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A critical view on social performance assessment at company level

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Subtitle:social life cycle analysis of an algae case
Purpose Social indicators are not easy to be quantitatively analyzed, although at the local scale, the social impacts might be relevant and important. Using the existing approaches for both quantitative and semi-qualitative measurements, this study aims to assess the social impacts of a company working on algae production systems in Belgium through social life cycle analysis (SLCA). By highlighting the opportunities and challenges on the way of applying the existing SLCA approaches at company level, the objective of this study is to contribute to the development of a suitable and clear SLCA approach when a company is considered as the unit of analysis. Methods Based on the list of potential social impact categories suggested by the United Nations Environment Program/Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (UNEP/SETAC) guidelines (2009) for SLCA, three stakeholder groups (workers, consumers, and local community) and three subcategories associated with each stakeholder group were identified as the most relevant for carbon capture and utilization technologies. Company and sector level data were collected using existing documents and reports, and the data were analyzed and scored using a combined quantitative and semi-quantitative approach to develop a social assessment model for the case study. Results and discussion The company appears to perform well for all the evaluated social indicators except the one related to the subcategory "equal opportunity/discrimination for workers" for which the share of women employed is lower compared with the sector-level data. The results of our assessment were further discussed regarding the challenges and limitations of performing SLCA at the company level. Based on our experience, the validity of the outcomes is significantly influenced by the data availability, the generality of the indicators introduced within the UNEP/SETAC guidelines, and the subjectivity in data collection for the semi-quantitative assessment among others. Conclusions By highlighting the difficulties and challenges of applying the SLCA at the company level, our study provides a starting point for improving the quantitative assessment and monitoring social implications at the company level within a regional foreground in Europe.
Journal: International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
ISSN: 0948-3349
Volume: 25
Pages: 363 - 381
Publication year:2020