Screening of socio-economic indicators for sustainability assessment: a combined life cycle assessment and data envelopment analysis approach

  • Diego Iribarren
  • Mario Martín-Gamboa
  • Tadhg O’Mahony
  • Javier Dufour



The combination of life cycle assessment (LCA) and data envelopment analysis (DEA) has recently been proposed to integrate operational, environmental and, to a lesser extent, socio-economic aspects when evaluating multiple similar entities known as decision-making units (DMUs). While labour has already been proven to be an appropriate parameter for implementation in LCA + DEA studies, this article aims to increase the current range of socio-economic indicators suitable for their integration into this novel framework.


A sustainability-oriented LCA + DEA method is presented in this article. Furthermore, according to the singular features of the methodological approach, a set of four criteria is defined in order to test the suitability of 40 relevant socio-economic indicators for LCA + DEA implementation. These criteria include quantifiability, DMU specificity, data availability and data quality. Based on the degree of fulfilment of these criteria, the implementability of the indicators is classified as straightforward, likely, unlikely or excluded.

Results and discussion

According to the proposed criteria, 12 out of 40 socio-economic indicators are found to be suitable, i.e. their implementability in the LCA + DEA framework is considered either straightforward or likely. The difficulty in finding suitable LCA + DEA indicators is found to increase when considering stakeholders with a scope beyond the DMU level. Concerns about the suitability of socio-economic indicators for LCA + DEA as well as potentials and limitations of the approach as a sustainability assessment methodology are discussed.


A significant improvement in the socio-economic dimension of LCA + DEA studies for sustainability assessment is achieved. The method proposed is concluded to be a feasible approach for the sustainability assessment of multiple entities, but still with further potentials to be explored.


Benchmarking Data envelopment analysis Efficiency Life cycle assessment Performance indicator Socio-economic Sustainability 



Dr. Tadhg O’ Mahony would like to thank the Marie Curie Actions AMAROUT-II (PEOPLECOFUND).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diego Iribarren
    • 1
  • Mario Martín-Gamboa
    • 1
  • Tadhg O’Mahony
    • 1
  • Javier Dufour
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Systems Analysis UnitInstituto IMDEA EnergíaMóstolesSpain
  2. 2.Department of Chemical and Energy Technology, ESCETRey Juan Carlos UniversityMóstolesSpain

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