Measuring social sustainability in the meat industry

For an US meat industry association, PRé gathered data for a social life cycle assessment. The goal was not only to quantify current social impacts, but also to see how social impacts in the meat industry changed over time.


In addition to measuring and managing environmental impacts, many industries are beginning to place an importance on measuring the social impacts of their goods and services. PRé was contracted to gather data to support a social life cycle assessment (S-LCA) for a major meat industry trade association in the United States. The project’s goal in part was to not only assess the current state of social impacts for the industry, but also to understand the changes to social impacts over time, by assessing impacts in 1970 and in 2005.


Utilizing the SEEBalance methodology as published by BASF, the study included 20 indicators (e.g., fatal accidents, total wages and benefits paid, number of disabled employees, etc.) across four categories: Employees, Local and National Community, Future Generations, and International Community. PRé worked to gather data and calculate impacts for inputs to the meat product based on government data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among other secondary sources. The results of the SEEBalance study will contribute to the overall understanding of the impacts of this industry, and how its impacts have changed over time (see graph). 

Because it was originally developed for use with European data, PRé adapted this methodology to be compatible with the data available in the United States. Over 100 individual material, energy, and other inputs were assessed, and the results yielded more than 6,000 individual data points. PRé worked closely with the project team to ensure that the results and data were of the highest quality available, and that they accurately characterized the industry for each of the target years.

Measuring historical social sustainability in the meat industry: Solid insight into future improvements

The outputs of the SEEBalance study will be combined with a broader study of the industry’s environmental impacts to create a platform upon which to improve performance in these areas. The inclusion of social metrics allows the industry to not only minimize the negative impacts, but also to promote the positive impacts of its business. This project embodies the “triple bottom line” approach, and provides a comprehensive view of the impacts of this industry.


Working with PRé, the trade organization discovered the following value-driven benefits:

  • Increased understanding of how social issues relate to the industry
  • Identification of opportunities for improvement and potential partnerships with other stakeholders
  • Quantification of social impacts across multiple decades and establishment of a performance baseline.

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