Sustainable Innovation


Take good care

 

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2016 has brought us many positive turns. Perhaps we start to understand how to keep this world a great place to live in? The Global Climate Agreements following COP21 in Paris were rectified. Renewable energy is taking over fossil fuels as the cost price decreases. The UN Sustainable Development Goals offer a shared framework for public and private sector to mitigate societal issues. Unfortunately we are still witnessing devastating wars,  severe inequality, and malnutrition issues .. we are not there yet.

My wish for 2017: Keep up the good work and take good care:

  • Take good¬†care of the planet.¬†Let’s¬†keep¬†the world¬†the beautiful¬†place and home¬†as we know it. Use less stuff, use it longer, recycle and use renewables.
  • Take good care of the people. Pay respect and be¬†gentle.¬†Close to home and¬†as far as¬†you can reach. We are in this game together. Be kind.
  • Take good care of yourself.¬†¬†Be the best version of yourself. Work hard and play hard. Make choices. Enjoy. Relax. Be inspired.¬†Cycle. Paint. Play the piano ; ).

 Have a great 2017!

 

 

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Join the New Material Award 2016

Are you working on a new product made of a novel sustainable material? Are you an architect on the verge of a breakthrough application of sustainable materials in buildings? Do you welcome some financial support and coaching to scale up your idea?

Designers, artists and architects are invited to join the New Material Award 2016. The award is organised by Het Nieuwe Instituut, DOEN Foundation and Fonds Kwadraat. The organisers are looking for promising design proposals that exhibit new sustainable materials and innovative techniques. Deadline is April 25th. Selected designs will be exhibited during the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven in October 2016. The 2winners will receive a prize and six months of coaching by Het Nieuwe Instituut. For further details: look here:

newmaterialaward2016



Social impacts of products

Underpinning company mission

Paint

An important¬†reason to¬†start measuring social impact is to underpin a company mission. More and more companies¬†define¬†company aspirations in terms of social impact. Take for instance¬†Danone, that has a dual mission of business¬†success and social impact. Philips¬†aims to¬†improve the lives of 3 billion people.¬†And L’Or√©al strives with¬†its¬†‘Sharing Beaty for All’ program¬†for all its¬†products to have a social or environmental beneift.¬†It is¬† important¬†to substantiate these goals¬†with tangible examples and report on progress based on¬†solid metrics.¬†How to do so?

Learning from NGOs and philantropy

Social progress is the ‘raison d’etre’ for Non-Gouvernemental Organisations (NGOs) and philantropic organisations.¬†For NGOs it would be unthinkable not to track the number of people lifted out of poverty, the income generated for small holder farmers or the number of girls educated.¬†A number of tools and guidelines have become available to¬†forecast and track progress , for instance those ‚ÄėGlobal Impact Investing Network‚Äô. The reporting guidelines of the¬†Global Reporting Initiative provide inspiration as well for companies that wish to steer on social impact.¬†However, these type of guidances do not always provide the level of granularity needed to steer the social impact of products.

Social impact through products

Companies can create the largest positive impact with their products and services. Through products companies have the ability to create the most significant impact in society: billions of end-users are reached, manufacturing processes can be changed in own organisation and supplier organisations. The choices companies make for their products have a direct effect on the impacts the products have on the planet and people. These impacts are created in all stages of the product life cycle from extraction of raw materials Рall the way to the producten, use phase and the end of life of a product.

Life cycle approach

The impacts created by products can be related to¬†all stages of the product life cycle, .’Life Cycle Analyses’ have become¬†a common methodology to assess the environmental impact of a product. Take for instance the¬†standard defined by the¬†World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) for¬†life cycle assessments in the chemical sector.¬†It is also possible to¬†assess the social impacts along the life cycle.¬†If you wish to integrate ‘people perspectives’¬†a good source is¬†the¬†Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessments¬†developed by a group of industry peers.

Better for people and planet

DSM¬†strives for¬†products and innovations¬†to be¬†measurably better for the planet (Eco+) and people (People+)¬† based on a life cycle approach. By 2020¬†65% of DSMs products should be ‘Brighter Living Solutions’,¬†measurably better¬†for planet or people. Some examples:

  1. Alpaflor¬ģ Edelweiss is a personal care ingredient. It contributes to better skin health and comfort, and is sourced in a¬†very socially sustainable way, contributing to good working circumstances and prosperity of farmers in the Swiss Valais region.
  2. Synthetic chains made of Dyneema¬ģ¬†used for marine structure mooring are 8 times lighter and 70 times less noisy than steel chains.¬†Users¬†experience a safer and more comfortable use, shipping companies report¬†improved operational efficiency.
  3. Medical gowns reinforced with breathable Arnitel VT¬ģ contribute to the protection of surgeons against virus and bacteria in high risk hospital environments, and allow surgeons to work in a comfortable way.
  4. Decovery¬ģ is a plant based and waterborne paint ingredi√ęnt for paints. It is a solvent free and low¬†odor product, and reduces health risks of the people involved in production and the users of the product.

Benefits of social impact measuring

Social impact measuring is useful to underpin company missions. Life cycle assessments can be instrumental to spot new innovation opportunities and business differentiators. They also help to train product developers and sourcing managers to choose the most sustainable alternatives, and marketeers to communicate the differentiators in a balanced way. More about business benefits here.

