New United Nations Social LCA Guidelines – Supporting the SDGs

by Sonia Valdivia1, Catherine Benoit2, Marzia Traverso (presenting author) 3, Sara Russo4, Matthias Finkbeiner5, Elisabeth Ekener6, Sabrina Neugebauer3, Annekatrin Lehmann5

1: World Resources Forum (WRF), Switzerland; 2: NewEarth B, USA; 3: RWTH Aachen University, Germany; 4: CIRAIG, UQÀM, École des Sciences de la gestion, Canada; 5: TU Berlin, Germany; 6: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden


The 2009 UNEP/SETAC Social Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) Guidelines of Products are undergoing a revision in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and under the umbrella of the United Nations (UN) Life Cycle Initiative. Building on the 2009 Guidelines, new methodological and practical developments such as social organizational LCA (SOLCA) as well as refinements and additions of subcategories of social impact have emerged (e.g. related to gender). Two social LCA databases with national and sectoral information are widespread (Social Hotspots Database and the Product Social Impact Life Cycle Assessment -PSILCA) boosting the S-LCA implementation. Hundreds of studies have been identified applying the 2009 Guidelines in the food, information and technology, mining sectors, and in other consumer products groups.

Due to its global relevance and 10 years after its publication, the ‘S-LCA’ activity became in 2018 a project of the UN Life Cycle Initiative aiming to revise the 2009 version and pilot the new publication. This project is coordinated by the Social LC Alliance ( and supported by the Consumer Information Program of the 10YFP. The project group includes about 50 experts and stakeholders from business, government, non-Governmental (NGO) and intergovernmental (IGO) organizations and academia. Two expert meetings (in 2018 in Pescara, and in 2019 in Paris) are supported with consultation processes followed by the piloting in 2020.

The new format of the S-LCA publication aims to support broadening the practice, making the Guidelines a cornerstone reference for anyone wanting to conduct a S-LCA, SOLCA, Social Footprint Assessment, Social Hotspots Assessment or a Human Rights Due Diligence Assessment.

This presentation aims to present the last version of the new S-LCA Guidelines and raise feedback to be considered in the final version and in the pilot testing. The revised S-LCA Guidelines are expected to be finalized early 2020.