A Social Life Cycle assessment

A social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) is a method that can be used to assess the social and sociological aspects of products, their actual and potential positive as well as negative impacts along the life cycle. This looks at the extraction and processing of raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, use, reuse, maintenance, recycling and final disposal (UN Life cycle initiative multi-stakeholder platform).

Based on standards ISO 14040:2006, and 14044: 2006, the social impact assessment is made in a similar way as the environmental life cycle assessment, and in agreement with it since the initial stages for the analysis design and configuration are the same. The four main phases of a Life Cycle Assessment are:

The first step defines the goal and scope of the analysis, starting by defining the functional unit of the assessment. In this case, the assessment is focused on products, and the functionality is given by one complete unit of product ready for consumption: 1 kg of salads and 1 kg of potatoes (vegetables), 1 kg of pork sausage and 1kg of pork loin (meat supply chain), and 1 unit of table lamp (domestic lighting product) and industrial LED lamp (industrial lighting).

Based on the agreed scope, the inventory of inputs/outputs of each life cycle stage per functional unit is retrieved, either from own sources, or from appropriate databases. The impact evaluation for S-LCA consists in the aggregation of all social impacts weighed by the national and sectoral risk factors, and it is provided in comparable medium risk hours. Assessment of most impacting stages and activities may be done, as well as comparisons with possible scenario planning. Finally, the interpretation of the results allows to iterate the analysis among the previous steps.

 

The CIRC4Life project has calculated the S-LCA for the products tested in each of its four Circular Economy Demonstrators:

LED Lightings

A Social LCA was conducted on the company Kosnic to measure the impact of their products on the health, safety and well-being of their workers and the wider impact in the community they operate in. Kosnic social performance compared with other lighting manufacturers is listed below:

  • Environmental impact on the local community, 28.88% better

  • Contribution to local economic development, 22.24% better

  • Health expenditure, 10.93% better

  • Fatal accidents at the workplace 25.26% better

  • Weekly hours of work per employee 27.14% better

 

A Social LCA was also conducted on ONA’s products. With regards to the gender pay gap, ONA has a 35% better performance compared to other Spanish companies in the manufacture of domestic appliances sector. In addition, ONA’s staff has flexible working conditions including telework which has an impact in supporting the advancement of the career of the female’s workforce.

In relation to the use of industrial water, it is very low and has a 50% better result compared to other companies in that sector. Innovations carried out by ONA do not entail the use of industrial water. When producing new lamps, material resources used do not have a negative impact on mineral consumption or fossil fuel depletion.

 

Finally, concerning the worker’s health and safety, ONA has a very low risk for accidents as they have a policy to maintain this level low.

Organic Farm 

 

The Social LCA of Scilly Organics has found that the microfarm scores well on the treatment of its employees including on gender pay gap, paying a fair salary and on health and safety issues. It outperforms the industry average on each of these issues (by 23% on equal opportunities and 18% on health and safety). 

  

As a small business that cares about its workforce, Scilly Organics values this study as a confirmation of its positive approach to people and the community which it serves. It is within the company's interest to continue to improve its Social LCA because a happy and healthy workforce is more productive, loyal and a greater asset to the company. 

 

Furthermore, Scilly Organics’ reputation is of great importance within a small community where a connection with customers is intrinsic.

 

Meat Product Supply Chain

 

A S-LCA was conducted on ALIA’s products (using 1kg of pork salami and 1kg of pork loin) which showed that ALIA’s products are about 30% more socially sustainable than the average Spanish meat product. A number of social indicators for each sector were assessed such as: Fair salary, Working time, Discrimination, Health and Safety, Workers´ rights, Fair competition, Supplier relationships, Contribution to economic development, Access to material resources, Safe and healthy living conditions, Local employment, Health and Safety and End of life responsibility. 

 

It is worth mentioning that the gender wage gap in ALIA’s plant is 33% better and the working time is 37% better compared to other meat products plants in Spain.  There are clear salary bands per category and no difference is made between men and women. The CSR company plan has a whole section dedicated to gender equality and promotes the active recruitment of women. 

 

Concerning the Safety measures, it is 32% better than in companies in the same sector, as there is an active enforcement of safety measures and regular training programmes for workers. 

 

On worker’s rights, the situation of Free Trade Unionism is 26% better than the average as there are three different trade unions which workers can affiliate to and usually there is only one Trade Union. 

Finally, the Fair Salary indicator shows that it is 24% better than in the other companies in the same sector as all salaries follow what is stipulated in the wage agreement, and 100% of the workers that remain in the company for over a year have obtained a permanent contract.

 

For more information, please have a look at deliverable 1.2 report on sustainable (environmental, social and economic) impact analysis : https://www.circ4life.eu/deliverables 

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 776503. The views and opinions expressed in this website are purely those of the writers and may not in any circumstances be regarded as stating an official position of the European Commission.