How would you describe this BIG IDEA?
Lifecycle Analysis (LCA) is a specific analytical approach to evaluating the impact of human artifacts. It engages lifecycle thinking by guiding decision makers to consider each stage of that artifact’s lifecycle, from material extraction through production, use, and disposal, and consider the impacts of those stages. Social LCA (S-LCA) is a particular emerging form of LCA that focuses on the social impacts. Impacts include workers rights and safety, community building, living conditions, fair competition. These impacts may be negative or positive, and our understanding and definitions of types of impacts is still improving. Many researchers are still working on methodological approaches to S-LCA.
How does this BIG IDEA about sustainable communities play out in your work?
Much of my work is in environmental LCA, and S-LCA shares its origins in this approach. In fact, the reasons we care about environmental LCA are for its impacts on worker safety and local health and fair use and stewardship of resources. The interconnections between the design of artifacts, environmental systems, and social systems are highly complex, and in order to make smarter decisions and be able to predict un-intended consequences, we need to model these social and environmental aspects of artifacts.