The distinctive recognition of culture within LCSA: realising the quadruple bottom line
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Cultural indicators, although present in S-LCA subcategories, are fairly limited and are not compulsory; performing an S-LCA does not guarantee the inclusion of cultural values. This paper explores the potential to distinctly represent and include cultural aspects within Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA) (alongside economic, social and environmental aspects). As such, it demonstrates LCSA’s capability to communicate results along a quadruple bottom line.
A participatory LCSA case study was undertaken using a mixed methods approach. Research was carried out working in close collaboration with three key members of an indigenous community in New Zealand—the Māori tribe of Ngāti Porou. A series of semi-structured interviews with the three participants was undertaken in order to investigate alternative forestry options for Ngāti Porou land. The research involved (1) understanding the decision-making process of Ngāti Porou, (2) recognising Ngāti Porou aspirations and goals, (3) determining a range of forestry land use and product options to be reviewed within the LCSA case study, (4) selection of meaningful (to Ngāti Porou) economic, social and environmental indicators, (5) developing a bespoke cultural indicator and (6) collaboratively reviewing and discussing the results.
Results and discussion
The results of the participatory LCSA represented culture in two ways. Firstly, a bespoke cultural indicator (Cultural Indicator Matrix) was created to distinctly represent culture in LCSA. The indicator subjectively measures the perceived impact that a forestry process or product has upon a range of Ngāti Porou aspirations, and the results can be viewed alongside other LCSA indicators. Secondly, the participatory research approach made the LCSA process more culturally-inclusive. Overall, the results of the culturally-inclusive LCSA gave the participants ‘validation’ and ‘direction’ and justified their desire to pursue alternative forestry options for their land.
This first use of the Cultural Indicator Matrix was experienced by the participants as an effective mechanism for gathering community-based impressions of how forestry life cycle processes affect their cultural aspirations. They felt the participatory aspect was important, and considered that the ongoing communication between themselves and the LCSA practitioner provided them with more control, access to information and understanding of the LCSA process and led to higher acceptance of the final results. Thus, this research suggests that there is a place for culture in LCSA, and that distinctive representation of culture (separately from S-LCA) may be beneficial, particularly if the end-users have explicit cultural needs or concerns.
KeywordsCulture LCSA Quadruple bottom line
This research has been carried out with the financial support of Scion, Massey University, and the New Zealand Life Cycle Management Centre.
The authors are grateful and appreciative for the guidance provided by Dr. Tim Payn and Dr. Jeff Seadon. In addition, the comments and suggestions from the reviewers have been invaluable.
Compliance with ethical standards
This research involved engagement with three Māori (Ngāti Porou) participants. A full human ethics application was submitted to and approved by the Massey University Human Ethics Committee (Southern B application, 13-58).
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