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An Italian tomato “Cuore di Bue” case study: challenges and benefits using subcategory assessment method for social life cycle assessment

  • Luigia Petti
  • Paola Karina Sanchez Ramirez
  • Marzia Traverso
  • Cassia Maria Lie Ugaya
SOCIAL LCA IN PROGRESS

Abstract

Purpose

The main purpose of this study is to present an implementation of the subcategory assessment method (SAM) to the life cycle of an Italian variety of tomato called “Cuore di Bue” produced by an Italian cooperative. The case study was used to use the methodology proposed in compliance with the guidelines of social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) in order to highlight issues for the improvement of SAM. A summary of strengths and weaknesses of the methodology as well as the social performance of the considered Italian tomato is an important result of this case study.

Methods

The methodology used is based on SAM. The UNEP/SETAC guidelines of S-LCA and the complementary methodological sheets were used as main references to carry out SAM, and it was used to assess the social performances of Cuore di Bue. The focus was on the assessment of the following three out of five stakeholder groups presented in the guidelines: workers, local community and consumers. Specific questionnaires have been developed to collect the inventory data related to each stakeholder group and along the product life cycle.

Results and discussion

SAM of Cuore di Bue showed a range of values, between 2 and 3 (C-B) for consumer stakeholder group and mainly 3 (B) for the local community and worker stakeholders. Because the best performance (A) is related to a numerical value of 4, better performances were not identified, owing to no propagation of actions in the value chain. The collective bargaining, transparency, feedback mechanism and privacy are the subcategories with the worst performance, but at the same time with more potential for improvements.

Conclusions

The implementation of SAM on Cuore di Bue allowed us to demonstrate how SAM transforms qualitative data into semi-quantitative information through a score scale that can help a decision maker achieve a product overview. SAM has been implemented on Cuore di Bue; the product assessment, the strengths and weaknesses of the methodology are identified and discussed as well. It has been possible to present the best and worst performances in product life cycle, by identifying the phase or the subcategories with good or bad performance. However, in this case study, as the same company owns most of the product life cycle taken into account, the majority of social performances are identical, and this may represent a limit of the methodology or that more organisations along the life cycle must be taken into account (for example, energy, distribution).

Keywords

Subcategory assessment method Social life cycle assessment Social impact assessment Stakeholders Characterisation model Case study 

1 Introduction

The social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) has, as its main target, the assessment of the social performance of a product along its life cycle. A great amount of literature has been written in the last 10 years to identify a set of valid and commonly accepted indicators and its relative characterisation factors for the impact assessment (Weidema 2006; Dreyer et al. 2006; Jørgensen et al. 2010; Benoit et al. 2011; Traverso et al. 2012a; Traverso et al. 2012b; Jørgensen 2013; Benoit et al. 2013; Neugebauer et al. 2014; Neugebauer et al. 2015). Although a standard set of indicators has not yet been defined, a framework for the implementation of the methodology has already been developed. The scientific community and users of S-LCA commonly accept the following main points:
  • The assessment path should follow the ISO 14040 (ISO 14040, 2006) scheme to be a complementary approach of environmental LCA in assessing the social impact of products (UNEP/SETAC 2009).

  • The main topic related to the ILO standards (ILO 1930, 1948, 1949, 1951, 1957, 1958, 1973, 1999), such as child labour and forced labour (Dreyer et al. 2010), needs to be considered in the assessment of the worker stakeholder group.

  • The indicators are different and depend on the impact categories and the stakeholder groups (e.g. human health should be measured with different indicators if it is related to workers, consumers or local communities).

  • A possible path to allocate social impacts is to use the quantity of labour hours for each unit process (UNEP/SETAC 2009).

UNEP and SETAC (2009) highlighted the importance of developing methods and case studies to improve S-LCA. In a former study, Ramirez et al. (2014) and Sanchez Ramirez et al. (2016) presented a subcategory assessment method (SAM) based on UNEP and SETAC (2009).

SAM is able to transform qualitative information into quantitative data (1 to 4; 1 being the worst and 4 being the best), thereby acquiring a semi-qualitative feature. In some cases, the method proves to be consistent by analysing the organisational social behaviour of the product life cycle. In addition, SAM allows for managing different issues in the context of S-LCA, e.g. ranging from a simple to a complex product, and also when the assessment comprises different contexts/countries across the whole value chain. This is owing to basic requirements based on international references, which enables a systematic application.

