Systematic literature review in social life cycle assessment

  • Luigia PettiEmail author
  • Monica Serreli
  • Silvia Di Cesare



The main purpose of this review is to investigate the methodology of social life cycle assessment (SLCA) through its application to case studies. In addition, the following research aims to define the trends related to the SLCA by researchers and consultants. This study will help to map the current situation and to highlight the hot spots and weaknesses of the application of the SLCA theory.


The SLCA could be considered as a useful methodology to provide decision support in order to compare products and/or improve the social effects of the life cycle of a product. Furthermore, the results of the case studies analyzed may influence decision makers significantly. For this reason, a systematic literature review of case studies was carried out in which SLCA was applied in order to analyze closely the application of the stages of this methodology. In this study, the major phases of the technical framework for a SLCA were analyzed. Specific attention was paid to detect the positive impacts that emerged in the case studies, which were also studied by administering a questionnaire to the authors of the analyzed case studies and to a number of experts in the field of SLCA.

Results and discussion

The 35 case studies examined in this paper, even though they do not deviate from the 40 identified by the previous processing, are still significantly different in terms of outcome produced. It is important to clarify that the authors who developed the case studies considered the steps defined in the SETAC/SETAC guidelines, borrowed from the ISO 14044 standard.


The data resulting from this analysis could help both practitioners and researchers to understand what the issues are, on which it is still necessary to investigate and work, in order to solidify the SLCA methodology and define its role in the context of life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA).


