Product Social Assessment

The Product Social Impact Assessment method allows companies to measure and analyse positive and negative social impacts and to identify risks, improvement opportunities and points of excellence. The assessment looks at positive and negative impacts our products have on the stakeholder groups: Workers, Consumers and Community.The entire supply chain downstream and upstream is taken into consideration.

The guidance takes you through each of the steps of the assessment as shown in the figure.


Step 1: Setting the goal and scope


The goal and scope is the most important step when doing an assessment. It describes the reason for doing the assessment. Questions which need to be answered before doing the assessment are:

  • Describe the product to be assessed
  • Describe the goal of the assessment, for example:
    • Identify where the product can improve and where it outperforms.
    • Support internal communications and decision-making.
  • Describe the geographic scope of the assessment by making explicit the value-chain actors which are included in the assessment, and their respective economic sectors and locations.
  • Define the stakeholder groups included in the assessment.The assessment is supposed to cover three stakeholder groups: workers, consumers and local communities.


The number of social topics considered in the assessment.  This will depend on the type and the purpose of the assessment. A distinguishment is made between a compact and a broad assessment:

  • A compact assessment is intended for internal communication. It includes a strict selection of social topics, for example, the top 5 material social topics. For these social topics, data of at least one, but preferably two, relevant value-chain actors must be collected and documented, with average data providing an overview of the potential risks in the rest of the value chain. One limitation of a compact assessment is that it does not fully support comparability because the list of social topics to be assessed is not fixed.
  • A broad assessment can be used for external communication. It differs from a compact assessment by including at least all social topics proposed in the handbook and collecting data from most value-chain actors. The documentation of a broad assessment also needs to be more extensive.



Step 3: Collecting the Data

Collecting data can the most time-intensive step in the assessment. It is crucial to create awareness internally and externally why you are conducting the assessment and what effort is needed from your internal departments and suppliers.We have developed a communication toolkit which can support  companies in creating internal and external awareness.

After this the questionnaires can be sent out. Data is collected per performance indicator:

  • Scales-based approach: Data are either quantitative (number or ratio) or
  • Quantitative approach: only numerical data are data should be collected by working hour, but otherwise by mass (e.g. ton) or value generated (e.g. $ or €)

Templates have been created for the scales-based and quantitative approach. It is important to go through these templates to ensure  that the survey is:  understandable for your suppliers/internal departments, all the relevant topics are in there and that topics that are out of scope for this assessment are taken out.

It is preferable to gather data specific to a given product. A practical problem is that value- chain actors can provide generic data across an entire company whilst the company produces different products in different locations. Therefore, if necessary, quantitative data should be allocated to the specific product. Read here more background on how data can be be allocated to the specific product.

When the data comes back it is important to assess the quality of the data. A data quality matrix to assess the quality of the data is available here.


Example case study

Step 4:  Attributes scores using the reference values and scales

Data are interpreted and put into context based on a reference.

  • Scales-based approach: the data are expressed in points, e. data are classified according to a reference scale.
  • Quantitative approach: quantitative data put into relation to a reference value.


The reference values and scales  can be based on:  industry average, target values, ethical minimums or optimum standards.To read more about how the referencing is done for the scales-based and quantitative approach click here.

The data from the data collection needs to be transferred to the referencing excel. One is available for the scale based and quantitative approach. After calculation this excel shows the contribution of each value chain actor to the social indicators.

Example case-study

Step 5:  The results

The results can be expressed on three levels:

  • Social topic scores
  • Stakeholders scores
  • Total social score

Please note that in the quantitative approach aggregation of performance indicators into social topic scores, stakeholder scores and total social score is only possible when comparing products or supply chains.For the quantitative approach aggregation is only possible in comparative assessments

The quantitative or scaled performance indicators are combined to produce social topic scores.The social topic score is calculated by average summing the performance indicators. Value-chain actors are not weighted.




The social topic scores can undergo a weighting step. Weighting factors can be based, for instance, on public or expert opinion. Note that the handbook does not provide the weighting factors.

The social topic scores (weighted or unweighted) are average summed into stakeholder group scores. The stakeholder group scores are quantitative numbers.

The stakeholder group scores can undergo a second weighting step.The social topic scores (weighted or unweighted) are averaged into a total social score, which is a number.


An Social executive summary has been created. This can be used to communicate the results

Example Case study