UNEP Towards a LCSAMakingInformedChoice
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UNEP Towards a LCSAMakingInformedChoice


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the S-LCA
Only considered in the (environmental) LCA
Considered in both LCAs
Figure 12. System boundaries considered in the notebook computer study (Ciroth and Franze, 
2011a).
Phase 2 Inventory
The starting point for both inventories was 
the disassembly of the notebook. This 
revealed suppliers, production locations 
and beyond that, weight and other 
characteristics of the modules contained in 
the computer. Inventory parameters for the 
S-LCA were based on the UNEP/SETAC 
approach: five main stakeholder groups 
(workers, local communities, society, value 
chain actors and consumers), and 30 
themes of interest (subcategories) (child 
labour, forced labour, access to material 
resources, corruption, etc.). 88 indicators 
(e.g. ages of workers, number of working 
hours, number of jobs created, etc.) to 
measure the status of the subcategories 
were determined. 
The main data sources were reports from 
enterprises, government organizations and 
NGOs. During the study, questionnaires 
were sent to the manufacturer and first-
2929Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: Making informed choices on products
tier suppliers. In several cases also, 
interviews with workers/employees were 
conducted. This meant that field data (\u2018raw 
data\u2019 according to the Global Guidance 
Principles [UNEP/SETAC, 2011]), were 
collected for those processes that were 
considered to be the most important. The 
(environmental) LCA was based mainly on 
commercial databases currently available. 
Several processes were adapted to the 
specific case: for instance, electricity and 
transport processes were modified based 
on regional conditions; materials and 
weights of components were modified 
based on product-specific data. 
Phase 3 Impact assessment
In order to address the social impacts of 
the notebook, an impact assessment 
method was developed and applied in 
the study. The method assessed each 
subcategory with a colour scale from green 
(good performance/positive impact) to red 
(poor performance/negative effect) twice 
(Fig. 13): 
1 The first assessment phase evaluated 
the performance of the specific 
enterprise/sector compared to 
performance reference points based on 
international standards and conventions. 
These reference points, coordinated 
with stakeholders during the project, 
defined desirable and undesirable 
indicator values and therefore defined 
the benchmark applied in the impact and 
performance assessment. 
2 The second assessment phase 
considered the impacts which result 
from the enterprise/sector performance 
on the six impact categories related 
to working conditions, health and 
safety, human rights, indigenous 
rights (including cultural heritage), 
socio-economic repercussions and 
governance. The impact categories 
are also based on the UNEP/SETAC 
guidelines (UNEP/SETAC, 2009a).
To allow aggregation and to take data gaps 
into account a factor was assigned to every 
colour and the averages were calculated on 
stakeholder and process level. 
The environmental impacts were 
calculated with ReCiPe in the hierarchist 
version.12 Both a midpoint and an endpoint 
assessment were carried out. To identify 
relevant impact categories, a normalization 
step was also conducted. 
Phase 4 Interpretation
First, the study demonstrated that the 
consideration of social and environmental 
aspects in parallel and for a complex 
product life cycle is possible. Second, the 
investigation showed that it is necessary 
to consider both social and environmental 
impacts to better understand the 
sustainable performance of a product. 
Both LCAs provide reasonable results, 
despite different perspectives and despite 
methodological challenges due to the 
novelty of the S-LCA approach and data 
gaps. 
Social hot spots were found in every stage 
of the product life cycle. In particular, 
informal activities in the mining and the 
recycling sector were found to cause 
serious social problems \u2013 not only for 
workers but also for local communities and 
the society. Beyond that, the production 
phase of the notebook computer was 
linked to poor enterprise performance and 
negative impacts, while the design phase 
and the formal recycling were in general 
uncritical. 
From a stakeholder perspective, workers 
were most affected in investigated 
subcategories, but also local communities 
and the society were negatively affected 
within the life cycle of the notebook 
12 For more information see: http://www.lcia-recipe.net/
30 Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: Making informed choices on products30 Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: Making informed choices on products
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3131Towards a Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment: Making informed choices on products
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