Psychosocial risk factors’ impact pathway for social life cycle assessment: an application to citrus life cycles in South Italy

Abstract

Purpose

Social life cycle assessment (SLCA) was the last tool to be developed within the framework of life cycle thinking, and since the beginning, there has been a struggle to reach a consensus on a standardized methodology. In fact, many different methodological proposals have been published, diverging on many points. The main difference lies in the epistemological position underlying these proposals. The aim of this study is to propose an impact pathway for assessing the social consequences of a product’s life cycle—the psychosocial risk factor (PRF) impact pathway. The epistemological posture of this methodology is post-positivist, because it is based on an objective assessment of the possible consequences of the functioning of the life cycle, and therefore, it is in line with environmental LCA.

Methods

Possible impacts on workers’ health were measured in terms of risks, i.e., using the odds ratio, a statistical measure of the intensity of the association between two variables. Odds ratios explaining the relationships between working conditions and health troubles were retrieved from previously published empirical studies. These statistical relationships were used to build an impact pathway that links the product’s life cycle to possible social impacts in a quantifiable and probabilistic way.

Results and discussion

The PRF impact pathway was applied to citriculture in the Calabria region of South Italy. The results showed that the life cycle, from cradle to farm gate, of industrial oranges exposed workers to a risk for about 43,088 h against 54,110 h for the clementine life cycle. In general, musculoskeletal disorders are the highest concern for both products, followed by osteoarthritis, disability, and cardiovascular diseases. For all impact categories, the industrial oranges’ life cycle showed the best performance, mainly due to the shorter duration of a single operation. The results are generalizable to other evaluation contexts.

Conclusions

The PRF impact pathway was applied to the stakeholders group “workers,” but can be extended to other typologies of actor, such as consumers and local residents. Further, it allowed for an objective assessment of the impacts principally linked to the functioning of the citruses’ life cycles, by quantifying and qualifying the hours of work, and can be extended to other fields of application.

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Notes

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    The “Citruses Plans” (Piani Agrumi) are Italian programming documents for mid-term periods promoted by the Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies, funded by the European Union, aimed at boosting innovation and re-organization of national citriculture.

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Acknowledgements

This study is an advancement of a part of a PhD research project (2012–2015), cofounded by the European Commission, European Social Fund, and the Region of Calabria. This paper is the sole responsibility of the authors; the European Commission and the Region of Calabria cannot be held responsible for any use of the information contained herein.

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Correspondence to Anna Irene De Luca.

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Iofrida, N., De Luca, A.I., Silveri, F. et al. Psychosocial risk factors’ impact pathway for social life cycle assessment: an application to citrus life cycles in South Italy. Int J Life Cycle Assess 24, 767–780 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-018-1482-4

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Keywords

  • Healthy work environment
  • Impact pathway
  • Odds ratio
  • Psychosocial risk factors
  • Social life cycle assessment