A tool for introducing Social Life Cycle Assessment of products and feedback from its users

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Vakhitova, Tatiana V.
Ashby, Mike F.
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University College Cork
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Product design involves the choice of materials, the processes used to shape them, transport modes, characteristics of the way the product is used and of its disposal at end of life. All of these influence the environmental impact of product life, now much studied using sophisticated (environmental) life-cycle assessment (E-LCA) tools. They also have social impacts that can be negative or positive contribute to either negative or positive social and environmental impact. The study of these is much more recent, stimulated initially by the UNEP / SETAC "Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) of Products" (UNEP/SETAC Guidelines) of 2009, and now gathering traction across the LCA community. We have developed an Excel-based Social Impact Audit Tool (the Tool) following the UNEP / SETAC guidelines. Its primary aim is one of education, introducing students to the UNEP / SETAC methodology, providing data about social norms and practices in the Nations of the world, and allowing case studies for activity-based learning. The Tool flags social hotspots, highlighting the points in the life of a product at which potential harmful practices or opportunities to enhance well-being exist. The Tool is accompanied by a White Paper explaining its use and providing examples of its use. In a real world this type of analytics can be used, for instance, for CSR strategies on how to improve local conditions in locations in which a company operates. The paper describes feedback from trialling the Tool at several universities, reporting on the expected and received learning outcomes; the ease of use and the clarity of the information provided; and how well the expectations were met.
Engineering education , Sustainability , Product design , Social Impact Audit Tool (the Tool) , UNEP/SETAC Guidelines
Vakhitova, T. V. and Ashby, M. F. (2021) ‘A tool for introducing Social Life Cycle Assessment of products and feedback from its users’, EESD2021: Proceedings of the 10th Engineering Education for Sustainable Development Conference, 'Building Flourishing Communities', University College Cork, Ireland, 14-16 June.