Social LCA in focus at Social Responsibility Day

Published Feb 23, 2012

Elisabeth Ekener Petersen presented her case study on the social impact of a laptop at Social Responsibility Day, 23 February 2012 in Stockholm.

CESC-researcher Elisabeth Ekener Petersen gave an overview over her work on social life cycle assessment (social LCA or s-LCA) under the “Sustainable supply chains” track of the conference. A current CESC project assesses the social impact of a computer laptop in the supply chain including disposal. The case study gives an opportunity to evaluate the recently issued UNEP/SETAC Guidelines for social LCA.

In short, a social LCA explores how production affects society and people. Relevant stakeholders in a case study are e.g. workers, consumers and the companies that are suppliers and customers in the production chain. Also impacts on communities and society at large are interesting aspects.

The working conditions at production sites are obviously important factors in a social LCA but also e.g. access to local resources such as water or forests. Human rights, corruption, job creation and technology development locally are further aspects that are included in the analysis. There are both negative and positive social impacts in a product life cycle.

So far, the results must be interpreted cautiously, as the method is still under development. If further developed, social LCA can be useful for companies to systematically assess social risks and opportunities in the supply chain of products. The method can also provide a basis for social labeling.

CESC’s research on social LCA has attracted substantial interest, as social impacts from production and consumption are addressed in many different settings. The research results are currently summarized in two papers to be published in The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment.

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