Locating Hotspots for the Social Life Cycle Assessment of Bio-Based Products from Short Rotation Coppice

Bioenergy Res. 2021 Mar 25;1-24. doi: 10.1007/s12155-021-10261-9. Online ahead of print.


The establishment of new value chains raises expectations in economic and social benefits. To determine whether these expectations can be fulfilled or whether there are also negative consequences, social aspects should be assessed as early as the R&D phase. Potential social impacts can be assessed with the help of a social life cycle assessment (SLCA). A common problem in SLCA studies is the large number of social aspects. Thus, it is important to prioritize the most relevant aspects. Scholars agree that socioeconomic indicators should not be selected on a purely intuitive and common sense basis and that a standardized approach is missing. A three-step process has been developed to identify the most vulnerable and relevant social aspects. These three steps were implemented into a case study to empirically test the method. Short-rotation-coppice as an alternative form of agricultural dendromass production is one possibility to obtain wood resources for the processing of bio-based products. The use of agricultural land for dendromass production promises additional income for the region's farmers and job opportunities for the local population. The extant literature shows that the most frequently addressed impacts are related to workers' health and safety aspects. The outcome of this study aims to support future research by identifying an appropriate approach for the selection of indicators in SLCA. For studies with a similar focus, the proposed set of indicators can be used as a framework in itself or serve as a basis for the choice of relevant social indicators.

Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s12155-021-10261-9.

Keywords: Indicator selection; SLCA bio-based products; Social life cycle assessment; Socioeconomic impacts; Socioeconomic indicators; Stakeholder analysis.