It was noted that not all elements of regionalisation and contextualisation of particular situations are considered by the method, especially in small organisations. This is due to the fact that SAM is based on the evaluation of organisational practises in relation to international agreements. The choice of using international agreements is related to the indications given by the UNEP/SETAC methodology. It relies on measures implemented by large organisations having the resources and capacity to acquire social and environmental actions, as was identified by Dreyer et al. (2010).

SAM has been applied to a cosmetic product in Brazil (Ramirez et al. 2016). The current paper aims to use SAM in another context and for another type of product, a specific variety of Italian tomato called “Cuore di Bue,” and to assess social performances of its value chain (cradle to gate) from the cultivation of the plants until it is put on the market and sold to the consumers.

The tomato is one of the most diffused horticultural products and one of the most incisive on the fruit and vegetable sector. According to FAO, Italy is the first tomato-producing country in EU-27 with approximately 51 t in 2012. However, there has been a structural decrease in the cultivation of the table tomato from 30,000 ha at the beginning of the millennium to 22,000 ha in 2012, whereas the quantity of greenhouse table tomato production has grown in the same period from 36 to almost 50 % (FAOSTAT|© FAO Statistics Division 2014|16 July 2014).

2 Goal, scope and system boundaries

2.1 Functional unit

The functional unit (FU) chosen in this case study is 1 kg of tomato Cuore di Bue, which meets the nutritional needs of an individual, thus represents an excellent source of antioxidants, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins (Ciusa 1979).

2.2 Product system

Because the social indicators collected have been related to the product by considering the labour hours, the cutoff criteria are related to the amount of labour hours (Hunkeler 2006) of each process unit. An analysis of all company sites involved in the product life cycle is necessary. The company with the most steps of the product life cycle is defined as company A. In order to produce the product, it interacts with the other companies of the supply chain. All process units related to company A are considered in the assessment. The other companies in the supply chain are compared to each other in terms of interaction, expressed in percentage of labour hours, with company A. All process units of the others companies, which have an interaction higher than 1 %, are included in the system boundary. Table 1 shows the process units for each considered company.
Table 1

Companies involved and relative unit processes of tomato “Cuore di Bue” production

Phytosanitary products and transportation

Plant production and transportation

Coconut layers and transportation

Packaging and transportation

Plantation, harvest and packing

Final transportation to the seller

Company B

Company C

Company D

Company E

Company A

Company F

     

Company G

     

Company A

The calculation of the labour hours of each unit process (minutes or hours) is estimated according to Ugaya et al. (2011) based on the number of employees of the company (workers), the number of working hours per week of each employee, the number of working weeks in a year and the entire yearly production of the product as shown in Eq. (1). The labour hours are calculated by the following equation:
$$ Wh=W\times h\times n/p $$
(1)
where
  • Wh is the amount of labour hours

  • W represents the number of workers involved in the process unit

  • h represents the working hours per week

  • n represents the number of working weeks per year and

  • p represents the total production (kg) per year

The amount of working hours referred to the FU (WFU) for each unit process is given by
$$ WFU= Wh\times c $$
(2)

where “c” is the amount of all materials necessary to produce 1 FU of tomato Cuore di Bue.

The analysis of labour hours was applied to the entire production phase (from cradle to market; Fig. 1) and included
  • All phases of the tomato production from seedling through cultivation to the harvesting phases and packaging

  • The production and supply phases of packaging products such as plastic and paper boxes

  • Production of coconut slabs necessary as underlay, where the tomato plants are positioned

  • All transport phases related to tomato Cuore di Bue supply chain, from transport of the intermediate and auxiliary materials to the delivery of the final product.

To assess the labour hours of each unit process to produce a FU of tomato Cuore di Bue, it is necessary to know all material and energy input data related to the tomato production in a year. The relative primary input data were collected from the companies involved in the Cuore di Bue life cycle.

For each unit process, the company production site and the relative number of workers involved per year were considered. Furthermore, all data related to Eq. (1) were collected together with the relative input production. The production of a tomato plant and the relative data collected from company C is an example. All data related to the time (minutes) necessary for each treatment of tomatoes plant is reported in Table 2. The time for each process of annual production was divided by the time for the entire production of one tomato plant.
Table 2

Labour hours (minutes) for the production of a tomato plant

Production phase of a plant

Labour minutes

Seeding

0.03

Relocation in greenhouse

0.0075

Plantation post-seeding and post-graft

0.015

Logistic pre- and post-graft

0.12

Transplanting

0.15

Trimming

0.10

Monitoring

0.3

Selection

0.03

Placement and hydration of cubes

0.04

Spacing of the cubes

0.375

Total time needed to produce a plant

1.17

The production of one tomato plant requires 1.17 min. Company C delivers 70,000 Cuore di Bue plants to company A annually. The yearly tomato production of company A requires 81,900 min or 1365 h to produce the original plants. The same process was used to calculate the labour hours of each unit process.

