Social aspects

Fair work throughout the value-added chain

Careful treatment of resources, environmentally compatible production, fair dealing with employees, and further aspects of sustainability are playing an increasingly decisive role for industrial enterprises in the manufacture and marketing of products. For an ecological and economic evaluation under consideration of the value-added chain, methods have become established that are used in both industry and research.

On the other hand, a product-related assessment of social aspects along the value-added chain – and over the entire life cycle – is currently given little attention or is treated only in terms of quality.

The Life Cycle Working Environment (LCWE) method developed by the Life Cycle Engineering Department enables quantification and assessment of the social aspects of a product or product system along the value-added chain. As a result, the user is provided with the social profile of a product, with a depth of detail that can extend to individual processing stages – by analogy with the ecological profile of a Life Cycle Assessment.

Research in this department with the LCWE method has concentrated to date on workplace-related analysis in the social environment of a product and the development of corresponding indicators. Workplace-related indicators of an LCWE social profile are for example

  • total working time per processing stage and product,
  • the share of various qualification standards per processing stage and product,
  • the share of work performed by women per processing stage and product, and
  • the number of non-fatal and fatal accidents.

At present, research is concentrating on extending the LCWE method toward regionalization for workplace-related, social analysis of value-added chains. At the focus here are for instance the analysis and depiction of workplaces on-site, along with their levels of qualification at a local level, which help strengthen a company’s position in the regional competitive field. New workplace-related indicators (e.g. child labor, fair pay etc.) are also to be developed and incorporated into the existing method.

The department also examines new fields of application for this method, in order to be able to adequately address both in-house and external issues:

  • Can the method help to transparently depict social conditions in the value-added chain, so that social corporate goals can be systematically pursued?

  • How does the analysis provide support by means of social profiles, or how do the social indicators support a comparison of companies as against the industry average or the competition?

  • In the view of the company, to what extent is this method suitable for marketing purposes?

  • Can LCWE data be used for example in the development of a social label (»product social footprint« – by analogy with the »product environmental footprint«)?

  • Can LCWE data serve in analysis and validation for the accomplishment of politically or socially motivated goals of a regional or national dimension?

© Itsra Sanprasert/shutterstock

Transparency and fairness – increasingly important aspects of purchase decisions.

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Global value-added chains will bring tangible benefits to many people.

© kon/shutterstock

Sustainable products – but only with healthy working conditions and fair pay.