How not to compare apples and oranges: Generate context-specific performance reference points for a social life cycle assessment model

A. Siebert, S. O'Keeffe, A. Bezama*, W. Zeug, D. Thrän

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years the need to consider the social dimension of sustainability within life cycle thinking has been increasing, catalysing the development of many different social life cycle assessment approaches (sLCA). The demand to assess potential social effects has been strengthened further, due to the implementation of national bioeconomy strategies. The RESPONSA framework (REgional SPecific cONtextualised Social life cycle Assessment) has been developed to assess the social effects associated with wood-based bioeconomy products from Germany (Siebert et al., 2018a; Siebert et al., 2018b). However, a characterisation approach, based on a context-specific benchmark which is easy to understand and interpret, is still missing. In general, characterisation approaches provide meaning to social indicator values (i.e., the inventory data). However, there is no standardised sLCA characterisation method yet. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to outline a characterisation method based on context-specific performance reference points (PRPs), which can effectively reflect the social conditions influencing the various organisations involved in producing a specified product. Such PRPs should also qualify whether the social indicator values collected from the organisations in the production system corresponds to a negative (worse than sector average) or positive performance (better than sector average). Therefore, we considered the classification of economic sector of the assessed organisation and in some cases the size of the organisation as factors influencing the potential social effects related to our particular context. These were then applied to define context-specific PRPs, which relate the social indicators calculated in the inventory phase, to those benchmarks, thus generating relative social performance scores for producers of a wood-based product in Germany.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-600
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Characterisation
  • Performance reference points
  • sLCIA
  • Social life cycle impact assessment


Dive into the research topics of 'How not to compare apples and oranges: Generate context-specific performance reference points for a social life cycle assessment model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this