Social Life Cycle Assessment of Denim Fabric Produced from Turkish Organic Cotton

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Examensarbete för masterexamen
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2022
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Aguilar Johansson, Ida
Björkner, Malin
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The global textile industry is infamous for contributing to environmental and social impacts. The former includes the release of textile processing chemicals and pesticides, while the latter includes harsh working conditions and child labour. Therefore, further improvements in the sustainability of textile products from a life cycle perspective are warranted. This report presents a social life cycle assessment (SLCA), based on the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) “Guidelines for Social Life Cycle Assessment of Products” from 2021. The study aims to identify the risks for potential social impacts connected to the life cycle of denim fabric. This SLCA is a cradle-to-gate study that considers the organic cotton cultivation and fabric production from an existing value chain located mainly in Turkey. The data was collected by interviews on-site during a field study. Additional data was obtained from social audit reports as well as governmental and non-governmental organisations. The Reference Scale Approach was used in the impact assessment to identify risks for potential social impacts. The stakeholder groups included in the scope were primarily workers. However, risks for potential social impacts related to the local community and value chain actors were also considered. The results for the whole product system show no risks for potential social impacts, meaning that no incidents had occurred. The calculated score indicated an existing management system in place by the organisations involved in the study. For the subcategory Child Labour, no extensive engagement could be identified, therefore it received the lowest score (+1) in the product system. The subcategory Fair salary received the highest score since several organisations responsible for the activities engaged in the social issue more broadly than the other subcategories. For the cotton cultivation activity, the harvesting required the most worker hours, with the subcategories Working hours, Employment relationship and Safe and healthy living conditions showing the highest risk of potential social impacts. For fabric production, Fair salary, Working hours, and Health and safety had the highest risk of potential social impacts. The sensitivity analysis shows that the result depends heavily on the choice of data source. Therefore, recommendations for future studies suggest including more data on the specific value chain to increase the reliability of the results. Finally, it is recommended to adjust the reference scales to not give an advantage to big companies over small companies for reaching the higher scores due to the more extensive resources of big companies. Therefore, future recommendations regarding the SLCA methodology are to consider different reference scales.
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LCA, denim production, cotton, reference scale approach, jeans, social assessment
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