Identifying Social Impacts in Product Supply Chains

One emerging tool to measure the social-related impacts in supply chains is Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA), a derivative of the well-established environmental LCA technique. LCA has recently started to gain popularity among large corporations and initiatives, such as The Sustainability Consortium or the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Both have made the technique a cornerstone of their applied-research program. The Social Hotspots Database (SHDB) is an overarching, global database that eases the data collection burden in S-LCA studies. Proposed “hotspots” are production activities or unit processes (also defined as country-specific sectors) in the supply chain that may be at risk for social issues to be present. The SHDB enables efficient application of S-LCA by allowing users to prioritize production activities for which site-specific data collection is most desirable. Data for three criteria are used to inform prioritization: (1) labor intensity in worker hours per unit process and (2) risk for, or opportunity to affect, relevant social themes or sub-categories related to Human Rights, Labor Rights and Decent Work, Governance and Access to Community Services (3) gravity of a social issue. The Worker Hours Model was developed using a global input/output economic model and wage rate data. Nearly 200 reputable sources of statistical data have been used to develop 20 Social Theme Tables by country and sector. This paper presents an overview of the SHDB development and features, as well as results from a pilot study conducted on strawberry yogurt. This study, one of seven Social Scoping Assessments mandated by The Sustainability Consortium, identifies the potential social hotspots existing in the supply chain of strawberry yogurt. With this knowledge, companies that manufacture or sell yogurt can refine their data collection efforts in order to put their social responsibility performance in perspective and effectively set up programs and initiatives to improve the social conditions of production along their product supply chain.

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