The multiple capitals approach as a complement to the capability approach for social impacts measurement

Somé, Zoé Kpielle Ansato (2016). 'The multiple capitals approach as a complement to the capability approach for social impacts measurement' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract This paper is part of my doctoral research study and focuses on the measurement of social impacts. In postmodern societies individuals privilege values such as affective relation, individual freedom, the workers’ social conditions, the support the company offers to the local economy and the protection of the environment. When making choices, people take into account these aspects and as a result, the social performances of a company can influence considerably consumer's attitude and affect its results. Thereby the social performance of organizations has become the object of increasing attention from companies, communities and governments. Consequently, this raised awareness leading to a strengthening of policies and shifting of companies’ practices toward social responsibility and social impact assessment. The reason is that humankind is at the center of any action, as well as the author, beneficiary, and potential victim of development activities. Thus, over the past few decades, companies’ strategies have begun to take into account the social value created. In fact, it has become increasingly essential for the holders of activities that affect human beings to assess the effect of their actions on the individual.   In this work, in order to capture how a specific action can affect human well-being, we considered associating the approach of multiple capitals to the capability approach. Our methodology purpose is to be able to measure how much capitals and opportunities have been made available to people. Through the method of multiple capitals, the capital aspect is approached as a stock of assets that provide a flow of goods and services to promote human well-being. Our work is based, on one hand, on the fact that all organization depends on a variety of resources and relationships for its success. Indeed, it is more and more recognized that capitals such as natural resources, human knowledge, and social cohesion are vital stocks or assets for business. On the other hand, according to both the vision of the sustainable livelihood approach and the capability approach, access to resources or capitals is important for the quality of life. Within the framework of the capability approach, human well-being depends on access to resources, the right to use them, and the ability to transform them into functioning they value. In the process of measuring the effect of an action on humankind based on the multiple capitals approach, it is important to identify the capital needed for the activity and how the use of it affects human well-being (access to resources, opportunities created, improved abilities, etc.). In the proposed method, the operationalization of the capability approach enhanced with the multiple capitals approach will allow us to identify the issues linked to the use of those capitals with regard to human well-being, and to define the necessary indicators for the analysis. The method has been applied to the case of agro-fuel fields in West Africa to help evaluate the impact on the individual directly or indirectly affected by the fields. Finally, the study will assess the variation of the impact in relation to the diversity in the areas studied and understand to what extent the diversity can be an opportunity in the capital formation, access, and use to improve the quality of life in the production processes.

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