A summary of the labour hours for each unit process is reported in Table 3.
Table 3

Summary of labour hours for each process unit

Process

Company

Transportation

Labour minutes

Phytosanitary distribution

Company B

Company B

1.7255

Plant production

Company C

Company C

1.465

Coconut slab production

Company D

Company D

4.653

Plantation, harvest and packing

Company A

 

98.988

Cardboard box production

Company E

Company E

120

Final delivery (transport)

Company F

 

702

 

Company G

 

1476

 

Company A

 

360

Total

107.5293

The next step is to identify those unit processes/companies that are part of the system boundary according to the fixed cutoff criteria, a contribution of labour hours higher than 1 %.

The contribution (in percentage) of each unit process in term of labour hours is reported in Table 4.
Table 4

Summary of process unit labour hour contribution

Process

Labour hours (h)

Percentage of hour

Phytosanitary distribution

0.00088

1.61 %

Plant production

0.00075

1.37 %

Coconut slab production

0.00237

4.32 %

Plantation, harvest and packing

0.05038

92.03 %

Cardboard box production

0.00006

0.11 %

Final delivery—company F

0.00004

0.07 %

Final delivery—company G

0.00008

0,15 %

Final delivery—company A

0.00018

0,34 %

According to the cutoff criteria, the cardboard box production process and the final transport can be excluded from the system boundary because they present a percentage of labour hours smaller that 0.15 %.

Together with the cutoff criteria, a social hot spot analysis is necessary to identify if there are cases of child labour or forced labour that are considered knockout criteria and whose assessment is needed also when the specific unit process has a bearing of labour hours lower than 1 %. Each single minute of child labour must be considered.

The final system boundaries of the S-LCA of tomato Cuore di Bue are reported in Fig. 2.
Fig. 1

System boundary of all the production phases considered in the labour hour analysis

Fig. 2

Flowchart of the all the considered production phases considered in the case study

2.3 Selection of stakeholders

According to the definition of S-LCA (UNEP/SETAC 2013; UNEP/SETAC 2009), the assessment should be related to the following five stakeholder groups: workers, consumers, local communities, global and national societies and value chain actors. We decided to focus the attention on the first three stakeholder groups because, according to a first screening on the data availability and the priorities of the company with whom the case study was made (UNEP/SETAC 2009), the screening process was carried out by considering the company strategy and the data available at the time of the study. The method, although not perfect, is effective. It was important to guarantee the viability of the methodology in this first implementation. It would be interesting to further develop its application in small companies.

In fact, topics such as public commitments to sustainability issues and contribution to economic development related to the neglected stakeholder groups are not easily measurable for the dimension of the company considered, according to UNEP and SETAC (2009).

2.4 SAM

SAM allows the evaluation of organisations by a subcategory, which can later on be linked either to stakeholders or to impacts. As this study aims to perform a case study using SAM, further linkages have not been performed. In order to use SAM, data needs to be collected and compared to basic requirements (BRs), which were defined according to legislation or organisational practises and country context which results in different levels (Ramirez et al. 2014). An example for the subcategory forced labour is shown in Table 5. If the organisation simply fulfils the BR, it is evaluated as B. In the case in which the organisation multiplies the BR along the supply chain, an A is given. The difference between C and D depends on the context; e.g. in the case of forced labour, it is related to the country practice. All the remaining description for the other subcategories related to the stakeholders selected is available in Ramirez et al. (2014).
Table 5

Organisation level of SAM for forced labour

Level

A

B

C

D

Description

Multiplies BR practises along the life cycle

The organisation has a policy against forced labour, in compliance with ILO Conventions No. 29 and No. 105 (ILOLEX 2012) or there is no use of forced labour

There is evidence in the organisation of the use of forced labour as well as in the country where the organisation is located

There is evidence in the organisation of the use of forced labour, but there is no evidence of forced labour in the country where the organisation is located

Source: (Ramirez et al. 2014b)

3 Life cycle inventory

Life cycle inventory was carried out according to ISO 14040/44 (ISO 14040, 2006; ISO 14044, 2006) to be consistent with the UNEP/SETAC guidelines and a comprehensive sustainability assessment.

