Title: Social Sustainability in Trade and Development Policy
Citation: Social LCA in progress - 4th SocSem p. 102-108
Publisher: Cirad
Publication Year: 2014
JRC N°: JRC92008
ISSN: 1256-5458
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC92008
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Life cycle thinking (LCT) refers to a management philosophy predicated on a holistic consideration of management alternatives. The main purpose is to prevent unintentional burden shifting between issue areas. In fact, significant advances have already been made in the environmental domain to operationalize life cycle thinking in the European Union. Concomitantly, improving social sustainability within Europe and abroad is among the founding premises of the European Union and looms large in debates on trade and development policies. Social sustainability may be assessed or measured using methods and indicators, such as the social footprint, social impact assessment or wellbeing indices. The UNEP guidelines on social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) present key elements to consider for product-level, life cycle-based social sustainability assessment. This includes guidance for the goal and scope definition, inventory, impact assessment and interpretation phases of S-LCA. Methods for and studies of the broader scale, life cycle social dimensions of production and consumption are largely unavailable to date. We seek to help close this gap by extending the methods and principles of LCT to assess social risk related to international trade. Social risk refers to the potential for one or more parties to be exposed to negative social conditions that, in turn, undermine social sustainability. In order to shed light on these risks, a macro-scale analysis of the social risk profile of trade-based consumption in the EU-27 has been conducted by combining intra- and extra-territorial import statistics with country and sector-specific social risk indicator data derived from the Social Hotspots Database. These data cover 17 social themes in five thematic areas. The apparent social risk profiles of EU-27 imports have then been assessed based on consideration of country-of-origin social risk data as compared to a life cycle-based social risk assessment which also took into account the distribution of social risk along product supply chains. The intention was to better understand how and to what extent current trade-based consumption in the EU-27 may be associated with socially unsustainable conditions domestically and abroad. The analysis underscores the importance of a life cycle-based approach to understanding and managing social risk in support of policies for socially sustainable development. Moreover, the methods presented herein offer a potentially powerful decision-support tool for policy makers wishing to better understand the magnitude and distribution of social risk associated with EU production and consumption patterns, the mitigation of which will contribute to socially sustainable development.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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