate Director, Anthesis Group
“About 10 years ago Jim visited us in New Zealand and facilitated a workshop on the business value of sustainability to a wide range of organisations. This was a game changer for many of the attendees. Translating sustainability into business language has taken down barriers in those organisations and as a result key initiatives got off the ground. We still receive feedback from some of the delegates of this workshop today. Thanks Jim for accelerating sustainability in New Zealand!
Jim’s golden rule no 3 “LCA information is essential, but not sufficient” has been the guiding principle on how we have built our business. Expanding from our core capability in LCA out to strategy work, circular economy, communication. Thanks Jim for being such a great mentor and friend!”
“Jim inspired me to think about the “who” in my work – who are we trying to help and what question are they trying to answer through LCA. When you do that, you realize that the problem we must solve as a community is that of scale.”
“Jim leaves us his torch to carry forward to ensure that LCA is used effectively to shed light on opportunities to improve both sustainability impact and business value across the lifecycle of a product, enterprise, system, etc. Jim is masterful at ensuring that LCA studies are designed to support decision making, that non-LCA information is married with LCA results for holistic insights, and that study outcomes are communicated in an understandable, actionable way. His work is the foundation for sensible decision making in all things sustainability – from sustainable packaging to second-hand product resale programs and beyond. The Anthesis LCA team has enjoyed the privilege of Jim’s close tutelage over these many years. We wish him a joyous retirement!”
Executive Director, Anthesis Group
“Working with Jim over the last years has been a treasure chest. The wealth of knowledge, creative ideas and the readiness to implement has been a role model. This is combined with a balanced perspective on the business environment and on people’s needs has been a North Star. Needless to say that I am honored and privileged to work with Jim in various projects on Life Cycle, all types of sustainability assessment and as a member of BASF Sustainability Advisory Board. Particularly, I would like to highlight the impact he has generated by providing inputs into the costing module of our eco-efficiency analysis.”
“My first job out of University was working for Jim and Five Winds International. Those first 5 years of my career taught me immensely under his leadership. His ability to see the long-term and strategic view, his empathy for others, his courage to stick the path during a time that was tough for sustainability consulting – and most of all his belief in me – helped shape me as a person and as a leader. I consider it a privilege to have worked for Jim – I am so happy he is living the Pura Vida!”
“Across a 23 year sustainability career, there is only one person with whom I have had the privilege of working from day 1 – that person is Jim Fava. From our initial meeting at Five Winds International in May 1999 to the present, Jim has been a tremendous guide, mentor, friend, and an excellent source of inspiration in my professional and personal life. Working with Jim has been an exclusive, multi-decade master class to consulting and life. As a colleague, Jim has taught me more about finer points of being a world-class consultant than any other person or experience. Developing deep and long term relationships with people, is a hallmark of Jim’s success…it was one sage characteristic that I thoroughly admired and was eager to emulate – one which I foster in others today. As a newbie consultant, Jim entrusted me with the management and growth of his illustrious Product Sustainability Roundtable (PSRT). This served not only to considerably elevate my project management skills but also to interact with an elite group of sustainability professionals. Jim’s calm, understated approach to facilitating consensus on complex sustainability issues within a multi-stakeholder setting is an experience like no other. Of the many projects and clients throughout my career, working directly with Jim to adapt the use hotspots analysis as a framework for rapidly and robustly producing several sustainability standards, and then applying it to three industry associations, was a learning experience beyond comparison. This work precipitated another close engagement with Jim and his network within the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, where we were able to leverage our newly formed approach as a key input into developing global-level guidance on hotspots analysis.
Jim’s excellence and example transcended his professional life and was fully integrated to all aspects of his life. Amidst the rigors of a demanding career, Jim taught me the importance of his “family first” mantra – as exemplified into steadfast dedication to his family – always prioritizing ample time for what is truly important.
Across the decades, with many changes to sustainability and challenges to business, including within his own company’s history Jim learned to “celebrate change”. Admittedly this is still a lesson that I am learning to embrace, but Jim’s example in this sphere continues to guide. No doubt Jim will continue to fully celebrate his past accomplishments and new adventures.
Jim, to say it was an incredible an honor to work with you is an enormous understatement. Words inadequately sum the impact that you have had on my career, to speak nothing of your influence on the hundreds of professionals globally. I want to take this opportunity to reflect, recognize and celebrate your incredible career, but even more importantly to acknowledge with gratitude – you, as an amazing human and friend. Wishing you delight and success as you transition to this new chapter.”
Director, Anthesis Group
“I remember meeting Jim for the first time in 2005 as an intern at Stanley Black & Decker. My boss, Ted Gogoll, was an early member of the Product Sustainability Roundtable and was hosting the group’s meeting in Towson where our office was. I was fortunate that I was in the office during one day of the meeting and was able to attend. Little did I know that would be the beginning of a great friendship with Jim as well as many more Product Sustainability Roundtable meetings over the years.
