Is Labor a Suitable Input in LCA + DEA Studies? Insights on the Combined Use of Economic, Environmental and Social Parameters
Economic, social and environmental dimensions are usually accepted as the three pillars of sustainable development. However, current methodologies for the assessment of the sustainability of product systems fail to cover economic, environmental and social parameters in a single combined approach. Even though the perfect methodology is still far off, this article attempts to provide insights on the potentials of the five-step LCA + DEA method, based on both Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) methodologies, to cope with operational (economic), environmental and social parameters when evaluating multiple similar entities. The LCA + DEA methodology has already been proven to be a suitable approach for the evaluation of a homogenous set of units from an operational and environmental perspective, while allowing the consideration of economic aspects. However, this is the first study focused on the implementation of social parameters in LCA + DEA studies. The suitability of labor as an additional DEA item is evaluated to validate this integrative LCA + DEA concept. Illustrative case studies are used to show the advantages and drawbacks associated with the use of labor in terms of number of workers and number of working hours. In light of the results, the integrative LCA + DEA concept is seen as an all-in-one methodology, which is easy to implement, even though relevant limitations should be discussed in order to guarantee an appropriate interpretation of the social results derived from the proposed method.
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