Because many S-LCA case studies have not been carried out till now (Petti et al. 2014), we developed a specific questionnaire for social data collection along the product life cycle based on the methodological sheets (UNEP/SETAC 2013). The questions are proposed to facilitate the use of SAM and were developed consistently with the UNEP/SETAC guideline framework in terms of stakeholder and subcategory groups (see Electronic supplementary material).

3.1 Workers

The first considered stakeholder group for the data collection is workers, including labourers and office workers.

The following three different questionnaires were developed, and each was used for different groups:
  • Questionnaire for the company administration (office workers);

  • Questionnaire to collect data from the employees directly involved in the tomato production (labourers);

  • Questionnaire to interview delegates of trade union.

The aim of interviewing different people is to allow triangulation, that is, to compare data amongst different sources of information to validate data of the inventory analysis (Table 6). The questions were proposed in such a way so as to confirm (or not) the answers given from the other two interviewed groups. In this case study, only the first two questionnaires listed above were used, as the workers are not members of any trade union.
Table 6

Triangulation data by stakeholder

Stakeholder

Primary data

Triangulation

Workers

Business owner of the organisation

Workers of the organisation (72 interviewed)

Consumers

Marketing responsible of the organisation

Websites (as Istituto Nazionale di Statistica (ISTAT), www.agricolturanotizie.com) and local health authority (as Azienda Sanitaria Locale (ASL) in Italy)

Local community

Marketing and human resources responsible of the organisation

District responsible identified directly by the organisation

To further validate the given answers, the national laws and norms and the National Collective Worker Agreement (CCNL) in the agricultural and floriculture sector (Parti sociali 2010) were analysed.

A random sample of 72 employees in the tomato Cuore di Bue production were interviewed, representing 95 % of the original population of 93 workers, using the equation 3 (Corbetta 2003).
$$ n={t}^2\times P\times \left(1-P\right)/{D}^2 $$
(3)

where n is the dimension of the sample, t represents the distribution, P is the estimated population and D is the absolute precision.

From the interviewed sample, the following were identified:
  • 51 men and 21 women

  • 5 people aged 16 to 18, 34 aged 18 to 30, 23 aged 30 to 40, 9 aged 40 to 50 and only 1 over 60 years of age.

A summary of subcategories and number of questions used to assess the social performance of tomato Cuore di Bue on the workers is shown in Table 7. For example, to assess the subcategory working hours, 6 questions were asked directly to the workers and 13 to the organisation representative. The first question of the workers questionnaire is How many hours do you usually work per day? The following three answer types were identified: a = 8 h/day, b = more than 8 h/day and c = less than 8 h/day. The results were a = 44 %, b = 37 % and c = 19 %. The assessment of all questions was made in order to respond to the indicator weekly number of average working hours compliant with the law of the sector. If one single answer suggested the non-compliance of this indicator, the processes in the impact assessment (using SAM) would not fulfil the BR for the subcategory.
Table 7

Questionnaire relative to the worker stakeholder group

Subcategory

Number of questions

Results of the inventory questionnaire

Freedom of association

3 questions to the workers/11 questions to the organisation representative

No workers were members of a union but members of the cooperative company

Child labour

2 questions to the worker/7 questions to the organisation representative

Presence of policy against child labour

Fair salary

4 questions to the workers/10 questions to the organisation representative

The lowest salary is equal or higher than the minimum wage of the Italian agriculture sector

Working hours

6 questions to the worker/4 question to the organisation representative

Weekly number of average working hours is compliant with the law of the sector

Forced labour

3 questions to the worker/5 questions to the organisation representative

Presence of policy against forced labour

Equal opportunities/discrimination

9 questions to the worker/4 questions to the organisation representative

The organisation promotes equal opportunities for workers

Health and safety

12 questions to the workers/13 questions to the organisation representative

The organisation invests in and trains its employees with relation to accident prevention programs

Social benefit/social security

2 questions to the worker/3 questions to the organisation representative

The organisation provides more than two social benefits listed in the basic requirement

Source: (Vicoli R. 2012)

3.2 Local community

A summary of topics and number of questions used to assess the social performance of tomato Cuore di Bue on the local communities is shown in Table 8. The results were related to the questionnaire for the company. A second questionnaire was developed for the person in charge of the local community to check the company answers.
Table 8