Jim was an early pioneer in transitioning the thinking in Sustainability from a chemical management issue to a wholistic product issue. The great thing about focusing on product (especially for a product development company) is that it requires buy in from many functions at a company to be successful which works to change the culture of a company. Furthermore, Jim knew that to make progress, companies would need to feel comfortable sharing freely on the details of their successes and failures. He structured the group to contain companies that led in their industry and worked to minimize any competitive situations where free sharing could be stifled. And, maybe it was just the times before Zoom became a part of our vocabulary, but the physical meetings really were a great escape from the issues at the office and provided some time dig into this topic. Webinars and virtual conferences cannot hold a candle to these sessions and I’ve yet to find a comparable replacement to the PSRT.
Over the years, Jim and I learned that we both graduated from the same High School (Severna Park – Go Falcons!) and University (Maryland – Go Terps!). Jim also made sure to check up and ensure I kept working on my graduate degree, which I eventually finished, and I appreciate all of his support along the way. There are too many great memories to list all of them but some of my favorites include – Lambeau Leaping in Green Bay, the Science Barge in NYC, Crazy hats and accordion at the German restaurant, and MRF tours in both Lancaster and Chicago. It’s hard to believe going forward that Jim won’t be a fixture in the Sustainability field, however, we are all very grateful of his contributions to the field – not only his individual contributions which are many, but all of the folks he trained and mentored along the way that are still carrying on the mission. Jim – I wish you a relaxing and sustainable retirement – you deserve it!”
Stanley Black & Decker
“Jim has been a guiding force in the field of sustainability for as long as I can recall. I remember seeing Jim’s name attached to seminal work in LCA when I first began work in the field in the mid-1990s. I had no idea at that time that I would have multiple opportunities to discuss challenges in the field with him directly and brainstorm potential solutions as part of the Product Sustainability Roundtable and beyond. Jim brought a unique and important perspective to the field that emphasized decisions over data. His work combined immense enthusiasm and passion for sustainability with an inherent understanding of what would drive change in organizations. Many of us in sustainability have been travelling in Jim’s orbit for a while now and will have to figure out how to continue the journey without his gravitational pull.”
David V. Spitzley
“I joined Johnson Wax Professional as a toxicologist in 2001. As a new employee, I spent a lot of time reading reports, studies, and other product support documents. I remember opening a big manila folder that was full of something called ‘Weston Summaries’ and was amazed by all the well-crafted, concise guidance documents that established foundational elements for our approach to product stewardship. It was the first time I saw the name, “Jim Fava”.
Not long after, I heard about “5 Winds”, then a group called the “Product Stewardship Roundtable”, which hosted meetings for professionals to share best practices on environmental responsibility, product stewardship, and life cycle assessment. I knew this was in my wheelhouse and I had to get involved. I started to work directly with Jim when we developed LCA capabilities in-house. Who better to learn from, but the father of LCA himself?
Eventually, I was able to convince my bosses that I was worthy enough to attend some PSRT meetings. I remember great conferences hosted by Kimberly Clark, Johnson & Johnson, and BASF. PSRT meetings were a place where professionals could let down their guard and be open about their frustrations and challenges. The meetings were successful and collegial because Jim was there to facilitate a productive dialogue. For first time attendees at a PSRT, Jim’s contagious smile and friendly demeanor put people at ease and created an environment where we all wanted to help and create something positive.
Over the years, I’ve worked with Jim on a lot of projects, asked for free advice, and referred many colleagues to him because he is THE expert. In 2012, our company was going through an integration after being acquired and, is often the case, there was a lot of career uncertainty. At the PSRT meeting that year, I asked Jim if he had a couple minutes to spare. We took a nice walk on a warm April afternoon. Jim listened, asked a few questions, gave me some good advice, and helped put my mind at ease. He was right, everything did turn out alright. I’m grateful to have learned from Jim and to consider him a friend and mentor.”
“In our Product Sustainability Roundtable discussions, I always admired how Jim created an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust where all participants not only shared their successes, but also spoke openly about challenges and failures. With his unique ability to build bridges between high level strategy and day-to-day business operations, Jim extracted valuable insights from any of our experiences, encouraging us to set ambitious targets and implement them step-by-step.” optional extensions: “In my roles at the intersection of sustainability and innovation, Jim inspired me to engage internal and external stakeholders with life cycle thinking from the onset of innovation processes, so that higher business value could be generated from more sustainable products.” “It was my privilege to meet Jim in my early days as sustainability professional. He has been one of my role models ever since, both at a professional and at a personal level.”
Dr.-Ing. Carina Maria Alles
Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE)
“· Professional colleague and personal friend for over 35 years, helping me to creatively think about LCA and sustainability and develop my contributions to advancement of the science and practice
· Recognized very early on the benefit of having an inclusive method for assessing the environmental consequences of products and services across their life cycle
· Supported and led the actions to formalize the LCA methodology scientifically through the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) Pellston Workshops® and internationally through ISO and the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative
· Connected metrics and outcomes of the science of LCA to business value creation and communicated with audiences on both fronts, and · Fostered many activities in the form of live and online fora to create awareness, bring multi-disciplinary groups together, and to bridge gaps in thinking, vocabulary and institutional differences around the use of LCA in the pursuit of sustainability goals.”
