Institut de Gestion de l'Environnement et d'Aménagement du Territoire

Enhancing importance of social aspects in product development and production - Improving the social life cycle assessment methodology

RETURN

The aim of this PhD is to contribute to S-LCA methodological developments with the support of a case study on products from alternative food networks (AFNs) . First, a state of the art of S-LCA studies has been conducted. From this state of the art, a number of conclusions on S-LCA practice and developments are drawn as well as methodological proposals. These methodological proposals argue for 1) the use of a participatory approach with the consultation of stakeholders of product chains to select assessment criteria and to identify impact pathways; 2) the use of a holistic approach in which also economic and governance aspects of product chains are taken into account to assess social and socioeconomic impacts, and in which links between stakeholders and impact categories are considered; and 3) the use of an approach that allows the explanation of company’s practices rather than their solely assessment, as mostly done in S-LCA currently.

For a participatory, holistic and explanatory S-LCA - S-LCA as an analytical tool to evaluate, manage and improve social and socioeconomic impacts of food product chains

S-LCA is a tool that is being currently developed by researchers in order to assess social and socioeconomic impacts of product life cycle. S-LCA development faces numerous methodological challenges (including the definition of system boundaries, the link with the functional unit, the selection of assessment criteria, and the effective assessment of impacts). In 2009, Guidelines for conducting S-LCA have been developed and published (Benoît and Mazijn 2009), however since then practitioners do not apply this framework closely and other frameworks have been developed.

The aim of this PhD is to contribute to S-LCA methodological developments with the support of a case study on products from alternative food networks (AFNs) . First, a state of the art of S-LCA studies has been conducted. From this state of the art, a number of conclusions on S-LCA practice and developments are drawn as well as methodological proposals. These methodological proposals argue for 1) the use of a participatory approach with the consultation of stakeholders of product chains to select assessment criteria and to identify impact pathways; 2) the use of a holistic approach in which also economic and governance aspects of product chains are taken into account to assess social and socioeconomic impacts, and in which links between stakeholders and impact categories are considered; and 3) the use of an approach that allows the explanation of company’s practices rather than their solely assessment, as mostly done in S-LCA currently.

Concretely, we propose for LCIA a combination of the two main S-LCA branches: type I and type II, with type II LCIA focusing on the investigation of impact pathways between product chain governance, transaction modalities between value chain actors and working conditions along the product chain. These methodological proposals are applied on a case study on food products (3rd part). From this application we expect two main results: a comparison with other S-LCA frameworks (including the Guidelines for S-LCA) and a comparison between food chains differing in terms of governance. With this latter comparison we will test AFN claims about their assumed benefits (e.g. better income for farmers, access to healthy and affordable food, etc. (Forssell and Lankoski 2014)) and identify improvement levers.