Data collection, or the inventory step, is often the most labor-intensive phase of any Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study. The S-LCA Guidelines and numerous authors have recommended generic assessment in this first phase of an S-LCA. In an effort to identify the social hotspots in the supply chains of 100 product categories during just a few months’ time, adopting a streamlined approach was essential. The Social Hotspots Database system was developed by New Earth over 5 years. It includes a Global Input Output (IO) model derived from the Global Trade Analysis Project, a Worker Hours Model constructed using annual wage payments and wage rates by country and sector, and Social Theme Tables covering 22 themes within five Social Impact Categories—Labor Rights and Decent Work, Health and Safety, Human Rights, Governance and Community Impacts. The data tables identify social risks for over 100 indicators. Both the ranking of worker hour intensity and the risk levels across multiple social themes for the Country Specific Sectors (CSS) within a product category supply chain are used to calculate Social Hotspots Indexes (SHI) using an additive weighting method. The CSS with the highest SHI are highlighted as social hotspots within the supply chain of the product in question. This system was tested in seven case studies in 2011. In order to further limit the number of hotspots, a set of prioritization rules was applied. This paper will review the method implemented to study the social hotspots of the 100 product categories and provide one detailed example. Limitations of the approach and recommended research avenues will be outlined.
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