Evaluation and harmonization of existing social LCA approaches

Main Presenter: Rosan Harmens 

Co-Authors: Mark Goedkoop Alessandra Zamagni Laura Zanchi

Session: Poster Session 2

There are a multitude of approaches available for social LCA, ranging from practical handbooks to theoretic papers in literature. However, an overview and evaluation of the most promising existing methods in the context of operationalization and harmonization for social assessment in Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment (LCSA), as well as the evaluation of existing data sources, was lacking so far. This presentation shares some of the first results that is done for this exercise.

With regards to data sources, the analysis, that was done in the context of the ORIENTING project , has considered three main types of sources: i) s-LCA databases, which provide supply chain information and are used as background data in s-LCA studies; ii) databases on sector or company level; iii) social data from international organizations. The alignment of social LCA methods and available social data is something that still requires further efforts.

With regards to methods, different social impact assessment methods are identified based on literature review and expert knowledge. After the identification and selection of methods, three qualitative approaches and seven quantitative approaches were evaluated further. After critical evaluation, the UNEP Guidelines for Social LCA and the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment score highest based on the evaluated criteria. In order to combine the best of both approaches, further harmonization in relation to stakeholder groups, impact categories, indicators and the approach of materiality, terminology, and other methodological guidance is proposed. The first steps towards harmonization have focused on aligning the social impact categories of the methods and the approach for materiality.

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