A social impact quantification framework for the resource extraction industry

  • Susie R. Wu
  • Ilke Celik
  • Defne Apul
  • Jiquan ChenEmail author



The objective of this study was to develop a social impact quantification framework for the resource extraction industry. The framework was developed to incorporate two approaches—scale-based and quantitative approaches. It aimed to be used for assessing upstream social impacts for products incorporating mined materials to produce a full social life cycle assessment (S-LCA).


The framework consists of measurable indicators and impact assessment methods. The quantitative approach simulates S-LCA by applying a two-step impact assessment: (1) calculation of impact scores at the social topic level, and (2) normalization and aggregation to the social theme and stakeholder level.

Results and discussion

The framework was demonstrated via a case study to compare one material issue—health and safety—from the material extraction phase of two major photovoltaic (PV) technologies in the USA: poly-Si and CdTe PV under stakeholder workers. A temporal analysis on a key mineral was performed. The results showed large variations in the social impact scores for selected topics on key raw materials associated with the two PVs. While the case study is limited in deriving practical implications due to preset assumptions, the framework itself can be extended and integrated with a whole product S-LCA to enhance the understanding of and promote social sustainability of the resource extraction industry.


A framework to measure both positive and negative social impacts was developed to follow the S-LCA methodology. The framework was illustrated by comparing two dominant PV technologies in the USA for the social theme of health and safety. Our case study demonstrated inspiring patterns for assessing upstream social impacts from the resource extraction industry, especially when incorporating a temporal analysis.


Health and safety Mineral extraction Photovoltaics Social impact Social life cycle assessment 



This study is supported by the Sustainable Energy Program of the National Science Foundation (CHE1230246).

Supplementary material

11367_2019_1605_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2.9 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 2994 kb)


