Social LCA case study

The aim of the project was to test the model for social LCA (S-LCA) as suggested by a workgroup within the UNEP/SETAC Life Cycle Initiative. By performing a case study on a laptop we have tried to answer the question if the model works, if the results are reasonable, relevant and applicable, and if the model can be improved. Another purpose was to achieve factual knowledge about a laptop's social impact on stakeholders and the society throughout its entire life cycle.

Method

The project group was supported by an external reference group. We conducted a literature study and a case study in accordance with the Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products (Benoît and Mazijn 2009). The results of the S-LCA were documented by two scientific articles.

Time schedule

The project lasted from 1 September 2010 until 31 December 2011.

Summary of results

Project results indicate that the model in principal is useful, but still needs some improvements. We identified following issues for further development:

  • Data accessibility
    Data in the area of social impacts is not as readily at hand as environmental data.
  • Data quality
    The data found was in many cases of low or unclear quality.
  • Data relevance
    The pathway between the social impact and the proposed indicator is not always clear.
  • The use of and choice of activity variable
    The way to distribute the social impacts along the supply chain requires further research.
  • Aggregation and Impact assessment
    The maybe biggest challenge is how to aggregate the impacts and communicate them to get the improvements on human well-being that we search for using this model.

Presentations and publications

The project was presented at Social LCA workshops at Green Delta TC in Berlin/Germany, 31 May 2011 and 25 May 2012. A conference paper was presented at the Ness 2011 conference in Stockholm 14-16 June 2011. Two scientific papers were published in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment in 2012:

  • Potential hotspots identified by social LCA — Part 1: a case study of a laptop computer
  • Potential hotspots identified by social LCA — Part 2: Reflections on a study of a complex product

Press releases and selected press clippings

  • Identifying social hotspots with life cycle assessment,  Press release (8 June 2012)
  • Genombrott för social livscykelanalys, Press release in Swedish (26 June 2012)
  • Social livscykelanalys genomförd på dator (Anders Hellberg, Miljöaktuellt, 2012-06-27).
  • Social livscykelanalys kartlägger risker (Mikael Salo, Miljöaktuellt, 2012-02-24)

Contact

Elisabeth Ekener Petersen, project leader for the Social LCA case study
elisabeth.ekener.petersen@abe.kth.se , Tel +46 8 790 8506

External reference group

  • Madeleine Bergrahm, Hewlett- Packard
  • Karin Holmquist, Atlas Copco
  • Anna-Karin Jönbrink/Jan Bäck, Swerea IVF
  • Erland Lindkvist, LO
  • Anna Kakuli, Swedwatch
  • Charlotta Sydstrand/Amanda Jackson, Swedbank/Robur
  • Anna Linusson, Stockholms läns landsting
  • Ida Måwe, freelance journalist in electronics waste
  • Per Brickstad, Peoplepeople

Internal reference group

  • Åsa Moberg, KTH
  • Ulrika Gunnarsson Östling, KTH
  • Åsa Svenfelt, KTH
  • Jacob von Oelreich, KTH
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Last changed: Sep 30, 2013