Life Cycle Thinking

Intervista a Catherine Benoît Norris

23 novembre 2018

È con grande piacere che ospitiamo nel nostro spazio Catherine Benoît Norris, tra gli esperti di maggiore spicco nel campo della Social LCA. Catherine è co-presidente del processo di revisione delle Linee Guida per la Social LCA dell’UN Environmental Life Cycle Initiative e insegna Responsabilità sociale nella catena di fornitura del prodotto all’Harvard Extension School. Catherine è anche co-creatrice del primo social impact database, il Social Hotspot Database, la cui versione ampiamente aggiornata sarà prossimamente disponibile.

Ho incontrato Catherine alla Conferenza sulla Social LCA che si è tenuta a Pescara a settembre e ha gentilmente accettato di raccontarci del suo lavoro e di questa metodologia che, accanto a LCA e LCC, permette di considerare tutti e tre i pilastri della sostenibilità.

I asked Catherine Benoît Norris, whom I met at the Social LCA Conference in Pescara last September, to answer some questions about Social LCA and the approaching release of the updated Social Hotspot Database.

Catherine Benoît Norris directs the Social Hotspots Database project at NewEarth B where she is COO and leads the consulting and training services offering.

Catherine is a leader in the field of Social Life Cycle Assessment and has co-created the first social impact database, the Social Hotspots Database (link provided). She also leads social impact research at New Earth and teaches on social responsibility in product supply chains at Harvard Extension school. She co-chairs the revision process of the S-LCA Guidelines within the UN Environment Life Cycle Initiative.

Catherine directed, coordinated research and stakeholder consultation for several highly-praised sustainability centers (CIRAIG, The Sustainability Consortium) and has years of deep engagement and expertise in international sustainability initiatives. Catherine also has an extensive background in ethical compliance and human rights due diligence. Catherine has a PhD in Business administration from University of Quebec At Montreal.

An updated version of the Social Hotspot Database is soon to be released. Can you tell us what will be the major improvements both in data and functionalities?

Absolutely! Thanks for reaching out.The major improvements are 1) a brand new Global Input Output model from GTAP (V9) to model supply chains, 2) all newly updated worker hours model for the impact assessment, 4 additional impact subcategories and 1 impact category which is different than the others and present quantitative data on value added, payments to capital and workers as well as taxes. Most of the risk data is also updated and we are now on a biannual plan of update where the next release will be in May of 2019.

For those starting to apply Social LCA, can you explain the main advantages of using your database for performing this methodology and what type of results they can expect?

Using the SHDB provides a shortcut to model supply chains – very useful when you start and have only limited information!  It also provides a first assessment very rapidly that can be used as a baseline and that can be continuously refined as more information on the supply chain or on the impacts are known.

For those already performing Life Cycle Assessment, complementing it with social assessment could be a valuable addition. Can SHDB be used with LCA softwares such as SimaPro?

Yes, the SHDB can easily be used in LCA softwares including Sima Pro. The SHDB license file is very easy to use for those familiar with Sima Pro, one-click and it is recognized by the software. It works in much the same way LCA practitionners would expect. When purchasing a license, we offer a complimentary one-hour training which helps get off and running fast.

You have been at the forefront of Social LCA for many years. What do you think the major future developments of this methodology will be?

I think increasing the accessibility of the method is the major goal. Part of making the method accessible is to fill the gaps in impact assessment, organizational-level methods (SOLCA) and positive impacts which are sought after by prospective users as well as clarifying the role of S-LCA for Human Rights Due Diligence. Another part of increasing accessibility is simplifying, using easy to understand language in guidance and manual and providing an abundance of case studies. We have made a lot of progress in the past few years but with a revised version of the S-LCA Guidelines, process that I co-chair within the Life Cycle Initiative, we will reach another level.

What would you tell a company weighing advantages and costs of using Social LCA to assess their products?

In the future, organizations won’t have the luxury of not understanding their supply chains’ social impacts. Products will need to be designed with mindful intent to be successful on the market. This require a holistic method that provides a systematic assessment framework: Social LCA. It can be used now for human rights due diligence but also – even more importantly – to plan tomorrow’s products and supply chains. This is why it is important for companies that want to become or maintain leadership on sustainability to get engaged now with the method and its application.

Thanks Catherine!

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