Breveja Environmental Consulting LLC
“I got to know Jim during my time working as an intern for the UNEP / SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. Back then he was clearly regarded as an influential and important stakeholder in the office and thus when I got to meet him for the first time, I was really impressed by his approachability and kindness. As the “father of LCA” he was not only quite knowledgeable, but universally liked by everyone and genuinely interested in learning more about other people’s perspectives and ideas. Over the following years Jim became not only a great colleague, a supportive mentor and eventually a wonderful co-founder instrumental in launching the Forum for Sustainability through Life Cycle Innovation (FSLCI), but also a great friend! He has been one of the most supportive people throughout my career and it has been an immense pleasure working together with Jim to promote Life Cycle Thinking around the world! I look forward to continue being guided and inspired by his support and vision.”
Forum for Sustainability through Life Cycle Innovation e.V.
“… Jim … We go back over 40 years in our collective LCA and sustainability journey. From your early days at Weston Solutions, Inc., and my early days at Mobil Chemical Company, we’ve collaborated many times and added to our experiences with many organizations – and managed to find a common thread in LCA. Appreciate all your pioneering work in this field and am sure we’ll both continue to meet again and have an impact to mentor the next generation of rising LCAers. All the best”
“Through Jim’s innovation, expertise, generosity, and wisdom, he has made a lasting impact and strengthened the practice of LCA. His 10 Golden Rules leave a lasting legacy and challenge us all to make the most of what LCA offers for a more sustainable future.”
American Center for Life Cycle Assessment
“Jim, you have been a guiding light in my career and taught me the value of science-based decision making. Thank you for your leadership and guidance.”
Pamela Gill Alabaster
“Meeting Jim was a major career highlight for me. Coming from a developing country that was just beginning to implement life cycle perspectives, and having read about Jim’s work at the LC Initiative, it was an honor to coincide and have the possibility to collaborate together through the years. Through Jim, I found the FSCLI, a vibrant and active international community that helps disseminate the implementation of LC perspectives. Thank you, Jim, for your mentorship and vision, your legacy is inspiring.”
I first met Jim back in 2016 when we were discussing the possibility of him and his former Five Winds team joining Anthesis. Jim was already known to me, having played a pioneering role in the widespread industry application of LCA and being one of the early evangelists of the need to demonstrate the business value of sustainability. Despite his stellar industry reputation, I immediately found Jim to be very personable and humble. In fact, my biggest takeaway from those early conversations was Jim’s passion for nurturing talent and his dedication to supporting the personal and professional development of those around him. Fast forward to 2022 and while I am very sad to see Jim retire, I am pleased to report that his Anthesis legacy is alive in well, represented by the influential positions his former mentees now hold within the business. Talk with anyone who has worked closely with Jim and the conversation will inevitably refer to “lessons” learned from Jim that they are still applying on a daily basis! While I have only known Jim for the latter stages of his career, I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with him and witness the results of his enduring legacy firsthand!
President/Managing Director, Anthesis Group
I met Jim when joining Five Winds International. Five winds was the only company I wanted to work for after finishing my grad degree, which was effectively in sustainable manufacturing and products. Jim, along with Kevin and John, had built a values-driven consultancy that looked for the true financial case for businesses to invest in protecting people and the environment, which is exactly what had compelled me to go to business school. And they were doing so with a systems-perspective that was mindful of and mitigated unintended tradeoffs of one environmental impact to another; and their solutions considered the big picture strategy with a strong foundation in measurement. The philosophy of the company 100% shaped who I became as a sustainability professional as a result. Jim quickly became a role model in other ways too – in finding a balance between work and life, in being people-centric in managing teams as well as clients, and in modeling that being a subject matter expert in ‘how’ to do something (the process) was not only an option instead of being knowledgeable about ‘facts’ or ‘issues’, but it could also produce a meaningful and impactful career. This also has shaped my career trajectory completely. Many have already shared how impactful the Product Sustainability Round Table was to their business or careers, and I am no different. I learned how to plan and facilitate meetings, I learned about critical product sustainability challenges and practical ways to make progress, and most importantly – how to pace my energy to get through the 4-5 days it took to deliver these 4x annual events. 🙂 I always imagined I’d work with Jim again in some capacity (John, Jenn, Chris, Josh, Curtis, Andrea, let’s connect 😊 ), because working with the Five Winds team is the closest I’ll ever come to working for the ‘family business’; the Five Winds team really was like working with family. I think of our ‘advances’ (more positive than a ‘retreat’), and the general camaraderie of the group often. I suppose I’ll have to settle with living vicariously through his social media updates from Costa Rica, where he was kind enough to host me and a couple of friends when visiting the country, resulting in one of the best days of our trip. Jim was a role model and friend, and has been even in the time since we have not been colleagues. Congrats on your retirement, Jim – it is well deserved. Hundreds of people and the world of sustainability miss you already.