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Socioeconomic indicators as a complement to life cycle assessment: An application to salmon production systems
SIK – Institutet för livsmedel och bioteknik.
2009 (English)In: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, ISSN 0948-3349, E-ISSN 1614-7502, Vol. 14, no 1, p. 42234-Article in journal (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Background, aim, and scope: There is a growing recognition on the part of industry, policymakers, and consumers that sustainable industry practices are needed to maintain environmental and social well being. Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an internationally standardized analytical framework that has traditionally focused on evaluation of the environmental impacts of processes or products using a cradle-to-grave approach. Yet, sustainability, defined generally, requires that assessments consider not only environmental but also social and economic impacts-the other two pillars of sustainability. Even though the LCA methodology has the potential to include both social and economic indicators, and SETAC guidelines recommend the inclusion of such impact categories in all detailed LCAs, no established set of metrics exists to describe the relationship between socioeconomic indicators (SEIs) and a specific product or process; nor is there a common understanding on how such metrics might be developed. This article presents the methods for and development of a suite of socioeconomic indicators that complement the LCA methodology and provides a comprehensive approach for assessing the cradle-to-grave sustainability of a product or process. Methods: A combined top-down and bottom-up approach serves as the basis for development of the set of socioeconomic indicators presented here. Generally recognized societal values, industry specific issues, and financial constraints associated with collection of data necessary for measurement of the indicators are all factors considered in this approach. In our categorization, socioeconomic indicators fall into two types: additive indicators and descriptive indicators. Results: Indicators are categorized based on fundamental methodological differences and then used to describe the socioeconomic impacts associated with salmon production. Additive indicators (e.g., production costs and value added) and descriptive indicators (e.g., fair wage and contribution to personal income) are both discussed. Discussion: There is a need to further develop and refine methods to assess the results of socioeconomic indicators using a life cycle perspective. It would be most interesting to conduct additional case studies that focus on such methodological development, particularly trade-offs between stakeholder groups and pillars of sustainability. Additional areas of discussion are (1) the need for data to populate socioeconomic indicators and (2) defining system boundaries for socioeconomic indicators. Conclusions: This article presents a set of socioeconomic indicators designed to serve as a complement for the LCA framework, thus, increasing the framework's effectiveness as a measure of the overall sustainability of a product or process. Development of socioeconomic indicators as a complement to LCA is still in its early stages, however, and further research is required. Recommendations and perspectives: The SEIs presented here are discussed theoretically within the context of salmon food production systems, but a test of the practicability and validity of the indicators (i.e., a practical application) is also necessary. The practical application of the topic will be presented in a forthcoming paper. © 2008 Springer-Verlag.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009. Vol. 14, no 1, p. 42234-
Keywords [en]
Food Engineering
Keywords [sv]
Livsmedelsteknik
National Category
Food Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ri:diva-8748DOI: 10.1007/s11367-008-0040-xOAI: oai:DiVA.org:ri-8748DiVA, id: diva2:966621
Available from: 2016-09-08 Created: 2016-09-08 Last updated: 2017-11-21Bibliographically approved

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