Case studies SLCA Social life cycle assessment Systematic literature review 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Albrecht S, Brandstetter P, Beck T et al (2013) An extended life cycle analysis of packaging systems for fruit and vegetable transport in Europe. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1549–1567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aparcana S, Salhofer S (2013a) Development of a social impact assessment methodology for recycling systems in low-income countries. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1106–1115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aparcana S, Salhofer S (2013b) Application of a methodology for the social life cycle assessment of recycling systems in low income countries: three Peruvian case studies. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1116–1128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arcese G, Lucchetti M, Merli R (2013) Social life cycle assessment as a management tool: methodology for application in tourism. Sustainability 5:3275–3287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baumann H, Arvidsson R, Tong H, Wang Y (2013) Does the production of an airbag injure more people than the airbag saves in traffic? Opting for an empirically based approach to social life cycle assessment. J Ind Ecol 17:517–527CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Benoît-Norris C, Cavan DA, Norris G (2012) Identifying social impacts in product supply chains: overview and application of the social hotspot database. Sustainability 4:1946–1965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Benoît-Norris C, Traverso M, Valdivia S et al (2013) The methodological sheets for sub-categories in social life cycle assessment (S-LCA). Accessed. 28 May 2015
  8. Bouzid A, Padilla M (2014) Analysis of social performance of the industrial tomatoes food chain in Algeria. New Medit 1:60–65Google Scholar
  9. Busset G, Belaud J-P, Montréjaud-Vignoles M et al (2014) Integration of social LCA with sustainability LCA: a case study on virgin olive oil production. In: Macombe C, Loeillet D (eds) Pre-proceedings of the 4th International Seminar in Social LCA. FruiTrop Thema, pp 73–80Google Scholar
  10. Chang Y-J, Sproesser G, Neugebauer S et al (2015) Environmental and social life cycle assessment of welding technologies. Procedia CIRP 293–298Google Scholar
  11. Chhipi-Shrestha GK, Hewage K, Sadiq R (2015) “Socializing” sustainability: a critical review on current development status of social life cycle impact assessment method. Clean Techn Environ Policy 17:579–596CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Choi HS (2015) How can SLCA influence change to a product’s life cycle and who listens to the impacts of an SLCA? Environ Dev Sustain. doi: 10.1007/s10668-015.9662-x Google Scholar
  13. Ciroth A, Franze J (2011) LCA of an ecolabeled notebook. 25 May 2015
  14. Clift R (2014) Social life cycle assessment: what are we trying to do. In: Macombe C, Loeillet D (2014) Pre-proceedings of the 4th international seminar in social LCA. 19th-21st November. FruitropThema, Montpellier, France, pp 11–16Google Scholar
  15. Collaboration for Environmental Evidence (2013) Guidelines for systematic review and evidence synthesis in environmental management. Version 4.2. Accessed 13 April 2015
  16. De Luca AI, Iofrida N, Strano A et al (2015) Social life cycle assessment and participatory approaches: a methodological proposal applied to citrus farming in Southern Italy. Integr Environ Assess Manag 9999:1–14Google Scholar
  17. Di Cesare S, Silveri F, Petti L (2014) The role of indicators in social life cycle assessment : results from a literature review. Accessed 30 May 2015
  18. Di Cesare S, Silveri F, Sala S et al. (2016) Positive impacts in social life cycle assessment: state of the art and the way forward. Int J Life Cycle Assess (this issue–under review)Google Scholar
  19. Ekener-Petersen E (2013) Tracking down social impacts of products with social life cycle assessment. Dissertation, KTH Royal Institute of TechnologyGoogle Scholar
  20. Ekener-Petersen E, Finnveden G (2013) Potential hotspots identified by social LCA—part 1: a case study of a laptop computer. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:127–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ekener-Petersen E, Moberg Å (2013) Potential hotspots identified by social LCA—part 2: reflections on a study of a complex product. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:144–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ekener-Petersen E, Höglund J, Finnveden G (2014) Screening potential social impacts of fossil fuels and biofuels for vehicles. Energy Policy 73:416–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Farace DJ, Frantzen J (2005) Sixth international conference on grey literature: work on grey in progress, GL 2004 Conference Proceedings, New York, 6–7 December 2004, TextRelease, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  24. Feschet P, Macombe C, Garrabé M et al (2013) Social impact assessment in LCA using the Preston pathway: the case of banana industry in Cameroon. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:490–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Foolmaun RK, Ramjeawon T (2013) Life cycle sustainability assessments (LCSA) of four disposal scenarios for used polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles in Mauritius. Environ Dev Sustain 15:783–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Foolmaun RK, Ramjeeawon T (2013) Comparative life cycle assessment and social life cycle assessment of used polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles in Mauritius. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:155–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Franze J, Ciroth A (2011) A comparison of cut roses from Ecuador and the Netherlands. Int J Life Cycle Assess 16:366–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hosseinijou SA, Mansour S, Shirazi MA (2014) Social life cycle assessment for material selection: a case study of building materials. Int J Life Cycle Assess 19:620–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hu M, Kleijn R, Bozhilova-Kisheva KP, Di Maio F (2013) An approach to LCSA: the case of concrete recycling. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1793–1803CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jesson J, Lacey F (2006) How to do (or not to do) a critical literature review. Pharm Educ 6:139–148CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jørgensen A (2013) Social LCA—a way ahead? Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:296–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Jørgensen A, Le Bocq A, Nazarkina L, Hauschild M (2008) Methodologies for social life cycle assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 13:96–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jørgensen A, Lai LCH, Hauschild MZ (2010) Assessing the validity of impact pathways for child labour and well-being in social life cycle assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15:5–16CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Labuschagne C, Brent AC (2006) Social sustainability social indicators for sustainable project and technology life cycle management in the process industry. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11:3–15Google Scholar
