Development of a methodological framework for social life-cycle assessment of novel technologies

Berthe van Haaster, Andreas Ciroth, João Fontes, Richard Wood, Andrea Ramirez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Environmental life-cycle assessment (LCA) is broadly applied and recently social and economic LCA have emerged. However, the development of a general framework for social LCA is still at an early stage of development. The aims of this paper are to systematically discuss general considerations regarding social LCA, to build a consistent and operationalized framework for a number of indicators and to test the framework through application on a case study. Methods: The first step was to define the scope of the framework starting from a comprehensive review of concepts of social sustainability and social well-being, focusing on the conditions potentially affected by large-scale introduction of novel technologies. Secondly, main areas of concern for social well-being were defined. This resulted in the identification of four main areas of concern. The third step was to make an inventory of potential social indicators and select a number of indicators that could make the framework operational. Additionally, factors for weighting and normalization were developed. Results and discussion: The framework developed in this paper is based on four categories and 11 indicators and follows a life-cycle perspective. Six of the indicators are quantitative and are assessed using an input-output model linked to databases from the International Labour Organization. The remaining five indicators are qualitative indicators which are mapped using expert elicitation and a literature review. Identified concerns regarding the qualitative indicators are “flagged” and provided alongside the results of the quantitative assessment, which are aggregated into one single score by means of a weighted and normalized arithmetical mean. The paper illustrates the application of the methodology in a case study examining the deployment of carbon capture and storage technologies in Europe. Conclusions: The paper presents a framework that can be used to explore potential impacts on social well-being resulting from the large-scale implementation of novel technologies. The selection of a limited number of indicators (11) keeps the methodology simple and transparent. Although the framework provides a useful approach in allowing both quantitative or qualitative identification of potential areas of concern, the results remain highly explorative in nature. The inherent value-laden and context specific nature of social aspects remains one of the key challenges for developing a general applicable framework.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-440
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Methodology development
  • Novel technologies
  • Social impacts
  • Social indicators
  • Social life-cycle assessment (s-LCA)


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