Resource 5: Social & Environmental Justice

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies (9). The fundamental tenets of environmental justice involve contesting systems of oppression that privilege one group over another in decision-making, exposure to environmental hazards, and consequences of that exposure (10). Environmental justice includes not only the fair distribution of goods and services but also the flourishing and full function of human life in political, social, economic, and legal spheres (11).

Social impact assessment helps designers evaluate how a product will impact people (workers, users, vulnerable populations and communities broadly) throughout its life cycle. Products should be evaluated for how they impact people in a wide range of demographics.

Guiding Questions

  • Do you need to have an open stakeholder process that directly involves key groups impacted by the product?
  • Will the materials and manufacturing related to your product create equal opportunities and fair labor conditions (such as fair sala./wage, safe working conditions, freedom of association and collective bargaining)?
  • Have you considered impacts to the community where your product will be made, used a./or disposed?
  • What is your plan for transparent communication about your product and materials?
  • How will your product contribute to or hinder local economic development in the areas it is produced, used and disposed?

Social Life Cycle Assessment Resources

While aspects of product design such as social impacts, performance and economic feasibility are important considerations, they are, for the most part, outside the scope of this workbook.

Refer to the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment for more detailed information.