Fair conditions along the entire value-added chain
Preservation of resources, an environmentally sound production, and fair and equitable treatment of employees as well as further aspects of sustainability are playing an increasingly important role in the manufacturing and marketing of products for industrial companies. Methods considering ecological and economic aspects subject to the entire value- added chain have become established in both industry and scientific research.
In contrast, however, systematic evaluation of product related social aspects along the value-added chain and the entire product life cycle has been hardly taken into consideration – or thus only qualitatively.
The LCWE-Method (Life Cycle Working Environment) developed at the department of Life Cycle Engineering aims to asses and to quantify product or product system related social aspects along the value-added chain. In analogy to the ecological profile of an LCA the LCWE-Method provides a social profile of the product with a possible level of detail up to individual process steps.
Current research in the department of the LCWE- Method focusses on the workplace-related analysis of the social product environment and on the development of appropriate indicators. Workplace- related indicators of a LCWE-social profile include, for instance:
- Overall work time per process step and product
- Share of different levels of qualification per process step and product
- Proportion of female labor per process step and product as well as
- Number of non-fatal and fatal accidents
The current research particularly focusses on the extension of the LCWE- Method in terms of a regionalization of the workplace-related, social analyses of the value-added chain. Priority is given to the analysis and reproduction of working places on site as well as at the level of qualification at local scale as this may contribute to strengthen regional competitiveness. Furthermore, new workplace-related indicators (such as child labor, fair wages etc.) are developed and will be integrated into existing methods.
The department of Life Cycle Engineering also investigates new fields of application of the method to address both company internal as well as external issues appropriately:
- Does the method ensure to illustrate social circumstances along the value- added chain in a transparent manner in order to monitor the social corporate objectives systematically?
- How does the analysis via social profile or the social indicators support the comparison of companies towards the average of the particular sector or towards potential competitors?
- Does there exist the possibility to use LCWE-data for a social label (»Product social footprint« – in the same way as the eco-label »Product environmental footprint«)?
- Does the data for the analysis and validation serve to achieve politically motivated social objectives at regional and national scale?