A literature review of type I SLCA—making the logic underlying methodological choices explicit
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The Social Life Cycle Assessment guidelines (UNEP-SETAC 2009) distinguish two different SLCA approaches, type I and type II. Few comprehensive and analytical reviews have been undertaken to examine the multiplicity of approaches that have been developed within type I SLCA. This paper takes on the task of exploring the evaluation methods used in type I SLCA methods.
In order to tackle this work, a critical literature review was undertaken, covering a total of 32 reviewed articles, ranging from 2006 to 2015. Those articles have been selected for they make explicit reference to type I, performance reference points (PRPs), corporate behavior assessment, and social performance assessment or if their assessment methods generated a result located at the same point as the inventory data, with regards to the impact pathway. The selected articles were analyzed with a focus on the inventory data used, the aggregation of inventory data on the functional unit, and the type of characterization and weighting methods used. This analysis allowed to make explicit the often implicit logic underlying the evaluation methods and to identify the common denominators of type I SLCA.
Results and discussion
The analysis highlighted the multiplicity of approaches that are comprised within type I SLCA today, both in terms of the data collected (in particular, its positioning along the impact pathway); the presence of some optional steps, such as the scaling of inventory data on the functional unit (FU); and in terms of the different characterization and weighting steps. With regards to data collection, this review has highlighted that the furthest indicators are positioned along the impact pathway, the hardest it is to justify the link between them and the activities of companies in the product system. The analysis also suggested that an important differentiating factor among type I SLCA methods lies in “what the inventory data is assessed against” at the characterization step and how it is ultimately weighted. To illustrate this, a typology of six characterization methods and five types of weighting methods was presented.
It is interesting to identify which approaches are most appropriate to respond to the various questions that SLCA aims to respond to. A question that arises is what approaches are most likely to tell us anything about the impact of a product system on social well-being? This question is particularly relevant in the absence of well-documented impact pathways between activities within product systems and impact on social well-being.
KeywordsCharacterization methods Literature review Social LCA Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) Social impact assessment methods Social performance assessment Socio-economic impact assessment Type I Well-being
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