Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
Session 4.1: Methodology: Methodological gaps and ways forward
Tuesday, 06/Sept/2022:
11:15am - 12:45pm

Session Chair: Lindsey Roche
Location: Plenary hall

150 seats

Session Abstract

Since its development, Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) has grown in maturity and is now a standalone methodology but it still faces a variety of methodological challenges. This session aims to address the methodological gaps in S-LCA and propose solutions and a way forward. Topics include social life cycle impact assessment, using S-LCA databases, software solutions to conduct S-LCA, and primary data collection. Presentations in this session aim to further the methodological development of S-LCA


Opportunities and challenges of using direct quantification of indicators in PSILCA – An example of Social Life Cycle Assessment of fuel cell electric vehicle production

Sally Kirsten Springer, Christina Wulf, Petra Zapp

Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH, Institute of Energy and Climate Research – Systems Analysis and Technology Evaluation, Germany

Progressive development took place within the research area of Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) recently, e.g. an updated version of the UNEP guidelines was published. One method-based example of the development relates to the use of activity variables, e.g. worker hours. Although it has many advantages, it also brings along shortcomings. One affects the indicators, as for many of them a correlation between their impact and the amount of hours worked does not exist. This makes results difficult to communicate. An alternative approach addressing this issue is using direct quantification and has been introduced in the PSILCA database by GreenDelta.

On the example of an S-LCA of the production of a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) opportunities and challenges of this new approach are discussed. The latest versions of the PSILCA databases, for worker hours and raw values respectively, are used. FCEVs have the potential to add to a successful energy and mobility transition. The battery, electric motor, hydrogen tank, glider and fuel cell are included. A reference scale approach following the updated S-LCA guidelines with a cradle-to-gate scope is applied, with Germany being the main manufacturing country. The use- and end-of-life-phases are not part of the study as there is hardly any data for these future technologies available yet.

Results of impact categories in the worker hours database have the unit “Medium Risk Hours” of the respective category and hotspots can be identified. In the raw values database indicator results are expressed in their original units after they underwent a normalization procedure, e.g. number of accidents, without workaround over worker hours. This offers the possibility of comparison with other data and is easy to understand. The goal is to analyze the applicability and interpretability of the direct quantification database in comparison to the worker hours database in order to contribute to the further development of the method.

Making it easier to apply social life cycle assessment: A software tool for comprehensive and user-friendly S-LCA

Marwa Hannouf, Alejandro Padilla-Rivera, Getachew Assefa, Ian Gates

University of Calgary, TOSSA

Given the updated version of UNEP guidelines for social life cycle assessment (S-LCA), a clarification of the guidelines and process is proposed to encourage the application of S-LCA by more practitioners including businesses. Yet, the main challenge in promoting practitioners to apply S-LCA is the time and expertise needed to conduct the assessment.

Here, a comprehensive and user-friendly software tool “TOSSA” (Towards Optimal Sustainability Space Assessment) is described. TOSSA integrates the three dimensions of sustainability but the focus of this presentation is on the social dimension. TOSSA is designed to include a simple graphical user interface (GUI) to act as a tool for standard S-LCA tasks where users can select the requirements of their assessment such as type of product, scope of assessment, geographical location, social subcategories, stakeholder groups, connection to sustainable development goals (SDGs) and type of impact assessment method. The user is able to run a generic assessment but also to input their own data for specific assessment. Since quantifying social aspects is challenging and requires flexibility, the tool includes an advanced and novel modeling approach to support impact assessment, where the user can choose between the subcategory assessment method (SAM)-based S-LCA impact assessment method (Hannouf and Assefa, 2018) for the first-time enabling users to input their social aspects using a simple checklist approach with automated connection to generic databases, and the PSILCA / SHDB impact assessment methods. The choice of the impact assessment method guides the user with respect to input data and nature of the assessment itself.

Guiding the user step-by-step via the GUI in the assessment process including the choice of goal and scope requirements, inventory inputs, and impact assessment will address the many challenges of the time and expertise required to conduct S-LCAs.

Consolidating s-LCA in key industrial sectors: A literature review

Hannah Ventz1, Estelle Gervais2, Rabea Hinsching1

1Fraunhofer-Zentrum für Internationales Management und Wissensökonomie IMW, Germany; 2Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE

Social life cycle assessment (sLCA) has evolved at great speed. With the release of the UNEP/SEPA guidelines in 2009, the number of case studies increased. Despite numerous papers on the methodology, there is still no consensus concerning the choice of indicators, reference points and aggregation methods. At the same time, legislation amendments such as the German Supply Chain Act put pressure on all industrial sectors to rapidly assess sustainability risks in their procurement. A consolidated methodology of sLCA, capable of addressing the characteristics and data gaps of different industries, is hereby needed. Therefore, and in contrast to existing literature reviews, we investigated the methodology of sLCA through a sectorial perspective. Based on the review of more than 40 sLCAs published between 2009 and 2021, the similarities as well as research needs related to sLCA for key sectors such as the Chemical, Energy and Agricultural industries are assessed. The case studies are compared with regard to their goal, scope, inventory, impact, robustness and interpretation. As a result, the most relevant stakeholders, indicators, and aggregation methods for each sector are identified and the methodological requirements for sLCA of heterogeneous industries are laid out. This work lays the basis for sLCA guidelines differentiated on a sectoral level, and their importance compared to guidelines on a product level is discussed. Upstream material supply chains being common to most industries, the data availability for their modelling is of particular interest in the paper. To exemplify the consequences of limited supply chain knowledge on sectorial sLCA, the case of photovoltaic (PV) module production is examined in more details. The challenges of due diligence in PV supply chains are presented and conclusions on the current capacities of sLCA to address these are drawn. Research needs to make sLCA a central tool in due diligence are hereby identified.

