Companies are more and more interested in the improvement of sustainability performance of products, services and processes. For this reason, appropriate and suitable assessment tools supporting the transition to a green economy are highly necessary. Currently, there are a number of methods and approaches for assessing products’ environmental impact and improving their performances; among these, the Life Cycle Thinking (LCT) approach has emerged as the most comprehensive and effective to achieve sustainability goals. Indeed, the LCT approach aims to reduce the use of resources and emissions to the environment associated with a product’s life cycle. It can be used as well to improve socio-economic performance through the entire life cycle of a product. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), Life Cycle Costing (LCC) and Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) are undoubtedly the most relevant methodologies to support product-related decision-making activities for the extraction and processing of raw materials, manufacturing, distribution, use, reuse, maintenance, recycling and final disposal. While LCA is an internationally standardized tool (ISO 14040 2006), LCC (except for the ISO related to the building sector) and S-LCA have yet to attain international standardization (even if guidelines and general frameworks are available). The S-LCA is still in its experimental phase for many aspects of the methodological structure and practical implementation. This study presents the application of LCA and S-LCA to a textile product. The LCA and S-LCA are implemented following the ISO 14040-44:2006 and the guidelines from UNEP/SETAC (2009), respectively. The functional unit of the study is a cape knitted in a soft blend of wool and cashmere produced by a textile company located in Sicily (Italy). The system boundary of the study includes all phases from cradle-to-gate, from raw material production through fabric/accessory production to the manufacturing process of the product itself at the Sicilian Company. Background and foreground processes are taken into account using primary and secondary data. The analysis evaluates the environmental and social performances related to the specific textile product, but also outlines the general behaviour of the company. The case study also highlights pro and cons of a combined LCA and S-LCA to a textile product in a regional context.
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