A Social Hotspot Database for Acquiring Greater Visibility in Product Supply Chains\' Social Impacts: Overview and Application
Published: 02 November 2011 by MDPI in The 1st World Sustainability Forum session Social Sustainability
Abstract: In a world of globalized production and consumption, both positive and negative environmental and social impacts are abundant in product supply chains. With the complexity of sourcing and distributing around the globe, a great deal of transparency is lost. Transparency, in economic theory, implies providing key information to help stakeholders make decisions, which in turn creates incentives for businesses to align their practices with the public\'s priorities. Consumers are more frequently questioning where, by whom, and under what conditions their products are being sourced and produced. One emerging technique is Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA). New Earth, a non-profit organization fostering innovative strategies and tools to help achieve sustainable development on a global level is providing a solution to acquire greater supply chain visibility. The Social Hotspots Database (SHDB) offers an overarching, global database that eases the data collection burden in S-LCA studies. The UNEP SETAC Guidelines for S-LCA of products recommended the development of such a resource (Benoît & Mazijn, 2009). It enables mainstream application of S-LCA by allowing stakeholders to prioritize unit processes for which site-specific data collection will be desirable. Data for two criteria are provided to inform prioritization: (1) labor intensity in worker hours per unit process and (2) risk for, or opportunity to affect, relevant social themes related to Human Rights, Labor Rights and Decent Work, Governance and Access to Community Services. The SHBD system utilizes an Input-Output global trade model, derived by New Earth from GTAP, a general economic equilibrium model facilitated by Purdue University, supplemented with data on wage rates from the ILO. The model calculates worker hours estimates by country and sector involved in the supply chain of products. The Social Hotspots Database incorporates more than 100 references to develop data tables for nearly twenty social themes, and continues to grow. The paper will present an overview of the SHDB development and features, as well as results from a pilot study conducted with the SHDB on strawberry yogurt. These studies, mandated by The Sustainability Consortium, focus on the potential social impacts existing in the supply chains of various product categories. The potential hotspots in the supply chain are proposed as places in the supply chain where further site-specific investigations are pertinent. Benoît C, Mazijn B (eds). 2009. Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products. UNEP/SETAC.
Keywords: Social Hotspot Database, Life Cycle Assessment, Supply Chains, Social Impacts