Towards an updated Guidelines for Social LCA – Scale up and road testing of Social LCA & Social Organizational LCA (S-LCA & SOLCA)

Over the past decade and since the Life Cycle Initiative’s publication “Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) of Products” (2009), the interest in social impact assessment of products and companies has dramatically increased. While the Guidelines and the related methodological sheets have played a decisive role initiating the practice of Social Life Cycle Assessment, the landscape has greatly evolved in the meantime. Databases for Social LCA have been made available and applied, and impact assessment methods have been created and tested. We have also seen the publication of several handbooks and the proliferation of case studies. Considering all these positive developments, an updated version of the Guidelines will be a useful product that the community is ready to apply, and will provide scientific and political recognition to the Initiative for this output. A strong work stream on Social LCA supports the Initiative’s work towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and on sustainability in general.

The revision will consider and incorporate methodological advancements and practical experiences gained over the last 10 years. This includes work published by the Life Cycle Initiative in recent years (Hotspot guidance, O-LCA, LCSA) and by others (e.g. PRé Social Roundtable Handbook of Product Social Impact Assessment, the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the UN SDGs and the WBCSD Social Capital Protocol). This revision will also include the integration of an organizational perspective to broaden the scope of the current guidelines by specifying Social Life Cycle Assessment also for organizations.

Project implementation

The project has two phases. The first phase consists of the revision of the 2009 Guidelines with the publication of the open-source Guidelines update planned for August 2019. The work in this phase includes the development of initial drafts in topic-based working groups of experts and users, internal review of the drafts by experts and users, 2 technical workshops, 2 external consultations and a final review.

The second phase consists of the road testing, where the updated Guidelines will be applied to a range of products or organizations and industrial sectors. The results of these pilot projects will enable the generation of additional resources to support implementation (Q&A, advice, testimonies, examples), as well as training materials. The road-testing process is planned to last two years.

The project consortium consists of the Social LC Alliance and Chair of Sustainable Engineering (SEE), Technische Universität Berlin.

Currently, the project has accomplished an online consultation, and the first stakeholder consultation workshop will be organized in Pescara (12-14 September), back to back with the International Conference on Social Life Cycle Assessment (see the Upcoming Events section below for more information).