Defining the baseline in social life cycle assessment

  • Andreas Jørgensen
  • Matthias Finkbeiner
  • Michael S. Jørgensen
  • Michael Z. Hauschild
Societal Life Cycle Assessment

Abstract

Background, aim and scope

A relatively broad consensus has formed that the purpose of developing and using the social life cycle assessment (SLCA) is to improve the social conditions for the stakeholders affected by the assessed product’s life cycle. To create this effect, the SLCA, among other things, needs to provide valid assessments of the consequence of the decision that it is to support. The consequence of a decision to implement a life cycle of a product can be seen as the difference between the decision being implemented and ‘non-implemented’ product life cycle. This difference can to some extent be found using the consequential environmental life cycle assessment (ELCA) methodology to identify the processes that change as a consequence of the decision. However, if social impacts are understood as certain changes in the lives of the stakeholders, then social impacts are not only related to product life cycles, meaning that by only assessing impacts related to the processes that change as a consequence of a decision, not all changes in the life situations of the stakeholders will be captured by an assessment following the consequential ELCA methodology. This article seeks to identify these impacts relating to the non-implemented product life cycle and establish indicators for their assessment.

Materials and methods

A conceptual overview of the non-implemented life cycle situation is established, and the impacts which may be expected from this situation are identified, based on theories and empirical findings from relevant fields of research. Where possible, indicators are proposed for the measurement of the identified impacts.

Results

In relation to the workers in the life cycle, the non-implemented life cycle situation may lead to increased levels of unemployment. Unemployment has important social impacts on the workers; however, depending on the context, these impacts may vary significantly. The context can to some extent be identified and based on this, indicators are proposed to assess the impacts of unemployment. In relation to the product user, it was not possible to identify impacts of the non-implemented life cycle on a generic basis.

Discussion

The assessment of the non-implemented life cycle situation increases the validity of the SLCA but at the same time adds a considerable extra task when performing an SLCA. It is therefore discussed to what extent its assessment could be avoided. It is argued that this depends on whether the assessment will still meet the minimum criterion for validity of the assessment, that the assessment should be better than random in indicating the decision alternative with the most favourable social impacts.

Conclusions

Based on this, it is concluded that the assessment of the non-implemented life cycle cannot be avoided since an assessment not taking into account the impacts of the non-implemented life cycle will not fulfil this minimum criterion.

Recommendations and perspectives

To mitigate the task of assessing the impacts of the non-implemented life cycle, new research areas are suggested, relating to simpler ways of performing the assessment as well as to investigations of whether the effect of SLCA can be created through other and potentially simpler assessments than providing an assessment of the consequences of a decision as addressed here.

Keywords

Consequential SLCA Effect Non-production Non-use SLCA Social LCA Unemployment Usability Validity 

References

  1. 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
  2. Benoît C, Mazijn B (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products. UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. Druk in de weer, BelgiumGoogle Scholar
  3. Carlsson M, Eriksson S, Gottfries N (2006) Testing theories of job creation: does supply create its own demand? Sveriges Riksbank Working Paper Series No. 194. http://www.tinbergen.nl/cost/london/eriksson.pdf
  4. Carmines EG, Zeller RA (1979) Reliability and validity assessment: reliability and validity assessments. Sage, Beverly HillsGoogle Scholar
  5. Chiricos TG (1987) Rates of crime and unemployment: an analysis of aggregate research evidence. Soc Probl 34(2):187–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dreyer L, Hauschild M, Schierbeck J (2006) A framework for social life cycle impact assessment (10 pp). Int J LCA 11(2):88–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Earthster (2009). www.earthster.org
  8. Fineman S (1987) In: Fineman S (ed) Unemployment: personal and social consequences. Tavistock, LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. 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
  10. Freeman RB (1999) The economics of crime. In: Ashenfelter O, Card D (eds) Handbook of labor economics, volume 3, chapter 52. Elsevier Science, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Gauthier C (2005) Measuring corporate social and environmental performance: the extended life-cycle assessment. J Bus Ethics 59(1–2):199–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 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
  13. Hakim C (1982) The social consequences of high unemployment. J Soc Policy 11(4):433–467CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hunkeler D (2006) Societal LCA methodology and case study (12 pp). Int J LCA 11(6):371–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hunkeler D, Rebitzer G (2005) The future of life cycle assessment. Int J LCA 10(5):305–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jørgensen A, Le-Boqc A, Nazakina L, Hauschild M (2008) Methodologies for social life cycle assessment. Int J LCA 13(2):96–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jørgensen A, Hauschild M, Jørgensen MS, Wangel A (2009a) Relevance and feasibility of social life cycle assessment from a company perspective. Int J Life Cycle Assess 14(3):204–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jørgensen A, Lai LCH, Hauschild M (2009b) Assessing the validity of impact pathways for child labour and well-being in social life cycle assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15(1):5–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Klöpffer W (2003) Life-cycle based methods for sustainable product development. Int J LCA 8(3):157–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Klöpffer W, Udo de Haes H (2008) Life cycle sustainability assessment of products (with Comments by Helias A. Udo De Haes). Int J LCA 13(2):89–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Labuschagne C, Brent AC (2006) Social indicators for sustainable project and technology life cycle management in the process industry. Int J LCA 11(1):3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lund-Thomsen P (2008) The global sourcing and codes of conduct debate: five myths and five recommendations. Dev Change 39(6):1005–1018CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 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., FreiburgGoogle Scholar
  24. Mclean C, Carmona C, Francis S, Wohlgemuth C, Mulvihill C (2005) Worklessness and health—what do we know about the causal relationship? Evidence review. Health Development Agency. http://www.nice.org.uk/niceMedia/documents/worklessness_health.pdf
  25. 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
  26. Nazarkina L, Le Bocq A (2006) Social aspects of Sustainability assessment: feasibility of Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA). EDF, Moret-sur-Loing, FranceGoogle Scholar
  27. Norris GR (2006) Social impacts in product life cycles—towards life cycle attribute assessment. Int J LCA 11(1 special issue):97–104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Öster A, Agell J (2007) Crime and unemployment in turbulent times. J Eur Econ Assoc 5(4):752–775CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 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. Green Manag Int 45:79–94Google Scholar
  30. 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
  31. Ström S (2003) Unemployment and families: a review of research. Soc Serv Rev 77(3):399–430CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Thiesen J, Christensen TS, Kristensen TG, Andersen RD, Brunoe B, Gregersen TK, Thrane M, Weidema BP (2008) Rebound effects of price differences. Int J LCA 13(2):104–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Waddell G, Burton KA (2006) Is work good for your health and well-being? TSO, London, http://www.workingforhealth.gov.uk/documents/is-work-good-for-you.pdf Google Scholar
  34. Weidema BP (2006) The integration of economic and social aspects in life cycle impact assessment. Int J LCA 11(1 special issue):89–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Weidema BP, Ekvall T (2009) Guidelines for applications of deepened and broadened LCA. Chapter for CALCAS deliverable D18. http://www.lca-net.com/files/consequential_LCA_CALCAS_final.pdf

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Jørgensen
    • 1
  • Matthias Finkbeiner
    • 2
  • Michael S. Jørgensen
    • 1
  • Michael Z. Hauschild
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ManagementTechnical University of DenmarkKgs. LyngbyDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Environmental TechnologyTechnical University of BerlinBerlinGermany

Personalised recommendations