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Introducing the UNEP/SETAC methodological sheets for subcategories of social LCA



In May 2009, the Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products (the Guidelines) were launched at the occasion of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 26000 (Social Responsibility) meeting in Quebec City, Canada. Developed by a United Nations Environment Programme/Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (“UNEP/SETAC”) Life Cycle Initiative project group on Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA), the Guidelines provide a framework to assess social impacts across product life cycles. A year later, the Methodological Sheets for the Subcategories of Social LCA (“the Methodological Sheets”) are being made available to support practitioners engaging in the field. The Methodological Sheets provide practical guidance for conducting S-LCA case studies by offering consistent, yet flexible assistance.

Aim and scope

A Methodological Sheet was developed for each of the 31 subcategories of assessment outlined in the Guidelines. Each sheet includes a subcategory definition tailored to S-LCA, an explanation of how the subcategory relates to sustainable development, information on data assessment, including examples of inventory indicators, units of measurement, and data sources, along with a reference section that points the user to further information. The data assessment section is intended to provide adaptable guidance to LCA practitioners by offering examples and does not prescribe comprehensive procedures. The Methodological Sheets do not provide guidance on aggregating subcategory indicators or characterization models, nor do they discuss interpretation of results. The sheets are focused on the inventory analysis phase of S-LCA. This article will detail the development process of this unique resource, its content and future development, and how it compares to other types of documents, such as the GRI G3, ISO 26000 guidelines on Social Responsibility and the Global Social Compliance reference code.


The Methodological Sheets support the framework of S-LCA offered in the UNEP/SETAC Guidelines. They provide consistent guidance to assist LCA practitioners in case studies. At the same time, they have been designed to encourage context-specific application. Content of the Methodological Sheets will continue to evolve. Over time, and when relevant, characterization and interpretation models will be added to the Methodological Sheets. The Methodological Sheets are currently under public review and available on the Life Cycle Initiative website. A finalized version will be available in 2011, integrating comments from the review process.

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The completed set of methodological sheets is an achievement that would not have been possible without the vision of Bernard Mazijn; the early work of Catherine Benoît, Julie Hébert, and Sophie Spillemaeckers; the guidance, support, and determination of Sonia Valdivia; the hard work and dynamism of Andreas Manhart, Siddhart Prakash, Asa Moberg, Cassia Ugaya, Julie Parent, and Carmela Cucuzella; the reflectivity of Bo Weidema, Greg Norris, and Andreas Ciroth; the participation of Ulrike Bos, Tabea Beck, Leif Barthel, and Pierre Mazeau; and finally, the commitment and exceptional work of Gina Vickery, Marzia Traverso, Juliane Franze, and Catherine Benoît. The work has also been strongly supported by the contribution of all the members of the Social LCA project group over the years and especially, Andrée-Lise Méthot, former co-chair, Jean-Pierre Revéret, and Véronique Jampierre.

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Correspondence to Catherine Benoît-Norris.

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Responsible editor: Thomas Swarr

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Benoît-Norris, C., Vickery-Niederman, G., Valdivia, S. et al. Introducing the UNEP/SETAC methodological sheets for subcategories of social LCA. Int J Life Cycle Assess 16, 682–690 (2011).

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  • Business
  • Methodological sheets
  • Methodology
  • Social impacts
  • Social life cycle assessment (S-LCA)
  • Social responsibility
  • Socio-economic
  • Stakeholders
  • Supply chain
  • Sustainability