Assessing the validity of impact pathways for child labour and well-being in social life cycle assessment
- First Online:
Background, aim and scope
Assuming that the goal of social life cycle assessment (SLCA) is to assess damage and benefits on its ‘area of protection’ (AoP) as accurately as possible, it follows that the impact pathways, describing the cause effect relationship between indicator and the AoP, should have a consistent theoretical foundation so the inventory results can be associated with a predictable damage or benefit to the AoP. This article uses two concrete examples from the work on SLCA to analyse to what extent this is the case in current practice. One considers whether indicators included in SLCA approaches can validly assess impacts on the well-being of the stakeholder, whereas the other example addresses whether the ‘incidence of child labour’ is a valid measure for impacts on the AoPs.
Materials and methods
The theoretical basis for the impact pathway between the relevant indicators and the AoPs is analysed drawing on research from relevant scientific fields.
The examples show a lack of valid impact pathways in both examples. The first example shows that depending on the definition of ‘well-being’, the assessment of impacts on well-being of the stakeholder cannot be performed exclusively with the type of indicators which are presently used in SLCA approaches. The second example shows that the mere fact that a child is working tells little about how this may damage or benefit the AoPs, implying that the normally used indicator; ‘incidence of child labour’ lacks validity in relation to predicting damage or benefit on the AoPs of SLCA.
New indicators are proposed to mitigate the problem of invalid impact pathways. However, several problems arise relating to difficulties in getting data, the usability of the new indicators in management situations, and, in relation to example one, boundary setting issues.
The article shows that it is possible to assess the validity of the impact pathways in SLCA. It thereby point to the possibility of utilising the same framework that underpins the environmental LCA in this regard. It also shows that in relation to both of the specific examples investigated, the validity of the impact pathways may be improved by adopting other indicators, which does, however, come with a considerable ‘price’.
Recommendations and perspectives
It is argued that there is a need for analysing impact pathways of other impact categories often included in SLCA in order to establish indicators that better reflect actual damage or benefit to the AoPs.
KeywordsAoP Area of protection Child labour Impact pathways Indicators Objective indicators SLCA Social LCA Subjective indicators Well-being
- 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, FinlandGoogle Scholar
- Basu K, Van PH (1998) The economics of child labor. Am Econ Rev 88(3):412–427Google Scholar
- Berger-Schmitt R, Noll H (2000) Conceptual framework and structure of a european system of social indicators’, EU Reporting Working Paper No. 9, Mannheim, Germany. http://www.gesis.org/fileadmin/upload/dienstleistung/daten/soz_indikatoren/eusi/paper9.pdf
- Benoît C, Mazijn B (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products. UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative, Druk in de weer, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
- Burrell G, Morgan G (1979) Sociological paradigms and organisational analysis. Ashgate Publishing Limited, Aldershot, EnglandGoogle Scholar
- Carley M (1981) Social measurement and social indicators: issues of policy and theory. G. Allen, Boston, USAGoogle Scholar
- Carmines EG, Zeller RA (1979) Reliability and validity assessment: reliability and validity assessments. Sage, Beverly Hills, USAGoogle Scholar
- Diener E, Lucas R, Oishi S (2002) Subjective well-being: the science of happiness and life satisfaction. In: Snyder CR, Lopez SJ (eds) Handbook of positive psychology. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Earthster (2008) www.earthster.org
- Edmonds EV, Pavcnik N (2003) Child labor in the global economy. J Econ Perspect 19(1):199–220Google Scholar
- Fassa AG, Facchini LA, Dall’Agnol MM, Christiani D (2000) Child labor and health: problems and perspectives. Int J Occup Env Heal 6(1):55–62Google Scholar
- Felce D, Perry J (1996) Assessment of quality of life. In: Quality of Life, Volume I: Conceptualization and measurement. American Association on Mental Retardation, Washington DC, USGoogle Scholar
- Flysjö A (2006) Indicators as a complement to life cycle assessment – a case study of salmon. Presentation held 17th of June 2006 in LausanneGoogle Scholar
- Forastieri V (2002) Children at work: health and safety risks, 2nd edn. International Labour Organisation, Genova, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
- Galloway S (2006) Quality of life and well-being: measuring the benefits of culture and sports: literature review and thinkpiece. Centre for Cultural Policy Research, University of Glasgow. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/01/13110743/0
- 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, GermanyGoogle Scholar
- Ilahi N, Orazem P, Sedlacek G (2001) The implications of child labor for adult wages, income and poverty: retrospective evidence from Brazil, Mimeo, Iowa State University, USA. http://www.grade.org.pe/Eventos/nip_conference/private/sedlacek-%20child_labor%20retros.pdf
- ILO (2007) Child labour wages and productivity: results from demand side surveys. International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) under the International Labour Organisation, Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
- Levison D, Richard A, Shahid A, Sandhya B (1996) Is child labour really necessary in India’s carpet industry? Labour market papers 15. Employment Department, International Labour Organisation, Geneva, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
- Manhart A, Grieβhammer 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, GermanyGoogle Scholar
- 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, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
- Nazarkina L, Le Bocq A (2006) Social aspects of sustainability assessment: feasibility of social life cycle assessment (S-LCA). EDF 2006, Moret-sur-Loing, FranceGoogle Scholar
- Plous S (2003) The psychology of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination: an overview. In: Plous S (ed) Understanding prejudice and discrimination. McGraw-Hill, New York, USGoogle Scholar
- Schalock RL (1996) Reconsidering the conceptualization and measurement of quality of life. Quality of life, Volume I: conceptualization and measurement. American Association on Mental Retardation, Washington DC, USAGoogle Scholar
- Schalock RL, Brown I, Brown R, Cummins RA, Felce D, Matikka L, Keith KD, Parmenter T (2002) Conceptualization, measurement, and application of quality of life for persons with intellectual disabilities: report of an international panel of experts. American Association on Mental Retardation 40(6):457–470CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- 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 Manage Int 45:79–94Google Scholar
- 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, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
- World Bank (1997) Expanding the measures of wealth: indicators of environmentally sustainable development. Environmentally sustainable development studies and monographs series no. 17. The World Bank, Washington, USAGoogle Scholar