Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to introduce methods that have been developed to consider social sustainability aspects in the initial phases of projects in industry, i.e. in the design stage of technological systems, whereby a proactive approach in industry can be ensured. The inclusion of social aspects in both the sustainability debate and practice has been marginal compared with the focus on the other two dimensions of sustainable development, i.e. economic and environmental performances, especially from a business perspective. The tools that have focused on social business sustainability aspects have mainly addressed business sustainable development reporting, operational conditions, and product social life cycle assessments. Design/methodology/approach – The first method builds on a framework of social sustainability criteria that has been introduced for the South African process industry. A Social Impact Indicator (SII) calculation procedure has been developed based on a previously introduced Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) calculation procedure for environmental Resource Impact Indicators (RIIs). The second method applies questionnaires and checklists following more traditional risk approaches. Findings – Information availability and standardisation of social criteria are problematic for quantitative approaches at present. It is therefore proposed that social sustainability should be incorporated into project and technology management methodologies in phases, commencing with the questionnaires and checklists. In future, the proposed indicator method can be implemented when information is more readily available. Originality/value – The questionnaires and checklists provide practical means for project and technology developers to assess and communicate potential social risk associated with technological systems to decision-makers.
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