The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 380-388

First online:

A conceptual framework for impact assessment within SLCA

  • Claudia ReitingerAffiliated withHuman Technology Center, Ethics for Energy Technology Email author 
  • , Matthias DumkeAffiliated withHuman Technology Center, Ethics for Energy Technology
  • , Mario BarosevcicAffiliated withHarvard University
  • , Rafaela HillerbrandAffiliated withHuman Technology Center, Ethics for Energy Technology

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This paper aims at spelling out the area of protection (AoP), namely the general concept of human well-being and the impact categories in social life cycle assessment (SLCA). The applicability of the so-called capabilities approach—a concept frequently used for evaluating human lives—is explored. It is shown how the principles of the capabilities approach can be transferred to the impact assessment within SLCA.


The literature concerning the AoP and the impact assessment has been critically reviewed from an applied philosophy perspective. The capabilities approach has been adopted for defining both the AoP and the impact categories.


The main results are the following: (1) The AoP is defined as autonomy, well-being freedom and fairness; (2) using the dimensions which constitute well-being together with the concept of fairness eight impact categories are proposed: life, knowledge and aesthetic experience, work and play, friendship, self-integration, self-expression, transcendence and fairness itself and (3) by examining the ‘Guide to Social LCA: Methodological Sheets’, it is demonstrated that our proposed framework can be used for structuring the previous work on impact assessment.


The capability approach is one possibility for addressing the question ‘what is of importance in a human life?’ When applied in a practical field, like SLCA, this framework is not only useful for structuring data but also for disclosing our own normative assumptions about what counts as valuable in a human life. Thus, the normative evaluation is more coherent.


Area of protection (AoP) Capabilities approach Impact assessment Impact categories Social life cycle assessment (SLCA) Well-being