Sessions area

Aggregation in S-LCA

The collection of data along the whole life cycle is a time-consuming step of any life cycle-based method, even for a small value chain. This in particular applies to S-LCA, where the collection of information and data on remote parts of the life cycle, over which the organization has no control, is a challenging step. The capability of gathering primary information is then a limiting factor in the evaluation of social performances, and risk-based data and information from statistics and other public or commercial sources can be used to complete the coverage of the value chain. As a consequence, S-LCA applications could be based on a situation where social performances and risks are evaluated along the product life cycle stages. However, how to combine/aggregate the results of social performances and risks in a meaningful way is still under discussion and object of proposal and development form the scientific community. Participants to this session are invited to present approaches and ideas on how to combine and/or integrate risks-based and performance-based evaluation in social LCA, taking into account also data quality, and how to properly interpret the results.

Bridging the Gaps Between Social Sciences and S-LCA

After 15 years of the “Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products” publication many efforts were put towards the application and further development of S-LCA as a tool to assess potential and real impact on the stakeholders related to a product or service along its life cycle. The number of papers’ publications have grown higher and higher throughout the years and many contributions were made to strengthen the topic as a consistent and scientific knowledge and research area. This context was reflected on the latest version of the Guidelines (Unep, 2020) and on the correspondent update of the Methodological Sheets (Unep, 2021). Despite the important progress, it is true that several authors still point out to methodological and theoretical gaps on S-LCA, indicating that there is still a long road to be paved in order to consolidate the approach. In the same way, it is also true that S-LCA is still being pushed forward thanks to the efforts of LCA practitioners, majorly coming from exact sciences such as engineering. Given the fact that S-LCA has in its core the social and human aspects, it is reasonable to consider that social sciences and humanities could contribute with their theoretical background and methodological procedures to fill some of the gaps outlined in the current literature. Thus, this session invites all works that seek to undertake this relevant and necessary endeavor of bridging S-LCA with social sciences, benefiting from their theories, methods and tools to further develop S-LCA as consistent and scientific approach for measuring social sustainability.

Methodological developments for data collection on S-LCA

S-LCA has been gaining increased interest in the late decades, but only after the Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment for Products (Unep, 2009) it had gained more relevance and attention of the sustainability community. With the publication of the Methodological Sheets for Subcategories in Social Life Cycle Assessment, guidance on data collection methods and sources were provided followed by further application into case studies in the following years. Therefore, the approach had evolved throughout the years and several methodological improvements for data collection were made. The Guidelines and the Methodological Sheets were updated in 2020 and in 2021, respectively reflecting the most consistent developments made by the scientific community on the sector. Nevertheless, S-LCA still faces many constraints and theoretical and methodological gaps, being pointed out for several authors so far, such as: 1) lack of consensus on the social indicators (Wu & Chen, 2014; K├╝hner e Hahn, 2017; Petti et al., 2018; Huertas-Valdivia et al., 2020; Tokede & Traverso, 2020); 2) Lack of standardized instruments to collect data (Ciroth & Franke, 2011; Ugaya et al., 2015; Grubert, 2016; Moltensen, 2018); 3) Primary data collection importance and challenges (Traverso et al., 2012; Macombe et al., 2013; Grubert, 2016; Arcese et al., 2018); 4) Importance to rely on different secondary data sources and technologies, such as artificial intelligence; and 5) How to harmonize and reconcile primary and secondary data into an impact assessment. Works shedding light into one or more of the aforementioned topics are welcome to be submitted to this session in order to further support and strengthen S-LCA as a reliable and scientific approach for the social branch in sustainability assessment.

Methodological developments for impact assessment in S-LCA

The measurement of potential social impacts in the life cycle is an aspect that still faces a number of challenges and limitations. For reference scale methods there are still limitations regarding the interpretation of reference scales, while for impact pathways methods there are limitations mainly in terms of the relationship between the models and the specific context, lack of clarity in the cause-effect chains, as well as the availability of characterization factors. Thus, the aim of this session is to discuss recent advances in social life cycle impact assessment methods (S-LCIA). Potential subjects includes: characterization models for S-LCA, reference scales, impact pathways, impact categories, and subcategories.

