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Potential hotspots identified by social LCA - Part 1: A case study of a laptop computer
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies. School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Centres, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Centres, Centre for Sustainable Communications, CESC.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7521-2310
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Environmental Strategies. School of Computer Science and Communication (CSC), Centres, KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Centres, Centre for Sustainable Communications, CESC.
2013 (English)In: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, ISSN 0948-3349, E-ISSN 1614-7502, Vol. 18, no 1, 127-143 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: A generic hotspot assessment of social impacts from a product was conducted, using a laptop computer as a case. The aims of the case study were to identify social hotspots of the laptop and to test and evaluate the methodology. Methods: The case study was based on the social LCA methodology described in the Guidelines for social LCA and included the product system from 'cradle to grave' as well as the impacts on all relevant stakeholders. We focused on a simplified list of materials and used mainly country-specific data. Results and discussion: A new method for impact assessment of hotspots was developed. The total activity in each phase was distributed among countries. The countries were divided into groups related to the extent of activity in the product system, as well as to their performance on a subcategory. High values in both groups were highlighted and hotspots were identified. The results revealed some hotspots, some hot countries and some hot issues, all indicating a risk of negative social impacts in the product system of a laptop. It also identified workers and the local community as the stakeholders most at risk of negative social impacts. Among the hotspots identified, the following subcategories were of importance: safe and healthy living conditions, social benefit/social security, access to material resources, involvement in areas with armed conflicts, community engagement (lack of), corruption, and access to immaterial resources. Conclusions: The study showed it is possible to conduct a social LCA on a generic complex product using the Guidelines, even though data collection was impaired by lack of data and low data quality. It identified methodological issues that need further attention, for example the indicator impact pathways. Still, it is clear that new insights can be gained by social LCA, where the life cycle perspective and the systematic approach help users identify potentially important aspects that could otherwise have been neglected.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer Berlin/Heidelberg, 2013. Vol. 18, no 1, 127-143 p.
Keyword [en]
Case study, Generic assessment, Hotspot, Impact assessment, Laptop computer, S-LCA, Social LCA, Social life cycle assessment
National Category
Environmental Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-107269DOI: 10.1007/s11367-012-0442-7ISI: 000313165600013Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84872326651OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-107269DiVA: diva2:575382
Funder
Vinnova
Note

QC 20130207

Available from: 2012-12-10 Created: 2012-12-10 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Tracking down Social Impacts of Products with Social Life Cycle Assessment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Tracking down Social Impacts of Products with Social Life Cycle Assessment
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

An important aspect of sustainable development is the social impacts from the consumption of goods and services. A recently developed method for social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) assesses the potential positive and negative social impacts along a product’s life cycle, while avoiding shifting negative impacts from one part of the supply chain to another. This thesis evaluated the applicability of S-LCA in three case studies, as well as a way of introducing an ethical perspective on the distribution of social impacts among stakeholders.

The case study of laptop computers identified workers and the local community as the stakeholders at greatest risk of negative social impacts, with China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Brazil being most prone to these impacts. A case study of vehicle fuels identified some fossil and some renewable fuels with high or very high risks of negative impacts, suggesting a need for strict procurement requirements on social performance for all types of vehicle fuels. A study of e-waste recycling in Pakistan revealed negative social impacts on workers and the community, while decreasing poverty by providing employment.

By performing a social hotspot assessment using S-LCA methodology, much can be learned about the potential social impacts associated with a product’s life cycle, and potentially important aspects that would otherwise have been neglected can be identified. Some methodological issues of S-LCA requiring further attention are:

Indicator relevance. Impact pathways between indicators and performance assessment on social issues must be examined and improved.

Aggregation and weighting of impacts and indicators. With major uncertainties still present, results must be transparent, but also aggregated for the purposes of interpretation and communication.

Assessment of the use phase. To be more complete, S-LCA methodology needs to be complemented with an assessment of the use phase.

Introduction of context. Identifying the context of relevant stakeholders in different parts of the life cycle would allow identification of the greatest leverage in improvement of social conditions.

Abstract [sv]

En viktig del av hållbar utveckling är att hantera social påverkan från konsumtionen av varor och tjänster. Social livscykelanalys (S - LCA) är en metod som syftar till att bedöma positiv och negativ social påverkan av produkter under hela deras livscykel och samtidigt undvika att bara flytta negativ påverkan från en del av livscykeln till en annan. Denna avhandling utvärderar S - LCA i tre fallstudier, samt undersöker hur fördelningen av den sociala påverkan på olika intressentgrupper kan bedömas ur ett etiskt perspektiv.

I en fallstudie som utfördes på en laptop identifierades arbetstagare och lokalsamhället som de intressenter, som löper störst risk för negativ social påverkan. Länder som Kina, Ryssland, Saudiarabien, Thailand och Brasilien var de som var mest kopplade till denna påverkan. En fallstudie kring fordonsbränslen visade att av de bränslen som bedömts uppvisade både en del fossila och en del förnybara bränslen höga eller mycket höga risker för negativ social påverkan, vilket tyder på att strikta upphandlingskrav gällande social prestanda behövs för alla typer av drivmedel. En studie av återvinning av elektroniskt avfall i Pakistan uppvisade påtaglig negativ social påverkan på arbetstagarna och lokalsamhället, samtidigt som återvinningen gav sysselsättning som minskar fattigdomen.

Genom att använda S-LCA vid bedömningen av en produkt finns det mycket att lära om potentiell social påverkan från produktens livscykel. Viktiga aspekter, som annars riskerar att missas, kan nu identifieras med S-LCA. Metoden är dock inte färdigutvecklad, och metodfrågor som behöver ytterligare uppmärksamhet är:

Relevanta indikatorer. Kopplingen mellan indikatorerna och den påverkan man försöker mäta måste undersökas närmare och förbättras.

Sätt att aggregera och väga ihop påverkan. Med tanke på de osäkerheter som ännu så länge finns kring metoden måste resultaten hållas transparenta, samtidigt som sammanfattande resultat behövs för tolkning och kommunikation.

Påverkan i användningsfasen. För att bli mer komplett, måste metoden kompletteras med en bedömning av social påverkan i användningsfasen.

Sätta resultaten i sitt sammanhang. Utgångsläget för dem, som berörs av en produkts sociala påverkan avgör vilken hävstångseffekt en förbättring av de sociala förhållandena kan ha, och kan därmed påverka vilka åtgärder som bör prioriteras.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2013. 57 p.
Series
TRITA-FMS-PHD, 2013:01
Keyword
Social Life Cycle Assessment
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-137974 (URN)978-91-7501-976-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2014-01-17, D2, Lindstedtsvägen 5, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20131217

Available from: 2013-12-17 Created: 2013-12-17 Last updated: 2014-01-07Bibliographically approved

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