Questionnaire relative to the local community stakeholder group

Subcategory

Number of questions

Results of the inventory questionnaire

Access to material resources

6 questions to the organisation/5 questions to the local community representative

Certificate Global Gap and Lotta Integrata

Access to immaterial resources

3 questions to the organisation/2 questions to the local community representative

No evidence of the promotion of community services (health/education/information sharing)

Delocalisation and migration

6 questions to the organisation/5 questions to the local community representative

No evidence of resettlement caused by the organisation

Cultural heritage

4 questions to the organisation/3 questions to the local community representative

Community and its subsistence is considered an activity of cultural heritage preservation

Safe and healthy living conditions

5 questions to the organisation/4 questions to the local community representative

Certificate Global Gap and Lotta Integrata

Respect of indigenous rights

3 questions to the organisation/2 questions to the local community representative

Communities and the regions were already occupied by similar activities, and there is no conflict with the local community

Community engagement

6 questions to the organisation/5 questions to the local community representative

The organisation actively participates in events of the local community (“sagras and banco alimentar”)

Local employment

3 questions to the organisation/2 questions to the local community representative

It uses local employees

Secure living conditions

3 questions to the organisation/2 questions to the local community representative

The organisation does not reveal any conflicts or problems with the local community proven by the absence of judicial appeals to the organisation

For example, to assess the subcategory delocalisation and migration, six questions were asked to the organisation representative and five questions to the community representative. The first question of both questionnaires (organisation and community representative) is the following: Is there any situation that resulted in the delocation of the local community for reasons caused by the organisation? The assessment of all the questions was made in order to answer the indicator evidence of resettlement caused by the organisation. If one single answer suggested the evidence of this indicator in any processes, the impact assessment (using SAM) would be evaluated as not achieving of the BR for the subcategory.

3.3 Consumers

The stakeholder consumer plays a meaningful role for the success of the product. Tomato consumers are not only represented by the local inhabitants but also by inhabitants in surrounding large cities. In fact, the company distributes its products to the general markets and supermarkets of the largest cities in Northern Italy, such as Turin and Milan. The carried out questionnaire, totalling 17 questions, is made up of open questions and focuses on consumer health and safety, consumer privacy, end-of-life responsibility, feedback mechanism and transparency, as shown in Table 9. For example, to assess the health and safety subcategory, the objective was to investigate whether the organisation delivered a healthy and safe product to the consumer. For this subcategory, six questions were asked. The first checked for any complaint regarding consumers’ health and safety. The remaining questions aimed to identify the procedures used in the organisation to deliver a healthy and safe product to the consumer.
Table 9

Results of the questionnaire relative to the consumer stakeholder group

Subcategory

Number of questions

Results of the inventory questionnaire

Health and safety

6 questions

The company does not receive any complaints on health and safety issues from its consumers, but the company does not promote healthy and safety practises and policies with its own business partners

Feedback mechanism

3 questions

No feedback mechanism is available, but the consumers can still reach the company by telephone or by e-mail

Privacy

3 questions

No policy to guaranty consumers’ privacy

No protection of consumer’s data supplied by Internet

No policy or actions to protect the suppliers’ privacy

Transparency

3 questions

The company does not communicate its social corporate responsibility but implement environmental and social tools for the impact assessment such as water footprint and LCA

End-of-life responsibility

2 questions

The company gives clear information for consumers on the end-of-life treatment of its product, but it does not promote policy and practises with its business

The head of marketing answered the questionnaire for primary data. Triangulation, according to the methodology, is desirable and may occur through consumer organisations. In the case of any reported problem regarding the health and safety of the consumers, due to the consumption of the product, such as intoxication, it should be reported to the local health authority (e.g. ASL, in Italy).

4 Results of the SAM

For the social life cycle impact assessment (S-LCIA) and its interpretation, the authors used the SAM (Ramirez et al. 2014). This case study is one of the first comprehensive implementations of SAM. It allows translating qualitative into quantitative indicators throughout a scale definition.

The reference is the BR that is defined according to the International Labour and Human Rights standard (refer to Sect. 0).