  35. Lagarde V, Macombe C (2013) Designing the social life cycle of products from the systematic competitive model. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:171–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lehmann A, Zschieschang E, Traverso M et al (2013) Social aspects for sustainability assessment of technologies—challenges for social life cycle assessment (SLCA). Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1581–1592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Liberati A, Altman DG, Tetzlaff J et al (2009) The PRISMA statement for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analyses of studies that evaluate healthcare interventions: explanation and elaboration. BMJ 339. doi: b2700.  10.1136/bmj.b2700
  38. Luthe T, Kägi T, Reger J (2013) A systems approach to sustainable technical product design. J Ind Ecol 17:605–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Macombe C, Loeillet D (eds) (2014) Pre-proceedings of the 4th International Seminar in Social LCA. FruiTrop Thema, MontpellierGoogle Scholar
  40. Macombe C, Feschet P, Garrabé M, Loeillet D (2011) 2nd International Seminar in Social Life Cycle Assessment—recent developments in assessing the social impacts of product life cycles. Int J Life Cycle Assess 16:940–943. doi: 10.1007/s11367-011-0331-5
  41. Macombe C, Leskinen P, Feschet P, Antikainen R (2013) Social life cycle assessment of biodiesel production at three levels: a literature review and development needs. J Clean Prod 52:205–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Manhart A, Grießhammer R (2006) Social impacts of the production of notebook PCs. Accessed 4 June 2015
  43. Manik Y, Leahy J, Halog A (2013) Social life cycle assessment of palm oil biodiesel: a case study in Jambi Province of Indonesia. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1386–1392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Martínez-Blanco J, Lehmann A, Muñoz P et al (2014) Application challenges for the social life cycle assessment of fertilizers within life cycle sustainability assessment. J Clean Prod 69:34–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mattioda RA, Mazzi A, Canciglieri O Jr, Scipioni A (2015) Determining the principal references of the social life cycle assessment of products. Int J Life Cycle Assess 20:1155–1165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG (2009) Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. Ann Intern Med 151:264–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Moriizumi Y, Matsui N, Hondo H (2010) Simplified life cycle sustainability assessment of mangrove management: a case of plantation on wastelands in Thailand. J Clean Prod 18:1629–1638CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Muthu SS (ed) (2015) Social life cycle assessment—an insight. Springer, SingaporeGoogle Scholar
  49. Nemarumane T, Mbohwa C (2015) Social impact assessment of sugar production operations in South Africa: a social life cycle assessment perspective. In: Muthu SS (ed) Social life cycle assessment—an insight. Springer, Singapore, pp 71–113Google Scholar
  50. Norris GA (2013) The new requirement for social leadership: healing. In: Groschl S (ed) Uncertainty, diversity and the common good: changing norms and new leadership paradigms. Gower Publ, LondonGoogle Scholar
  51. Parent J, Cucuzzella C, Revéret J-P (2010) Impact assessment in SLCA: sorting the sLCIA methods according to their outcomes. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15:164–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Petti L, Ugaya CML, Di Cesare S (2014) Systematic review of social-life cycle assessment (S-LCA) case studies impact assessment method. In: Macombe C, Loeillet D (eds) Pre-proceedings of the 4th International Seminar in Social LCA. FruiTrop Thema, pp 34–41Google Scholar
  53. Ren J, Manzardo A, Mazzi A et al (2015) Prioritization of bioethanol production pathways in China based on life cycle sustainability assessment and multicriteria decision-making. Int J Life Cycle Assess 20:842–853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Revéret J-P, Couture J-M, Parent J (2015) Socioeconomic LCA of milk production in Canada. In: Muthu SS (ed) Social life cycle assessment—an insight. Springer, Singapore, pp 25–69Google Scholar
  55. Robson W (1997) Strategic management and information systems: an integrated approach. Pitman Publishing, LondonGoogle Scholar
  56. Rugani B, Benetto E, Igos E et al (2014) Towards prospective life cycle sustainability analysis: exploring complementarities between social and environmental life cycle assessments for the case of Luxembourg’s energy system. Matériaux & Techniques, p 102Google Scholar
  57. Shau EM, Traverso M, Lehmann A et al (2011) Life cycle costing in sustainability assessment—a case study of remanufactured alternators. Sustainability 3:2268–2288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Traverso M, Asdrubali F, Francia A, Finkbeiner M (2012) Towards life cycle sustainability assessment: an implementation to photovoltaic modules. Int J Life Cycle Assess 17:1068–1079CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Umair S, Björklund A, Ekener-Petersen E (2015) Social impact assessment of informal recycling of electronic ICT waste in Pakistan using SETAC SETAC guidelines. Resour Conserv Recycl 95:46–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. UN (2014) World economic situation and prospects 2014. Accessed 23 March 2016
  61. UNEP/SETAC (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products. Accessed 18 January 2015
  62. UNEP/SETAC (2013) The Methodological Sheets For Subcategories In Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) Accessed 29 Nov 2015
  63. Valdivia S, Ugaya CML, Hildenbrand J et al (2012) A UNEP/SETAC approach towards a life cycle sustainability assessment—our contribution to Rio + 20. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:1673–1685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Vinyes E, Oliver-Solà J, Ugaya C et al (2013) Application of LCSA to used cooking oil waste management. Int J Life Cycle Assess 18:445–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Weldegiorgis FS, Franks DM (2014) Social dimensions of energy supply alternatives in steelmaking: comparison of biomass and coal production scenarios in Australia. J Clean Prod 84:281–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wilhelm M, Hutchins M, Mars C, Benoit-Norris C (2015) An overview of social impacts and their corresponding improvement implications: a mobile phone case study. J Clean Prod 102:302–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Wu R, Yang D, Chen J (2014) Social life cycle assessment revisited. Sustainability 6:4200–4226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Yu M, Halog A (2015) Solar photovoltaic development in Australia—a life cycle sustainability assessment study. Sustainability 7:1213–1247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Zamagni A (2012) Life cycle sustainability assessment. Int J Life Cycle Assess 17:373–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Zamagni A, Amerighi O, Buttol P (2011) Strengths or bias in social LCA? Int J Life Cycle Assess 16:596–598CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Zamagni A, Masoni P, Buttol P et al (2012) Finding life cycle assessment research direction with the aid of meta-analysis. J Ind Ecol 16:S39–S52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Zumsteg JM, Cooper JS, Noon MS (2012) Systematic review checklist. J Ind Ecol 16:12–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luigia Petti
    • 1
    Email author
  • Monica Serreli
    • 1
  • Silvia Di Cesare
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Economic Studies“G. D’Annunzio” UniversityPescaraItaly
  2. 2.CIRAD, UPR GECOMontpellier Cedex 5France

Personalised recommendations