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Integrating participatory approaches into social life cycle assessment: The SLCA participatory approach

Mathé S.. 2014. International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, 19 (8) : p. 1506-1514.

DOI: 10.1007/s11367-014-0758-6

Purpose This article discusses the choice of stakeholder categories and the integration of stakeholders into participatory processes to define impact categories and select indicators. Methods We undertook a literature review concerning the roles and the importance of stakeholders in participatory processes, and the use of such processes in environmental and social LCAs (Biswas et al. Int J Life Cycle Assess 3(4):184-190, 1998; Sonnemann et al. Int J Life Cycle Assess 6(6):325-333, 2001; Baldo Int J Life Cycle Assess 7(5):269-275, 2002; James et al. Int J Life Cycle Assess 7(3):151-157, 2002; Bras-Kapwijk Int J Life Cycle Assess 8(5):266-272, 2003; Mettier et al. Int J Life Cycle Assess 11(6):468-476, 2006). As part of the French National Research Agency Piscenlit project, we adapted the Principle, Criteria, Indicator (PCI) method (Rey-Valette et al. 2008), which is an assessment method of sustainable development, as a way to integrate the participatory approach into Social Life Cycle Assessment (SLCA) methodology, mainly at the impact definition stage. Results and discussion Different views of participation were found in the literature; there is no consensual normative approach for the implication of stakeholders in LCA development. Some attempts have been made to integrate stakeholders into environmental LCAs but these attempts have not been generalized. However, they strongly emphasize the interrelationship between research on the growing integration of stakeholders and on the choice of stakeholders. We then propose criteria from stakeholder theory (Freeman 1984; Mitchell et al. Acad Manage Rev 22(4):853-886, 1997; Geibler et al. Bus Strat Environ 15:334-346, 2006) in order to identify relevant stakeholders for SLCA participatory approach. The adaptation of the PCI method to Principles, Impacts, and Indicators (PII) enables stakeholders to express themselves and hence leads to definitions of relevant social indicators that they can appropriate. The paper presents results regarding the selection of stakeholders but no specific results regarding the choice of impact categories and indicators. Conclusions and recommendations Integrating a participatory approach into SLCAs is of interest at several levels. It enables various factors to be taken into account: plurality of stakeholder interests, local knowledge, and impact categories that make sense for stakeholders in different contexts. It also promotes dialogue and simplifies the search for indicators. However, it requires a multidisciplinary approach and the integration of new knowledge and skills for the SLCA practitioners.

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