S-LCA and global inequality

Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) aims at reducing the negative social impacts as well as to provide awareness and improve the positive social impacts throughout the whole value chain. More often than not, several studies point out to the negative impacts but definitely lack on pointing out solutions to improve the hotspot and the life of people directly or indirectly affected by it, rather than only switching to a different and less negative value chain – what could possibly derive on even more negative impact to the value chain that has been turned away. An illustrative example of it are the cases in which a whole set of production go out of market because of its social discrepancies that only increased the socioeconomic abyss it used to have. More than identifying hotspots or promoting companies which have included positive impacts in the product or service production, S-LCA should constitute as a means for diminishing the social distances and a drive for socioeconomic transformation in contemporary society. It is also worth mentioning that if a spot is hot, there is a socioeconomic reason behind it that must be addressed rather than turning away from it. Can the company conducting the S-LCA study use the findings to assume a proactive role of socioeconomic transformation or limit itself to merely changing suppliers? In other words, we propose to focus on the discussion of how S-LCA is being used to improve social performance within the value chain without leaving no one behind. Therefore, we welcome in this session studies which show how to move from S-LCA results to social improvements to support reducing the social differences among regions and people.

S-LCA applications in the private sector

This session provides an invaluable platform to exchange insights, foster collaboration, and enhance our collective understanding of how SLCA can contribute to the private sector’s sustainable evolution.  

This session has the objective to discuss the recent transition that the private sector has been suffering and the social indicators that should guide this transition. Potential subjects include: energy poverty, social solutions to non technical energy losses, social energy matrix and energy sector waste and social impacts. Additionally, we enthusiastically welcome submissions in other application domains beyond the realm of energy.

S-LCA in the context of ESG

Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) expands a company’s evaluation by considering social impacts in addition to environmental ones. This is crucial for the ‘Social’ and ‘Governance’ dimensions of ESG. SLCA can identify social risks and opportunities, such as working conditions, worker health, and community involvement. This raises guiding questions: What are the challenges and solutions for integrating SLCA and ESG metrics? How can SLCA assist companies in enhancing brand reputation? In what ways can SLCA improve stakeholder engagement, considering the ‘governance’ aspect?

Social impacts of novel technologies: is S-LCA suitable?

The identification and implementation of ways to contrast the adverse effects of climate change is becoming an urgent priority at global scale. In this context, the development of innovative technologies plays an important role. However, it becomes critical to ensure that all these technologies, in addition to avoiding problem shifting from the environmental point of view, are also socially acceptable and do not create social impacts on stakeholders. This roundtable will discuss the extent to which S-LCA is or could be capable of addressing them. The need for such a discussion starts from two considerations: firstly, social impacts are the results of actions undertaken by stakeholders. When the object of the analysis is a technology, not yet available on the market, there is not an organisation whose behaviour can be evaluated. Secondly, novel technologies might create large scale effects, occurring in the future, and pose also a question of acceptability by stakeholders, which varies according to the contexts. Participants to the roundtable are invited to present and discuss ideas and proposals on whether and how S-LCA can be applied to novel technologies, addressing in particular the following aspects: framework for the assessment, how to account for future social impacts, large-scale consequences and acceptability.

SO-LCA for public management

In recent years, the growing awareness of the social and ethical dimensions of sustainability has prompted various sectors, including public management, to adopt a more holistic perspective in their decision-making processes. This conference session delves into the realm of Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) and its application within the context of public management. The aim of this session is to discuss the utilization of SLCA as a valuable tool for assessing and enhancing the social impacts of policies, programs, and projects undertaken by governmental bodies. Researchers are encouraged to present methodological frameworks, data sources, and indicators customized for evaluating the social impacts of policies and projects. This includes an examination of not only the direct effects but also the indirect and cumulative consequences of public decisions on diverse stakeholders, vulnerable populations, and the community at large.