Progress of social assessment in the framework of bioeconomy under a life cycle perspective

Volumen:  175   |  Pages:  15   |  Year of Publication:  2021  | License:  CC BY 4.0

What is the objective?

The aim of the study is to outline the current progress of S-LCA in the bioeconomy framework, identifying the main methodological developments and the possible adaptation of the tool in bio-based systems (biorefineries, bioenergy, and bio-based products).

Our Short Summary.

The shift towards a bioeconomy framework requires greater attention to the societal context in which new technologies, bioenergy systems, and bioproducts will be developed. During the review, it was determined that the social aspects are largely limited to labour issues, product, and organisational perspectives. Therefore, the authors suggest integrating multi-level perspectives into the S-LCA to promote the transition to the bioeconomy. Including indicators related to social norms and values, entrepreneurship, consumer behaviour, and government promotion and support.

Why you should read it!

This article allows researchers and decision-makers to identify the most relevant methodological advances in supporting the societal transition to the bioeconomy through S-LCA.

Original Abstract

The bioeconomy is positioned as a sustainable pathway to address the climate crisis and decrease the consumption of fossil resources. Life cycle methodologies are recognised as useful tools for assessing sustainability issues of production and consumption patterns. Nevertheless, the Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) methodology is less explored despite its potential, although it is true that social sustainability assessment in promoting bioeconomy strategies requires more attention. This study describes the state of the art of the S-LCA methodology under the bioeconomy framework, critically analysing the main procedural and practical issues of its implementation, and the eventual specificities, as well as providing some of the challenges for future studies. This review highlights methodological weaknesses that require further research, related to the definition of system boundaries and cut-off criteria, the method of impact assessment, and the selection of societal issues and stakeholders, as well as uncertainty, among others. In addition, particularities of the bioeconomy in the life perspective were noted, such as multifunctionality and allocation issues of bio-based products, as well as the strong interest in biofuel production systems. Therefore, more efforts are desirable to address the diversity of challenges towards the progress of the S-LCA method in line with other life cycle approaches (environmental and economic). However, the updated S-LCA Guidelines represent a useful and valuable starting point on the way towards a comprehensive (i.e., diverse social concerns) and standardised social assessment under a life cycle perspective.

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