Extended community of peers and robustness of social LCA
- 229 Downloads
This paper questions the robustness of social life cycle analysis (LCA), based on four social LCA case studies. To improve robustness of social LCA, it is a necessity to fight against its weaknesses. The paper addresses three questions: (1) what are its weaknesses? (2) How can they be combated? There are solutions suggested by the Conventions theory. The Conventions theory asserts that people are capable of adopting conventions (agreements between members of a group) to define what is fair and what is not, depending on the problem. The suggested solution consists in creating a new group (which has been called “extended community of peers”), which will define a new convention adapted to each new situation. The third question is, therefore, (3) do we need to resort to an extended community of peers to combat the social LCA weaknesses?
To contribute to these debates, we discuss the classification of weaknesses defined by the Roy’s decision-making assistance methods: (1) not dealing with the lack of knowledge, (2) attributing undue preferential meaning to certain data, (3) implementing misleading models, and (4) using meaningless technical parameters. We discuss the literature about creating new conventions thanks to peer involvement. To determine whether the creation of an extended community of peers influences the robustness, we will analyse four case studies (social LCA) which we conducted in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The first ones were conducted in Southern territories, relating to various agricultural products (banana, meat, orange). Another case study comes from a northern region, with the objective of comparing direct local supply systems and large-scale supply chains of various agricultural products.
Results and discussion
About weaknesses in LCA, we highlight that environmental LCA authors have identified in their own works the same weakness points as Roy had done for other decision-making tools. We display that these weaknesses are present also in the “Guidelines for SLCA of Products” (UNEP-SETAC 2009). About fighting these weaknesses, building an extended community of peers may be a solution, but a conditional one. We cannot draw a general conclusion from such a small number of cases. However, in both case studies where a real community of peers was formed, the initial convention changed, and many weaknesses were mitigated. These changes did not occur in the other two cases, where no community of peers was mobilised. In particular, a relevant and plausible impact assessment was provided in the former two cases, while this was impossible in the latter two. The community of peers seems to function by comparison of a variety of viewpoints. Nevertheless, peer involvement is not the ultimate weapon against the weaknesses of social LCA, as we experienced it. These difficulties highlight the importance of the role of the consultants/researchers conducting the study. It is up to them to distinguish the situations which will lead to failure, from those which are manageable. It is up to them to generate the evaluative question, provide facts and negotiate.
The creation of a community of peers does not guarantee that problems will be solved. The consultants and researchers have a particular responsibility in decrypting the power games and unfounded beliefs. Introducing the extended community of peers into the LCA landscape goes against the quest for standardisation. But specifying which convention was chosen does not impair the genericity of the method. On the contrary, the researcher’s critique of their own methods is an integral part of the scientific approach.
KeywordsCase studies Conventions Robustness SLCA Uncertainties
C. Macombe is member of ELSA research group. We thank the colleagues for their advices.
- Akrich M, Callon M, Latour B (1988b) A quoi tient le succès des innovations? part 2 : Le choix des porte-parole. Ann Mines 12:14–29Google Scholar
- Akrich M, Callon M, Latour B (1988a) A quoi tient le succès des innovations? part 1 : L’art de l’intéressement. Ann Mines 11:4–17Google Scholar
- Batifoulier P (2001) Théorie des Conventions. Economica, ParisGoogle Scholar
- Bijlsma RM Wolters HA, de Kok JL, Hoekstra AY (2007) A methodology to determine the contribution of stakeholders to the robustness of environmental policy decisions. International Conference on Adaptive & Integrated Water Management, Coping with complexity and Uncertainty. http://www.newater.uni-osnabrueck.de/caiwa/data/paperssessionG.Vol.3.2007
- Bocoum I, Macombe C, Revéret JP (2015) Anticipating impacts on health based on changes in income inequality caused by life cycles, No. JLCA-D-14-00162R1, 20:405--417Google Scholar
- Boltanski L, Thévenot L (1991) De la Justification-Les Economies de la Grandeur, nrf essais. Gallimard, ParisGoogle Scholar
- Feschet P, Macombe C, Garrabé M, Loeillet D, Benhmad F, Rolo Saez A (2012) Social impact assessment in LCA using the Preston Pathway- The case of banana industry in Cameroon, Int J Life Cycle Assess. doi: 10.1007/s11367-012-0490-z
- Funtowicz SO, Ravetz JR (1991) A new scientific methodology for global environmental issues. In: Costanza R (ed) Ecological economics: the science and Management of Sustainability. Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 137–152Google Scholar
- Gillet C, Loeillet D (2013) Social life cycle value chain analysis practices, chapter 6, in Macombe (coord.) Social LCAs, Socio-economic effects in value chains, Théma- FruiTrop, CIRAD, Montpellier, pp 120–139Google Scholar
- Hilborn R (1979) Some failures and successes in applying systems analysis to ecological systems. J Appl Syst Anal 6:25–31Google Scholar
- Jolliet O, Saade M, Crettaz P (2010) Analyse du Cycle de Vie : comprendre et réaliser un écobilan. Les presses polytechniques et universitaires romandes, Lausanne, SuisseGoogle Scholar
- Lakatos I (1994) Histoire et méthodologie des sciences, Collection Bibliothèque d’histoire des sciences. Presses Universitaires de France, ParisGoogle Scholar
- Macombe C (2013) Social LCAs, socio-economic effects in value chains. Théma- FruiTrop, CIRAD, MontpellierGoogle Scholar
- Mintzberg H (1980) Beyond implementation: an analysis to the resistance to policy analysis, INFOR, vol 18, n°2, May 1980, pp 100–138Google Scholar
- Mitchell RK, Agle BR, Wood DJ (1997) Toward a theory of stakeholder identification and salience: defining the principle of who and what really counts. Acad Manag Rev 22(4):853–886Google Scholar
- Porter ME (1985) Competitive advantage: creating and sustaining a superior performance. Free Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- Roy B (2005) A propos de robustesse en recherche opérationnelle et aide à la décision. In: Billaut J.C., Moukrim A, Sanlaville E (sous la direction de) « Flexibilité et robustesse en ordonnancement », Lavoisier, ParisGoogle Scholar
- Roy B (2007) La robustesse en recherché opérationnelle et aide à la décision: une préoccupation multi facettes, Annales du LAMSADE n°7, “Robustness in OR-DA”. Université Paris-Dauphine, pp:209–235Google Scholar
- Schmidt JH, Weidema B (2011) Response to the public consultation on a set of guidance documents of the International Reference Life Cycle Data System (ILCD) Handbook, 2.-0 LCA consultantsGoogle Scholar
- Thévenot L (1993) A quoi convient la théorie des conventions? Réseaux n 62, pp 137–142Google Scholar
- Thévenot L (2002) Conventions of co-ordination and the framing of uncertainties. In: Fullbrook E (ed) Intersubjectivity in economics. Routledge, London, pp. 181–197Google Scholar
- Thiétart R-C et al (1999) Méthodes de recherche en management. Dunod, ParisGoogle Scholar
- UNEP-SETAC (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment, United NationsGoogle Scholar
- Werner F, Scholz RW (2002) Ambiguities in decision-oriented life cycle inventories: the role of mental models. Int J Life Cycle Assess 7(6):330–338Google Scholar
- Zolo D (2004) Globalizzazione. Una mappa dei problemi, GLF Editori Laterza, Roma-BariGoogle Scholar