The life cycle inventory data were then analysed and assessed according to SAM criteria, and for each one, the relative score was assigned. The obtained results are discussed and reported in the next section (Figs. 3, 4 and 5).
Fig. 3

Overview of the results of the worker subcategories’ assessment evaluation

Fig. 4

Results of consumer stakeholder subcategory evaluation

Fig. 5

Results of local community stakeholder subcategory evaluation

For the worker stakeholder, the results of the following eight subcategories are reported: freedom of association and collective bargaining, child labour, forced labour, fair wage, working hours, equal opportunities and discrimination, health and safety, social benefit and social security (Sanchez Ramirez et al. 2012).

According to SAM, B is assigned to the freedom of association and collective bargaining subcategory because no workers were associated to a labour union; they were grouped into a cooperative, respecting their right to freedom of association.

The other subcategories of the stakeholder workers are all at level B. In fact, all the other subcategories met the minimum standard defined by the relative ILO Conventions. Children no younger than 15 worked in the assessed unit process, which is why the subcategory child labour was evaluated with level B.

For the subcategory fair wage, no minimum standard has been established at the national level. In Italy as well as in other European countries (e.g. Germany), the minimum salary is sector specific and is defined by an agreement between labour union organisation, government and companies. For example, the minimum wage for the administrative sector in Italy is 965.12 euro per month, for the production sector 6.00 euro/h for the head of department and 5.20 euro/h for worker (Parti sociali 2010) and 965.12 euro per month for agriculture sector (FLAI 2008). The company addresses the BR, obtaining B.

The equal opportunity and discrimination subcategory was also defined at level B as the company established a management system to avoid, prevent and eventually manage discrimination (Ramirez et al. 2014).

Level B was also assigned to the social benefit and social security subcategory; the company recognises social benefits such as family leave, sick leave, disability, individual retirement account and health insurance to all its employees. An overview of the results of the stakeholder worker evaluation is reported in Fig. 3.

The following five subcategories were considered and assessed for the consumer stakeholder: health and safety, feedback mechanism, consumer privacy, transparency and end-of-life responsibility (Sanchez Ramirez et al. 2012). The basic requirements were established in compliance with the following international norms and guidelines: ISO 26000 (Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and Consumer Protection Act (1987). An overview of the results is shown in Fig. 4, where three out of five subcategories are at level C and the remaining two at B. The health and safety and end-of-life responsibility subcategories are evaluated at level B, being as they meet the requirements of the Italian national norms on workers’ health and safety of the CSR and of GRI standards.

The other three subcategories do not meet the minimum standard; thus, they were evaluated at level C.

According to SAM, two different levels can be assigned (C and D), when the company does not meet the minimum standard. With regard to consumer privacy, the reference is no longer the company’s behaviour but the country where it is located. The evaluation of the country is given in accordance with the International Privacy Ranking (Privacy International 2007). Consequently, C is assigned if the country, where the company is situated, has a Privacy International Ranking score from 1.1 to 3 and level D if the country score is between 3.1 and 5.

Level C was assigned to the feedback mechanism subcategory, since no system to trace complaints or consumer satisfaction was established in the company.

According to the S-LCA guidelines (UNEP/SETAC 2009), all subcategories for the local community stakeholder group have been assessed, delocalisation and migration, community engagement, cultural heritage, respect of indigenous rights, local employment, access to the material resources, access to immaterial resources, safe and healthy living condition and secure living conditions. The results (Fig. 5) show that only one subcategory (access to material resources) meets the standard and is evaluated at B. In order for the criteria of these subcategories to be verified, company audits and inspection of the company code of conduct were carried out. The access to immaterial resources was evaluated at level D, as no activity, in terms of education and information for the local community, has been identified.

5 Discussion and conclusions

The present study shows the feasibility of the SAM method for the evaluation and the interpretation of the inventory data of the S-LCA. The inventory data were collected by considering the framework presented by the Guidelines and the Methodological Sheets of UNEP/SETAC (Benoit et al. 2011; UNEP/SETAC 2009). Some phases had to be excluded from the case study because no primary data were available and no secondary data for the social indicators chosen could be used. The data collection of this case study shows how detailed and time-consuming this can be for S-LCA. However, it highlights how elaborate data collection is and how it can better contribute to the understanding and interpretation of the real social status of the processes. Bearing in mind that the primary data for S-LCA is usually qualitative, the more information that is obtained, the more veritable the reality is represented. This occurs in the worker stakeholder as it was possible to interview almost 100 % of the workers of the organisation. The direct interview enabled the interviewer to better understand the real situation and link it to the assessment. This kind of sensitivity is always more important when performing an S-LCA.