Towards a Social-driven Method to Collect Primary Data for Workers in SLCA

Arij Mohamad Radwan Omar Chabrawi1, Cassia Maria Lie Ugaya2, Josemberg Moura Andrade3, Traverso Marzia4

1University of Brasilia, Brazil; 2Universidade Federal Técnica do Paraná, Brazil; 3University of Brasilia, Brazil; 4RWTH Aachen University, Institute of Sustainability in Civil Engineering, Germany

SLCA emerges as the youngest approach aiming at assessing social impacts of products and services in the sustainability assessment context. It still poses various methodological, theoretical and practical gaps, such as: lack of consensus on the indicators that should assess social performance, fragmented procedures, methods and tools, hegemony of quantitative indicators instead of subjective and qualitative methods to assess subjective contents. Among the five SLCA stakeholders, the one that implies easier access to the actors involved is “workers” being the one with the greatest coverage in SCLA studies. It is notable a profusion of researches that use secondary data collection methods in relation to primary ones due to several factors: affordable costing, easy access to data and, mainly, scarcity of scientific instruments for collecting specific data aimed at SLCA. This research proposes to benefit from concrete developments and tools yielded from Social Sciences methods, named as Psychometrics, to create fit for purpose instruments to collect primary data regarding the workers subcategories. The proceeded methodological steps are: 1) Literature review of the impact subcategories; 2) Define the constitutive and operational definitions; 3) Run focus groups with workers from different economic sectors and positions in order to deep understand their reality; 4) Creating scales' items; 5) Run semantics analysis groups; 6) Submit the scales to a SLCA group of experts to validate the items; 7) Pilot and Final application of the items; and 8) Run Factor Exploratory and Confirmatory Analysis. It is expected that the created instruments will facilitate a scientifically reliable collection of primary data regarding to workers' perceptions of equal pay, working hours, discrimination, health and safety, among others, conforming them to quantitative indicators that could possibly later serve as subsidies for characterization of impact models of products and services.

Linking the UN Sustainable Development Goals to product-level impact information

Rosan Harmens, Shaniq Pillay

PRé Sustainability, Netherlands, The

While the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) prove to be a relevant compass for governments, they are less relevant for businesses. So far, concrete methodologies that link product-level impact with the SDGs have been lacking. This was the starting point for the two approaches that link LCA and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), developed with support from the UNEP Life Cycle Initiative and a number of companies. The final methodology and most important learnings about the links between LCA and the SDGs will form the focus of the presentation.

Having linked all 17 SDGs with LCA provided some interesting conclusions. In general it is seen that the SDGs have a strong social focus. Most goals relate strongly to social impact categories and fewer relate directly to environmental topics. This shows the importance of effective social systems in forwarding the sustainability agenda, and perhaps the focus of the SDGs on enhancing human quality of life and building better societal/governance systems as a goal. Furthermore, the project pointed out a number of specific LCA categories that seem crucial for the overall achievement of the SDGs, since many links were identified. A number of SDGs have a few links with LCA, suggesting these are less influential at product-level lifecycles.

The methodology builds upon the well-established basis of the LCA approach: goal and scope, inventory analysis, impact assessment and interpretation. Links between LCA impact categories and the SDGs are established on a target level. In the final stage of the project, findings concerning relative importance of the links have been incorporated.

The method was applied to the specific products of our industry partners in three case studies. On the one hand, the case studies helped to address shortfalls and learn from feedback to make further improvements. On the other hand, this exercise provided the companies with relevant insights about their SDG contribution on product level.

The Psychosocial Risk Factor Impact Pathway (PRF-IP) using SimaPro software

Nathalie Iofrida, Giacomo Falcone, Giovanni Gulisano, Anna Irene De Luca

Università degli Studi Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria, Italy

One of the main challenges of Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) is about the alignment with the other life cycle methodologies, in terms of epistemological perspective, typology of data and significance.

The Psychosocial Risk Factor impact pathway (PRF-IP) is here proposed to be implemented with the software SimaPro. The epistemological posture of this methodology is post-positivist, because it quantifies the cause-effects relationships between the product (or service) life cycle and the possible consequences on stakeholders, and therefore it is in line with environmental LCA.

PRF are here defined as those aspects of working and living conditions that can potentially lead to physical or psychological damages on stakeholders’ groups involved for different reasons with the product’s life cycle, such as workers, consumers, local communities’ members, value chain actors, etc.

Impacts are expressed in terms of odds ratio (OR), a statistical measure of the intensity of the association between two variables; it represents the odds that the disease (or disorder) will occur given a particular exposure, compared to the odds of it occurring without that exposure OR are retrieved from the scientific literature.

This methodological proposal will be tested on the agricultural sector, through a case study in the olive growing supply chain. Inventory data about tasks, working and living conditions, and the corresponding risk factors will be uploaded in the SimaPro software, which will be customized to elaborate the impact assessment.

Expected results quality could facilitate the combination of SLCA with the other life cycle methodologies to obtain a harmonized Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment.