Introduction to ecoinvent Version 3

With version 3, we have adopted the new ecoSpold 2 data format. While the data format may not concern you much, the new capabilities of the format may interest you. First of all, the commenting and documentation functions of the datasets have been greatly increased. While very useful, the old documentation in the reports needed to be opened separately and searched for the correct information, and changes were only documented in separate change reports. With the new data format, we can provide more documentation directly within the dataset. This allows e.g. the tool providers to give you better direct access to the information on where and how a dataset was generated and where the values originate, and modifications and updates of the data on the inventory are now more easily traceable. We have encouraged our new data providers to use this feature – the old datasets still refer to the existing reports if they have not been updated. Many users will also be happy to hear that the reports that have so far been available only in German are now also available in English on the file section of the ecoinvent database version 3.0.


The data format also allows us to use mathematical relations and other calculation aides within the dataset.


There are many new functionalities – at the same time we have worked hard to create a new version that still feels comfortable and familiar. To first orient yourself in ecoinvent version 3, we think it is enough to summarise that



  • there is a choice of system models for different modelling approaches,
  • there is now a difference between product and activity (process) names,
  • there are now consumption mixes, called markets, and in the ecoinvent supply chains they typically connect the producers and consumers,
  • that during allocation, recycling products are allocated at the point of substitution, which changes the way these datasets look and may result in long lists of flows,
  • and that results have in many cases changed enough to make comparisons with older studies difficult.


With thousands of new and updated datasets, more global supply chains and all the other features, the LCIA results of many products changed – sometimes significantly. Consequently, comparing results of version 3 to results of older ecoinvent versions, e.g. version 2.2, requires taking these changes into account. Using both versions in e.g. a sensitivity analysis can be enlightening and can help you understand the new version, but we explicitly advise against unchecked comparing of results of studies based on version 3 to results of other studies based on older versions of ecoinvent – as we have also advised users in previous updates. In our analysis, especially the update of the electricity sector (which affects almost all life cycles), the increased significance of non-European data and the changes in the transport distances for many products are often the main reasons for changes due to upstream data, but naturally this varies from dataset to dataset.