Assessing the social impacts of the biofuel lifecycle

Andreas Jørgensen, Michael Zwicky Hauschild

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference abstract for conferenceResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    In order to assess the social impacts of the biofuel lifecycle, Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) may be a promising tool. However, as this review study points out, several problems are still to be solved. SLCA can be defined as a tool for assessing a product’s or service’s total impact on human health and well-being throughout its life cycle. During the recent years several different approaches towards SLCA have been developing. This review reveals a broad variety in how the SLCAs address all methodological steps. One of the main differences is in the choice and formulation of social indicators. The indicators address a wide variety of issues; some approaches focus on impacts created in the very close proximity of the processes included in the product system, whereas others focus on the more remote societal consequences. The perception of social impacts is thus very varying. An assessment focussing on social impacts created in the close proximity of the processes included in the product system will not necessarily point in the same direction as an assessment that focuses on the more societal consequences. This point towards the need to agree on the most relevant impacts to include in the SLCA in order to include the bulk of the situation. Another very important difference among the proposals is their position towards data quality. Several of the proposals argue that each individual company in the product chain has to be assessed, whereas others claim that generic data can give a sufficiently accurate picture of the associated social impacts. The use of generic data as a basis for the assessment obviously has an advantage over using site specific data in relation to practicality, still many authors behind the SLCA approaches claim that reasonable accuracy can only be gained through the use of site specific data. However, in this context it is important to remember that that the quality of site specific data is very dependent on the auditing approach and therefore not necessarily of high accuracy and that generic data might be designed to take into account the location, sector, size and maybe ownership of a company and thereby in some cases give a reasonable impression of the social impacts that can be expected from the company performing the assessed process. SLCA is in an early stage of development where consensus building seems premature. Nevertheless, some agreement regarding which impacts are most relevant to include in the SLCA in order to cover the field sufficiently seems paramount if the SLCA is to gain any weight as a decision support tool. Furthermore, some assessment of the difference between site specific and generic data could give valuable perspectives on whether a reasonable accuracy can be gained from using generic data or whether the use of site specific data is mandatory, and if so where it is most important.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date2007
    Publication statusPublished - 2007
    EventBiofuel Assessment : Modelling Global Land Use and Social Implications in the Sustainability Assessment of Biofuels - Copenhagen
    Duration: 1 Jan 2007 → …

    Conference

    ConferenceBiofuel Assessment : Modelling Global Land Use and Social Implications in the Sustainability Assessment of Biofuels
    CityCopenhagen
    Period01/01/2007 → …

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