Methodologies for social life cycle assessment
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
Goal, Scope and Background
In recent years several different approaches towards Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) have been developed. The purpose of this review is to compare these approaches in order to highlight methodological differences and general shortcomings. SLCA has several similarities with other social assessment tools, although, in order to limit the expanse of the review, only claims to address social impacts from an LCA-like framework are considered.
The review is to a large extent based on conference proceedings and reports, which are not all easily accessible, since very little has been published on SLCA in the open literature. The review follows the methodological steps of the environmental LCA (ELCA) known from the ISO 14044 standard.
The review reveals a broad variety in how the approaches address the steps of the ELCA methodology, particularly in the choice and formulation of indicators. The indicators address a wide variety of issues; some approaches focus on impacts created in the very close proximity of the processes included in the product system, whereas others focus on the more remote societal consequences. Only very little focus has been given to the use stage in the product life cycle.
Another very important difference among the proposals is their position towards the use of generic data. Several of the proposals argue that social impacts are connected to the conduct of the company leading to the conclusion that each individual company in the product chain has to be assessed, whereas others claim that generic data can give a sufficiently accurate picture of the associated social impacts.
The SLCA approaches show that the perception of social impacts is very variable. An assessment focusing on social impacts created in the close proximity of the processes included in the product system will not necessarily point in the same direction as an assessment that focuses on the more societal consequences. This points toward the need to agree on the most relevant impacts to include in the SLCA in order to include the bulk of the situation.
Regarding the use of generic data as a basis for the assessment, this obviously has an advantage over using site specific data in relation to practicality, although many authors behind the SLCA approaches claim that reasonable accuracy can only be gained through the use of site specific data. However, in this context, it is important to remember that the quality of site specific data is very dependent on the auditing approach and, therefore, not necessarily of high accuracy, and that generic data might be designed to take into account the location, sector, size and maybe ownership of a company and thereby in some cases give a reasonable impression of the social impacts that can be expected from the company performing the assessed process.
This review gives an overview of the present development of SLCA by presenting the existing approaches to SLCA and discussing how they address the methodological aspects in the ISO standardised ELCA framework. The authors found a multitude of different approaches with regard to nearly all steps in the SLCA methodology, thus reflecting that this is a very new and immature field of LCA.
Recommendations and Perspectives
SLCA is in an early stage of development where consensus building still has a long way. Nevertheless, some agreement regarding which impacts are most relevant to include in the SLCA in order to cover the field sufficiently seems paramount if the SLCA is to gain any weight as a decision support tool. Furthermore, some assessment of the difference between site specific and generic data could give valuable perspectives on whether a reasonable accuracy can be gained from using generic data or whether the use of site specific data is mandatory and, if so, where it is most important.
- Barthel L, Wolf MA, Eyerer P (2005): Methodology of Life Cycle Sustainability for Sustainability Assessments. Presentation on the 11th Annual International Sustainable Development Research Conference (AISDRC), 6th–8th of June 2005, Helsinki, Finland
- Cañeque, F.C. (2002) Evaluación de la situación laboral de empresas: El Análisis del Ciclo Vida como herramienta para el Desarollo Sostenible. Departamento de Economia i Organisación de Empresas, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
