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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/23926

Title: Social sustainability assessments in the biobased economy: Towards a systemic approach
Authors: Rafiaani, Parisa
Kuppens, Tom
Van Dael, Miet
Azadi, Hossein
Lebailly, Philippe
Van Passel, Steven
Issue Date: 2017
Status: Early View
Abstract: The majority of impact assessments for the biobased economy are primarily focused on the environmental and (techno-)economic aspects, while social aspects are rarely considered. This study proposes a modified systemic approach for a social sustainability impact assessment of the biobased economy, based on a review on the common methodologies for assessing social impacts. Accordingly, the proposed approach follows the four general iterative steps of social life cycle analysis (SLCA) as it considers all life cycle phases of the biobased economy. The systemic approach considers the potential social impacts on local communities, workers, and consumers as the main three groups of the stakeholders. The review showed that the most common social indicators for inventory analysis within the biobased economy include health and safety, food security, income, employment, land- and worker-related concerns, energy security, profitability, and gender issues. Multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) was also highlighted as the broadly utilized methodology for aggregating the results of impact assessments within the biobased economy. Taking a life cycle perspective, this study provides a holistic view of the full sustainability of research, design, and innovation in the biobased economy by suggesting the integration of the social aspects with techno-economic and an environmental life cycle assessment. Our proposed systemic approach makes possible to integrate the social impacts that are highly valued by the affected stakeholders into the existing sustainability models that focus only on environmental and techno-economic aspects. We discuss the steps of the proposed systemic approach in order to identify the challenges of applying them within the biobased economy. These challenges refer mainly to the definition of the functional unit and system boundaries, the selection and the analysis of social indicators (inventory analysis), the aggregation of the inventory to impact categories, and the uncertainties associated with the social sustainability evaluation. The result of this review and the proposed systemic approach serve as a foundation for industry and policy makers to gain a better insight into the importance of social sustainability impacts assessment within the biobased economy.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/23926
ISSN: 1364-0321
Category: A1
Type: Journal Contribution
Appears in Collections: Research publications

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