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Erschienen in: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 10/2020

31.08.2020 | SOCIETAL LCA

Implementing the guidelines for social life cycle assessment: past, present, and future

verfasst von: Olubukola Tokede, Marzia Traverso

Erschienen in: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment | Ausgabe 10/2020

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper takes a critical review of the UNEP/SETAC (2009) Guidelines for social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) of products. This paper, therefore, poses the question: how can the future version(s) of the UNEP/SETAC Guidelines address the challenges associated with implementing case studies in the S-LCA?

Methods

A systematic mapping review to investigate case studies in the S-LCA has been carried out in which the S-LCA was applied in order to analyse the application of the stages of the methodology. We appraise 58 case studies published between 2009 and 2019 in peer-reviewed international journals and analysed the trends and contributions in relation to the practice of the S-LCA. More published papers were collected between July 2018 and June 2019 (because of the publication of a Special Issue on the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment in March 2018), and critically reviewed to identify key patterns and insights from the case studies.

Results and discussion

It was found that only 47% of the subcategories specified by the current UNEP/SETAC Guidelines are implemented in the case studies examined. Our review suggests four main initiatives that future S-LCA Guidelines should consider. Firstly, there is a need to encourage case studies that focus on the social impacts of “consumers” and “value chain actors” to understand better the opportunities for enhancing social sustainability considerations of marginalised stakeholder groups. Secondly, indicators cannot be homogenised across all sectors and disciplines, and the relevance of each indicator needs to be localised and justified in respective studies. Thirdly, there is a need for a robust theoretical orientation in the S-LCA—one that is more inclusive and flexible—to improve on contextual relevance in future case studies. Lastly, the revised Guidelines should aspire to provide more clarity on justifying the context and choice of functional units in S-LCA studies.

Conclusion

The insights developed in this study are useful for practitioners and scholars involved in the S-LCA. The revision of the Guidelines can ensure that the S-LCA in future case studies can better create opportunities for improving the well-being of all stakeholders. It is instructive that both local contextualisation of indicators and establishing stakeholder concerns through participatory approaches will facilitate an improved understanding of the social impact assessment of products and their potentially positive and negative impacts along their life cycle. Addressing the challenges with the current Guidelines will ultimately strengthen the S-LCA by improving an understanding of relevant indicators, thus allowing for an improvement in social conditions for all stakeholders.

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Metadaten
Titel
Implementing the guidelines for social life cycle assessment: past, present, and future
verfasst von
Olubukola Tokede
Marzia Traverso
Publikationsdatum
31.08.2020
Verlag
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Erschienen in
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment / Ausgabe 10/2020
Print ISSN: 0948-3349
Elektronische ISSN: 1614-7502
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11367-020-01814-9

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