When the global economy crashed in 2008, Jason Pierce, a young Eastman chemical engineer, decided to reinvent himself.
“I was working on a large project, and it got cancelled,” Pierce remembered. “So I had to figure things out — reinvent what I was going to do at Eastman.”
That reinvention went by three letters: LCA.
That stands for life cycle assessment, which analyzes the potential environmental impacts of a product. It starts with the raw material and continues across the life cycle and through the energy and manufacturing process.
Back then, life cycle assessment (LCA) was almost unheard of in the materials industry. But the discipline of methodically determining the environmental footprint of products resonated with Pierce, now Eastman’s senior technical leader for LCA.
“I’m a big outdoorsman and love the environment, love sustainability, so I saw this as an opportunity to join my passion with my capabilities as an engineer,” said Pierce, a native of Louisville, Kentucky. “At first, it was just sort of a side project. But over time, it really opened my eyes to where the world was heading in terms of the need for a circular economy and how important carbon footprint was going to be in this new world.”
Now the value of LCA to a more sustainable world is clear, and Pierce is recognized as one of the world’s top experts. He recently received the 2023 Corporate LCA Leadership Award from the American Center for Life Cycle Assessment. It’s one of the highest professional honors in his field.
His manager, Fred Colhoun, said Pierce performed the company’s first documented life cycle assessment in 2008 and built the team from the ground up.
“Jason’s work has been so important,” said Colhoun, group leader for circular economy and life cycle assessment. “He started the practice of LCA back in 2008, trained all of our practitioners, and oversaw its transformation from a niche tool to something that underpins the value proposition of our circular technologies and guides our corporate decarbonization journey.”
Eastman uses LCA to improve processes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is critical to our climate strategy. It also provides data to customers to empower them to make more sustainable material choices. For example, a product made with Eastman Renew materials from molecular recycling can improve a product’s life cycle assessment.
Pierce’s career speaks volumes and channels his passion to preserve and enjoy the environment.
“I’ve spent 15 years serving and building up experience in this,” Pierce said. “To be recognized as an international expert in LCA — it just feels really good.”