WE.2.B || Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products

Cabrera, Fanny; Pacheco, Gustavo; Vanegas, Paúl; Sucozhañay, Dolores

The transition towards a circular economy, which has emerged as a promising approach to achieve sustainable development, may cause significant social impacts on vulnerable groups. However, assessing social impacts remains a challenge. Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) has been recognized as a suitable methodology to assess the social and socio-economic impacts attributed to products or services with a life cycle perspective. Most SLCA experiences have been conducted in formal sectors; however, in developing countries, informal sectors constitute a crucial element of the economy. In the context of waste management, in Cuenca – Ecuador, similar to other Latin American cities, formal waste management practices are complemented by the informal sector. These autonomous workers, known as recyclers, collect, preprocess, and commercialize recyclable materials. Notwithstanding the environmental and financial benefits derived from their work, which include extending the lifespan of landfills, contributing to recycling goals, and achieving operational savings for municipalities, recyclers face poverty, lack of social security benefits, and discrimination. With particular emphasis on the stakeholder category workers –recyclers-, the current work presents a series of lessons learned from testing SLCA to assess the social impact of the recycling system of Cuenca. The aspects under discussion include stakeholder engagement, data scarcity, adaptation of indicators to informal environments, data collection, and impact assessment. A number of examples illustrate how these challenges were addressed during the different stages of the study.