Social Life Cycle Assessment in Agricultural Systems – U.S. Corn Production as a Case Study
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Socio-Economic Life Cycle Assessment (S-LCA) has proved to be a useful approach for quantitative sustainability assessment. A sustainability assessment method developed by BASF, AgBalance™, includes primary agricultural production that integrates environmental life cycle assessment (LCA), S-LCA and economic cost considerations with quantitative sustainability indicators. It is based on mandatory and optional parts of the ISO 14040 and 14,044 standards (2006) for life cycle assessment. Furthermore, the guidelines of the UNEP/SETAC working group for S-LCA as well as the SA8000 and ISO26000SR standards were followed in the development of the methodology. In a case study, a decade of corn production in Iowa was analyzed in order to compare the sustainability of agricultural practices (Year 2000 vs. Year 2010). The integrated impacts of social indexes in the Iowa farming community yielded a substantial increase in the sustainability performance, mainly driven by the indicators Professional Training, Succession and Gender Equality. In summary, this case study underlines the paradigm of sustainable intensification.
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