Social Life Cycle Assessment within the 3 pillars of sustainable development

Published on November 30th 2021

Key takeaways

What is a S-LCA?

Sapiologie is a member of the Life Cycle Initiative, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which provides resources, training, and guidelines for LCAs. The following S-LCA description and methodology are from the latest UNEP guidelines of 2020.

1. Objectives of a S-LCA



2. General overview

3. Methodology

A. Specify the questions to be answered by the S-LCA

B. Collect inventory data

Stakeholder categories Worker Local community Value chain actors (except consumers) Consumer Society
  1. Freedom of association and collective bargaining
  2. Child labor
  3. Fair salary
  4. Working hours
  5. Forced labour
  6. Equal opportunities / discrimination
  7. Health and safety
  8. Social benefits / social security
  9. Employment relationship
  10. Sexual harassment
  11. Smallholders including farmers
  1. Access to material resources
  2. Access to immaterial resources
  3. Delocalization and migration
  4. Cultural heritage
  5. Safe and healthy living conditions
  6. Respect of indigenous rights
  7. Community engagement
  8. Local employment
  9. Secure living conditions
  1. Fair competition
  2. Promoting social responsibility
  3. Supplier relationships
  4. Respect of intellectual property rights
  5. Wealth distribution
  1. Health and safety
  2. Feedback mechanism
  3. Consumer privacy
  4. Transparency
  5. End-of-life responsibility
  1. Public commitments to sustainability issues
  2. Contribution to economic development
  3. Prevention and mitigation of armed conflicts
  4. Technology development
  5. Corruption
  6. Ethical treatment of animals
  7. Poverty alleviation

C. Translate collected data and information into a resulting social impact

There are two impact assessment methods

D. Interpret results and indicate hotspots and areas for improvement

E. Communicate results

F. Consider limitations and future research

Terms and concepts

Social handprints are the results of changes to business as usual that create positive outcomes or impacts. They can be changes that reduce the social footprint or changes that create additional/unrelated positive social impacts.

Improving social impacts means reducing the social footprint and growing the social handprints.

Two impact assessment methods:

S-LCA’s framework linkages with international initiatives and frameworks:

Positive social impacts can be considered in an S-LCA such as local employment, technology development and contribution to economic development.

Six main types of references and instruments have been identified as relevant to social sustainability assessment:


Related publications

Bouillass, G., Blanc, I., & Perez-Lopez, P. (2021). Step-by-step social life cycle assessment framework: a participatory approach for the identification and prioritization of impact subcategories applied to mobility scenarios. The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 1-28.

Finnveden, G., Hauschild, M. Z., Ekvall, T., Guinée, J., Heijungs, R., Hellweg, S., Koehlere, A., Pennington, D., & Suh, S. (2009). Recent developments in life cycle assessment. Journal of environmental management, 91(1), 1-21.

FruiTrop Thema. (2018). Social LCA People and Places for Partnership: Pre-proceedings of the 6th Social Life Cycle Assessment.

Huertas-Valdivia, I., Ferrari, A. M., Settembre-Blundo, D., & García-Muiña, F. E. (2020). Social life-cycle assessment: A review by bibliometric analysis. Sustainability, 12(15), 6211.

Jørgensen, A., Le Bocq, A., Nazarkina, L., & Hauschild, M. (2008). Methodologies for social life cycle assessment. The international journal of life cycle assessment, 13(2), 96-103.

UNEP. (2020). Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products and Organizations 2020.