Moreover, this case study represents one of the first implementations of the S-LCA using SAM and also represents the first assessment of an Italian tomato.

In the tomato Cuore di Bue case study, 77.27 % of the assessed subcategories achieved the basic requirements. In this case study, the method does not allow for outlining a difference between the worst and the best social performances. This is due to the fact that the product phases assessed are performed by the same organisation and consequently present an identical social performance. However, it is still possible to differentiate the worst social performance in relation to each subcategory (Table 10). Table 11 shows a summary of the results; for each SAM result and related evidence, a measurement was suggested to the company for improving its social performance.
Table 10

SAM: scale for the interpretation of the qualitative indicators into quantitative ones

Scale of levels

A

B

C

D

Numerical scale

4

3

2

1

Source: (Sanchez Ramirez et al. 2014)

Table 11

Summary of the SAM assessment results and relative action plan measures

Stakeholder groups

Subcategory

Results of SAM

Evidence

Measurement

Consumer

Health and safety product

B

The organisation invests and trains its employees in relation to accident prevention programs

Setting of the contract with its suppliers to act according to the sectorial and national norms and continue to offer a healthy and safety product according to the sectorial and national norms

 

Feedback mechanism

C

There are no measures which enable the consumer to make complaints, such as providing a suggestion box on the help desk or a customer care section on the website

Traceability of consumer satisfaction/assessment and electronic storage of consumers’ complaints

 

Consumer privacy

C

There is no formal policy on privacy within the organisation

Provide a formal policy on privacy within the organisation

 

Transparency

C

The organisation has no formal report on social responsibility but demonstrates practises to its suppliers

Provide formal report on social responsibility with access to consumers

Workers

Health and safety product

B

The organisation invests and trains its employees in relation to accident prevention programs

Use of safety tools during the distribution phase of fertilisers and pesticides

    

Use of safety and properly managed equipment

    

Training and education of the employees

Local community

Safe and healthy living conditions

B

Certificate Global Gap and “Lotta Integrata”

Establish contract with its suppliers to act properly according to law regarding safety and health of workers and continue to offer increase of the local community’s awareness of social and environmental topics

    

Initiatives to improve awareness of the social and environmental topics of the local community

 

Access to immaterial resource

D

No evidence of the promotion of community services (health/education/information sharing)

Offer education and information to the local community

The suggestions for no action plan are provided mainly, where the results do not meets the basic requirement or no small effort of the organisation is sufficient to prove the performance

For example, the “access to immaterial resources” subcategory from local community stakeholder presented the worst performance. The organisation neither offers services to the local community nor creates educational initiatives to the community members with the purpose of sharing information and knowledge. This can be attributed to the small size of the company, which has insufficient resources to perform such activities. In addition, the analysis highlights a lack of proactive actions towards suppliers and other actors in the value chain. More specifically, the company reveals a weak customer satisfaction management system; the creation of a website providing a direct contact with the customer could represent a significant improvement.

However, company A, along with the environmental certification, implemented the present S-LCA to improve its social performance. Since the company has already offered high-quality products in compliance with the norms for consumer health and safety, it could improve its visibility and engagement of the local community.

The results of the SAM assessment have led the company to draw up the following action plan (Table 11):
  • Related to the stakeholder consumers
    • Offer a health and safety product according to the sectorial and national norms

    • Traceability of consumer satisfaction

    • Assessment and electronic storage of consumers’ complaints.

  • Safeguard of the workers
    • Use of safety tools during the distribution phase of fertilisers and pesticides

    • Use of safety and properly managed equipment

    • Training and education of the employees.

  • Safeguard of the local community
    • Increase of the local community’s awareness of social and environmental topics

    • Initiatives to improve awareness of the social and environmental topics of the local community.

In conclusion, SAM proves to offer a transparent analysis of the organisational social behaviour of the tomato Cuore di Bue in a gate-to-gate perspective.

In this study, we deliberately consider all criteria with the same relevancy, but a case study with a ranking of the proposed criteria should be carried out for verifying if the criteria are all relevant for the tomato sector.

Supplementary material

11367_2016_1175_MOESM1_ESM.docx (53 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 53 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economic Studies (DEc)“Gabriele d’Annunzio” University PescaraPescaraItaly
  2. 2.Erzgiesserei StrasseMunichGermany
  3. 3.Graduate School of Mechanical Engineering and Materials (PPGEM)Federal University of TechnologyRebouças CuritibaBrazil

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