Practitioners of life cycle assessment (LCA) have recently turned their attention to social issues in the supply chain. The United Nations life cycle initiative's social LCA task force has completed its guidelines for social life cycle assessment of products, and awareness of managing upstream corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues has risen due to the growing popularity of LCA.
This article explores one approach to assessing social issues in the supply chain—life cycle attribute assessment (LCAA). The approach was originally proposed by Gregory Norris in 2006, and we present here a case study. LCAA builds on the theoretical structure of environmental LCA to construct a supply chain model. Instead of calculating quantitative impacts, however, it asks the question “What percentage of my supply chain has attribute X?” X may represent a certification from a CSR body or a self-defined attribute, such as “is locally produced.” We believe LCAA may serve as an aid to discussions of how current and popular CSR indicators may be integrated into a supply chain model.
The case study demonstrates the structure of LCAA, which is very similar to that of traditional environmental LCA. A labor hours data set was developed as a satellite matrix to determine number of worker hours in a greenhouse tomato supply. Data from the Quebec tomato producer were used to analyze how the company performed on eight sample LCAA indicators, and conclusions were drawn about where the company should focus CSR efforts.