  1. Azapagic A (2004) Developing a framework for sustainable development indicators for the mining and minerals industry. J Clean Prod 12(6):639–662CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Benoît C, Mazijn B (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products, UNEP/SETAC [online]: Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  3. Bhandari KP, Collier JM, Ellingson RJ, Apul DS (2015) Energy payback time (EPBT) and energy return on energy invested (EROI) of solar photovoltaic systems: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Renew Sust Energ Rev 47:133–141Google Scholar
  4. Brent A, Labuschagne C (2006) Social indicators for sustainable project and technology life cycle management in the process industry. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(1):3–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Corona B, Bozhilova-Kisheva KP, Olsen SI, Miguel GS (2017) Social life cycle assessment of a concentrated solar power plant in Spain: a methodological proposal. J Ind Ecol 21(6):1566–1577CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dong YH, Ng ST (2015) A social life cycle assessment model for building construction in Hong Kong. Int J Life Cycle Assess 20(8):1166–1180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Durucan S, Korre A, Munoz-Melendez G (2006) Mining life cycle modelling: a cradle-to-gate approach to environmental management in the minerals industry. J Clean Prod 14(12–13):1057–1070CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fitzpatrick P, Fonseca A, McAllister ML (2011) From the Whitehorse Mining Initiative towards sustainable mining: lessons learned. J Clean Prod 19(4):376–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Fontes J (2016) Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment. [online]: Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  10. Fthenakis VM (2004) Life cycle impact analysis of cadmium in CdTe PV production. Renew Sust Energ Rev 8(4):303–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fthenakis VM, Kim HC (2011) Photovoltaics: life-cycle analyses. Sol Energy 85(8):1609–1628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gibon T, Wood R, Arvesen A, Bergesen JD, Suh S, Hertwich EG (2015) A methodology for integrated, multiregional life cycle assessment scenarios under large-scale technological change. Environ Sci Technol 49(18):11218–11226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Giurco D, Cooper C (2012) Mining and sustainability: asking the right questions. Miner Eng 29:3–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Giurco D, Prior T, Mudd G, Mason L, Behrisch J (2010) Peak minerals in Australia: a review of changing impacts and benefits. Research report, Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS & Department of Civil Engineering, Monash UniversityGoogle Scholar
  15. Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) (2011) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines & Mining and Metals Sector SupplementGoogle Scholar
  16. Green Electronics Council (GEC) (2015) Photovoltaic (PV) industry primer. Overview of PV manufacturers, technologies, supply chains, performance standards & certifications. Research Report, Green Electronics CouncilGoogle Scholar
  17. GRI (2016a) GRI standards, GRI 101: foundation 2016. [online]: Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  18. GRI (2016b) Defining what matters: Do companies and investors agree on what is material? [online]: Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  19. Guenther E, Hoppe H, Poser C (2006) Environmental corporate social responsibility of firms in the mining and oil and gas industries. Greener Manag Int 2006(53):6–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. ICMM (2016) Improving sustainable development performance in the mining and metals industry. [online]:
  21. Laurence D (2006) Optimisation of the mine closure process. J Clean Prod 14(3–4):285–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. McLellan BC (2015) Sustainability assessment of deep ocean resources. Procedia Environ Sci 28:502–508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Moffat K, Lacey J, Zhang A, Leipold S (2015) The social licence to operate: a critical review. For J 89:477–488Google Scholar
  24. MSHA (2017) Mine Safety and Health Administration - Mine Data Retrieval System (MDRS). Retrieved September 20, 2017, [online]: Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  25. Mudd GM (2010) The environmental sustainability of mining in Australia: key mega-trends and looming constraints. Resour Policy 35(2):98–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Owen JR, Kemp D (2014) ‘Free prior and informed consent’, social complexity and the mining industry: establishing a knowledge base. Resour Policy 41:91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Paragahawewa U, Blackett P, Small B (2009) Social life cycle analysis (S-LCA): some methodological issues and potential application to cheese production in New Zealand. Research report, Sustainable Agriculture Initiative PlatformGoogle Scholar
  28. Petkova V, Lockie S, Rolfe J, Ivanova G (2009) Mining developments and social impacts on communities: Bowen Basin case studies. Rural Soc 19(3):211–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Petrie J, Cohen B, Stewart M (2007) Decision support frameworks and metrics for sustainable development of minerals and metals. Clean Technol Environ Policy 9(2):133–145CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Que S, Awuah-Offei K, Samaranayake VA (2015) Classifying critical factors that influence community acceptance of mining projects for discrete choice experiments in the United States. J Clean Prod 87:489–500CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. SocialLicense (2016) The social license to operate. [online]: Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  32. Solomon F, Katz E, Lovel R (2008) Social dimensions of mining: research, policy and practice challenges for the minerals industry in Australia. Resour Policy 33(3):142–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. USGS (2014a) Bauxite and Alumina Statistics and Information. from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  34. USGS (2014b) Copper Statistics and Information. from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  35. USGS (2014c) Crushed Stone Statistics and Information. from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  36. USGS (2014d) Silica Statistics and Information. from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  37. USGS (2014e) "Salt Statistics and Information." from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  38. USGS (2014f) "Cadmium Statistics and Information." from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  39. USGS (2014g) "Iron Ore Statistics and Information." from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  40. USGS (2014h) "Nickel Statistics and Information." from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  41. USGS (2014i) "Silver Statistics and Information." from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  42. USGS (2014j) "Chromium Statistics and Information." from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  43. USGS (2014k) "Selenium and Tellurium Statistics and Information." from Accessed 10 Jan 2018
  44. Wernet G, Bauer C, Steubing B, Reinhard J, Moreno-Ruiz E, Weidema B (2016) The ecoinvent database version 3 (part I): overview and methodology. Int J Life Cycle Assess 21(9):1218–1230CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wu R, Yang D, Chen J (2014) Social life cycle assessment revisited. Sustainability 6(7):4200–4226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Yu M, Halog A (2015) Solar photovoltaic development in Australia—a life cycle sustainability assessment study. Sustainability 7(2):1213–1247CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Global Change and Earth Observations, Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial SciencesMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Sustainability and Renewable Energy Systems - Electrical and Computer Engineering DepartmentUniversity of Wisconsin–PlattevillePlattevilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Civil EngineeringUniversity of ToledoToledoUSA

Personalised recommendations