Development of a Normalization Method for Social Life Cycle Assessment
Callau Ferreira, Vanessa
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CitationCallau Ferreira, Vanessa. 2020. Development of a Normalization Method for Social Life Cycle Assessment. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractConsidering the three dimensions of sustainability—environmental, social, and economic—solutions that address the social pillar are the least developed. This is particularly true regarding instruments for objectively assessing impacts and, subsequently, for defining effective strategies to improve the well-being of society. The present research aims to develop a normalization method and corresponding factors to be used in social life cycle assessment (S-LCA), a methodology which measures the social impacts of a product throughout its life cycle. This method can also optimize the social responsibility management of any organization, throughout its whole supply chain.
Because S-LCA is a relatively young field, it requires a significant amount of research, on several fronts, to improve, disseminate, and consolidate the practice worldwide. There has been little published work focused on normalization for S-LCA. Nevertheless, normalization is an important step in the interpretations of life cycle assessment results, because it allows comparisons among impact categories while offering a dimension of significance to the assessment results. Normalized results are easier to comprehend and to communicate and, more importantly, they lead to the identification of the processes where there is the greatest leverage for impact mitigation in a value chain, thus supporting better decision-making and providing efficiency to the life cycle management of products and services.
To create the normalization references (NRs), I modeled seven macro reference systems using the Social Hotspots Database (SHDB) system, and with population data I was able to add the per-person references to each region modeled. In order to test the NRs, I conducted a S-LCA of two case studies: annual imports of seafood by the United States of America and the annual average expenses of an American consumer unit. According to my hypothesis, the number of hotspots in each case study would decrease. The majority of hotspots in the two case studies analyzed are related to economic sectors in countries from Asia and North America, disproving my hypothesis that most of them would be from economic sectors from Asia, Africa and Latin America (in that order). The results of this research did not confirm the hypothesis that high rankings of the regions highlighted by the normalization procedure would be “Labor rights,” “Health and safety,” “Human rights,” “Community,” and “Governance” (in that order).
To achieve my objective, and to offer the field of S-LCA a robust tool for advancement, I discussed the uncertainty possibilities and provided a scenario analysis on the normalized results of each case study. The scenario analysis offered evidence on the importance of reasoning and transparency on the choice of the reference system for normalizing the results.
Future S-LCA studies could benefit from the normalization references created by adding this step to their projects and by offering results that are easier to comprehend and that can inform a wider variety of stakeholders. The evaluation of sustainability impacts throughout the supply chain is becoming an imperative for organizations all over the world. The use of S-LCA studies with normalized results is a time- and cost-saving tool for institutions that need to improve their corporate responsibility beyond their gates. Ultimately, sustainable development will only be possible if humanity can prosper in a fair and equitable manner, within the boundaries of the biosphere.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365046