- Dreyer, L., Hauschild, M., Schierbeck, J. (2006) A Framework for Social Life Cycle Impact Assessment. Int J LCA 11: pp. 88-97
- Dreyer, L. (2006) Interpretation of the Fundamental ILO Conventions into Business Context — Background for development of indicators for Social LCA. Department of Manufacturing Engineering and Management, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark
- Earthster (2007): 〈www.earthster.org〉
- European Commission (2001): Promoting a European framework for corporate social responsibility — Green paper, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities
- Flysjö A (2006): Indicators as a Complement to Life Cycle Assessment — A Case Study of Salmon. Presentation held 17th of June 2006 in Lausanne
- Gauthier, C. (2005) Measuring Corporate Social and Environmental Performance: The Extended Life-Cycle Assessment. J Bus Ethics 59: pp. 199-206 CrossRef
- Grießhammer R, Benoît C, Dreyer LC, Flysjö A, Manhart A, Mazijn B, Méthot A, Weidema BP (2006): Feasibility Study: Integration of social aspects into LCA. Discussion paper from UNEP-SETAC Task Force Integration of Social Aspects in LCA meetings in Bologna (January 2005), Lille (May 2005) and Brussels (November 2005). Freiburg, Germany
- Global Reporting Initiative (2007): 〈www.grig3.org/guidelines.html〉
- Hunkeler, D. (2006) Societal LCA Methodology and Case Study. Int J LCA 11: pp. 371-382
- Environmental management — Life cycle assessment — Requirements and guidelines. International Standard Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland
- Manhart, A., Grießhammer, R. (2006) Social impacts of the production of notebook PCs — Contribution to the development of a Product Sustainability Assessment (PROSA). Öko-Institut e.V., Freiburg, Germany
- Méthot A (2005): FIDD: A green and socially responsible venture capital fund. Presentation on the Life Cycle Approaches for Green Investment — 26th LCA Swiss Discussion Forum, 2005, Lausanne, Switzerland
- Nazarkina L, Le Bocq A (2006): Social aspects of Sustainability assessment: Feasibility of Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA). EDF 2006, Moretsur-Loing, France
- Norris, G.R. (2006) Social Impacts in Product Life Cycles-Towards Life Cycle Attribute Assessment. Int J LCA 11: pp. 97-104
- Schmidt I, Meurer M, Saling P, Kicherer A, Reuter W, Gensch C (2004): SEEbalance — Managing Sustainability of Products and Processes with the Socio-Eco-Efficiency Analysis by BASF. Greener Management International (45) 79–94
- Spillemaeckers S, Vanhoutte G, Taverniers L, Lavrysen L, van Braeckel D, Mazijn B, Rivera JD (2004): Integrated Product Assessment — The Development of the Label ’sustainable Development’ for Products Ecological, Social and Economical Aspects of Integrated Product Policy. Belgian Science Policy, Belgium
- Udo de Haes, A.H., Finnveden, G., Goedkoop, M., Hauschild, M., Hertwich, E.G., Hofstetter, P., Jolliet, O., Klöpffer, W., Krewitt, W., Lindeijer, E., Müller-Wenk, R., Olsen, S.I., Pennington, D.W., Potting, J., Steen, B. (2002) Life-Cycle Impact Assessment: Striving towards Best Practice. Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), Pensacola FL, USA
- UNEP (2005): UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative: Life Cycle Approaches: From analysis to practice
- Weidema, B.P. (2006) The integration of Economic and Social Aspects in Life Cycle Impact Assessment. Int J LCA 11: pp. 89-96 CrossRef
- Weidema, B.P. (2005) ISO 14044 also Applies to Social LCA. Int J LCA 10: pp. 381-381
- Wenzel, H., Hauschild, M., Alting, L. (1997) Environmental assessment of products. Vol. 1 — Methodology, tools and case studies in product development. Chapman & Hall, United Kingdom
- Methodologies for social life cycle assessment
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Volume 13, Issue 2 , pp 96-103
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Additional Links
- Environmental life cycle assessment (ELCA)
- generic data
- product life cycle
- site-specific data
- social life cycle assessment (SLCA)
- Industry Sectors
- Author Affiliations
- 1. Department of Manufacturing Engineering and Management, Technical University of Denmark, Produktionstorvet 424, 2800, Kgs. Lyngby, Denmark
- 2. EDF, Research & Development, Energy Efficiency and Industrial Processes (EPI), Avenue des Renardières, Ecuelles, 77818, Moret Sur Loing Cedex, France
- 3. Generation Division, EDF, 1 Place Pleyel, 93282, Saint-Denis Cedex, France