An integrated social life cycle assessment of freight transport systems

  • Jose Luis Osorio-TejadaEmail author
  • Eva Llera-Sastresa
  • Sabina Scaperllini
  • Ahmad Hariza Hashim



The climate change concerns have generated the need to develop strategies to reduce the oil dependency in transport sector. Many of these strategies have not achieved the proposed objectives by the scant emphasis on social and socio-economic aspects of the life cycle of the transport system components. Therefore, an approach for the integrated social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) of freight transport services is proposed in this paper.


The proposed S-LCA approach was developed based on the UNEP/SETAC guidelines (2009). Twenty-six social impact subcategories were selected, and a systemic definition of the transport system boundaries was introduced. A multilevel inventory analysis method was proposed, including a list of generic and specific indicators for each social impact subcategory, based on secondary and primary sources. For the impact assessment phase, a multilevel valuation scale method was applied to obtain social performance indexes (SPI) of the companies in the supply chain for five social impact categories and five stakeholders. In addition, bearing in mind the stakeholders’ perceptions, an aggregated SPI of the system in a scale of 1 to 5 was calculated for the case study in a freight company in Malaysia.

Results and discussion

The most relevant impact categories for the interviewed stakeholders were workers’ and human rights. Results exposed that freedom of association, working hours, health and safety, and equal opportunities were the most critical issues in the supply chain. Technological development, corruption, and transparency in social and environmental issues were other critical aspects. The impact assessment method did not analyze the social impacts generated due to the social conducts of companies, but provided information about the priorities that should be considered to improve the supply chain social performance. The aggregation of results in SPI made difficult to identify the aspects with the best or worst performance, being more useful for comparison purposes or for giving a quick landscape of the analyzed service.


This approach contributes in the purpose of analyzing services, with a broader view, by integrating different components in the supply chain. The methods for inventory analysis and impact assessment allow including upstream activities, which can be applied in different sectors. The multilevel valuation scale method allows weighting different inventory analyses results and including stakeholders’ perceptions, reducing biases from some information sources and in the result characterization. However, improvement is needed in the design of weighting factors of activities for reducing uncertainties in the performance indexes.


Developing countries Freight transport Fuels Impact assessment method S-LCA Social life cycle assessment Roads Vehicles 



The authors want to acknowledge the collaboration of Asian Trucker Media, Malaysian Container Truckers, Dr. Sanath Kumaran and the interviewed stakeholders in the data collection process.

Funding information

This work was based on the Ph.D. thesis by Jose Luis Osorio granted by Colciencias call 646/2014. Part of this study was developed with the support of the CIRCE Institute and the aids of the Aragon Government (T46_17R and S33_17R).

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Group in Territorial Environmental Management -GAT-, Faculty of Environmental SciencesUniversidad Tecnológica de PereiraPereiraColombia
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Accounting and FinanceUniversity of ZaragozaZaragozaSpain
  4. 4.Faculty of Human EcologyUniversiti Putra MalaysiaSerdangMalaysia

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