Social Indicators Research

, Volume 147, Issue 1, pp 15–44 | Cite as

Identifying Social Indicators for Sustainability Assessment of CCU Technologies: A Modified Multi-criteria Decision Making

  • Parisa RafiaaniEmail author
  • Zoumpolia Dikopoulou
  • Miet Van Dael
  • Tom Kuppens
  • Hossein Azadi
  • Philippe Lebailly
  • Steven Van Passel
Original Research


Carbon capture and utilization (CCU) technologies capture CO2 waste emissions and utilize them to generate new products (such as fuels, chemicals, and materials) with various environmental, economic, and social opportunities. As most of these CCU technologies are in the R&D stage, their technical and economic viability are examined with less attention to the social aspect which is an important pillar for a holistic sustainability assessment. The lack of systematic social impact research is mainly due to the difficulty of identifying and quantifying social aspects through the entire life cycle of products. We will fill this gap for CCU technologies and identify the main social indicators. A multi-criteria decision making tool: technique for order of preference by similarity to ideal solution (TOPSIS) was applied to empirically determine which indicators are more relevant for assessing the social impact of a company operating CCU activities within a European context. First, seeing that social impact categories are linked to key stakeholder groups, we considered workers, consumers, and local communities as relevant stakeholders. Second, the main social impact categories and their potential performance indicators associated to each group of stakeholders were listed using the United Nations Environment Program/Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (UNEP/SETAC) guidelines. In the third step, an online questionnaire was distributed to identify the main social categories and indicators for CCU, to which 33 European CCU experts responded. Finally, a modified TOPSIS was applied to rank the indicators based on their relevance. We found that the indicators related to “end of life responsibility” and “transparency” within a CCU company achieved the highest rank affecting the consumers group, whereas “fair salary” and “equal opportunities/discriminations” were determined as the most relevant impact categories for the workers. For the local community group, “secure living conditions” and “local employment” received the highest priority from the experts’ point of view. Furthermore, “health and safety” considerations were identified as one of the most important criteria affecting all three groups of stakeholders. The ranking list of the main social indicators identified in our study provides the basis for the next steps in the social sustainability assessment of CCU technologies; that is, data collection and impact assessment. Our outcomes can also be used to inform the producers regarding the most and least relevant social aspects of CCU so that the potential social impacts caused by their production activities can be improved or prevented.


Sustainability assessment CO2 emissions Social indicator SLCA TOPSIS CCU 



We would also like to thank James Morrison from the JamesEdits agency for proof reading and editing the article.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UHasselt - Hasselt University, Centre for Environmental SciencesDiepenbeekBelgium
  2. 2.Economics and Rural Development, Gembloux Agro-Bio TechUniversity of LiègeGemblouxBelgium
  3. 3.UHasselt - Hasselt University, Business InformaticsDiepenbeekBelgium
  4. 4.Unit Separation and Conversion TechnologiesVITOMolBelgium
  5. 5.Department of GeographyGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  6. 6.Department of Engineering ManagementUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium

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