–¬†based on the earlier published article¬†by¬†Karen Maas (Academic Director Impact Center Erasmus) and¬†Jacobine Das Gupta (DSM Corporate Sustainability) in Dutch for NRC Live Impact Day

 



5 reasons to start measuring social impact

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Companies taking the lead 

In January politicians, leaders of multinationals, entrepreneurs and scientists gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss today’s societal challenges. It is encouraging to see that the private sector is taking a leading role in defining plans to mitigate climate change, ensure health and safety and move towards a circular economy. Companies employ the most employees in the world and have the largest investment and innovation capabilities. Nowhere else such significant impacts on society can be made as by companies if they run their business in a responsible way. Think about sustainable sourcing policies, careful choice of materials, eco-design, production methods, creation of jobs and good working conditions.

Why should you start measuring social impact?

All impacts¬†organisations¬†have on society can be summarized as ‚Äėsocial impact‚Äô. These can be from economic, environmental and social perspectives. How to measure this impact? How to identify the best opportunities¬†for a¬†maximum positive social impact? Where do companies create most impact? How to shift to new more sustainable consumption patterns? How to define priorities, and how to track progress?¬† Measuring impact has surfaced in recent years as a new important perspective in doing business. There are five reasons why:

(1) Underpinning company mission: An increasing number of companies have defined company aspirations and targets that explicitly refer to the social impact they aim to achieve. Philips aims to improve the lives of 3 billion people with health care solutions. DSM wants 65% of its products to have a measurably better environmental or social impact (Eco+ or People+). Underpinning these missions are  essential to monitor and manage performance.

(2) Requests for transparency: External stakeholders set higher expectations on transparency than before. Reporting financial and non-financial results are becoming common practise. Companies are not only asked to be transparent about their profits and revenues, but also to inform the general public about the status of ‚Äėexternalities‚Äô such as the safety, health and employee engagement of their staff as well as¬†the green house gas emissions of their sites.

(3) Consumer expectations: A large majority of consumers expects that companies take responsibility for healthy, safe and decent working conditions under which products are being produced. Two thirds of all consumers sense responsibility to purchase products that support environmental or societal goals (Globescan). Half of all consumers state they are even prepared to pay more for products that have a clear environmental or social benefit (Nielsen). Producers of goods or services that want to tap into this pull will need to come up with evidence that shows the positive impact on society is not biased, but real.

(4) Changing investor preferences: The investor community increasingly steers on the social impacts of investments. Before, most investors applied an exclusion policy, avoiding certain sectors. Nowadays investors increasingly steer their portfolio based on performance on several Environmental Social and Governance factors (ESG). For companies this is a reason more to track and manage these factors more closely.

(5) Employee engagement: Last but not least, the ‚Äėsense of purpose‚Äô of a company has become the most important reason for Millenials to work for that company (Deloitte). And this not only accounts for the Generation Y. Many people like to work for a company that has a social mission in its headlines.¬†It inspires people¬†to get up in the morning.

Impact measurement important for companies to flourish

Measurement of social impact is still in its early stages. There are ongoing discussions how to do this, and how to monetise externalities. Integration of impact measurement results in business cases is expected, and even on company balance sheets in the future. There is much to be explored, and much to gain. The progress in the coming decade will be instrumental to have better insights in the real social impact of companies, and be able to steer, for a healthy planet, a prosperous society and companies that flourish.

Рby Karen Maas (Academic Director Impact Center Erasmus) and Jacobine Das Gupta (DSM Corporate Sustainability) published previously in Dutch: NRC Live Impact Day



Business benefits of measuring social impact of products

Consumers are acutely aware of the provenance of the goods they purchase. They have greater access to product information than ever before, and are empowered to make more responsible purchase decisions. There is now evidence that a majority are also willing to pay more for them. A study by marketing research group Nielsen found that 55% of online consumers across 60 countries would pay a premium for ‚Äėgreen‚Äô or socially responsible goods. Clearly therefore, there is now an opportunity for businesses to develop products and services that have demonstrable ecological or social benefits.

As consumers, we are accustomed to seeing ‚Äėeco-labels‚Äô on products and services. In contrast to the range of methodologies used to assess a product‚Äôs environmental impact, there is still a scarcity of tools and metrics to estimate the social impact of these products. A cross-industry social impact assessment method for products has not existed, even though many companies have implemented important social initiatives across their supply chains and operations.

Attempts to develop metrics for social impacts have often resulted in instruments that can be applied to a company as a whole, but are not easily translatable for the products within an industrial context and the daily practices of product developers and marketers. The main reason for this is that measurements of how a product affects society and individuals are difficult to quantify. For example, to prove that a product contributes to the wellbeing of end-users, a company would need consumer research to assess their increase in perceived wellbeing when using the product. The task is further complicated by the sheer volume of real-time product information that can now be accessed in different formats, and the social complexities of a globalised world in which the balance of economic prosperity is rapidly shifting.

Recently, the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics a group of European industry leaders including Ahold, AkzoNobel, BASF, BMW Group, DSM, L’Oréal, Marks & Spencer and sustainability consultants PRé Sustainability published the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment. The Handbook is the result of two years of close collaboration and is the first practical methodology tested and accepted by a group of major businesses for assessing a product’s social impact throughout its lifecycle. It has been formulated based on international standards and consultations with researchers, industry hubs, development organisations and NGOs.

The Roundtable has tested the methodology in 6 different pilots, assessing a variety of their products ranging from protective coatings and personal care products, to office chair components and automotive parts. The findings from these initial pilots, in particular insights into often complex value chains, were used to further refine the methodology. Three key stakeholder groups are taken into consideration: workers, consumers and local communities.

Stakeholder Groups Handbook PSIA
Stakeholder Groups taken into account in Handbook Product Social Impact Assessment
http://product-social-impact-assessment.com/handbook/

The assessment gives practical guidance for capturing social performance data. The resulting dashboard shows the performance in all life cycle stages, from raw materials extraction up till disposal. The pilots showed that the methodology can provide a clear framework by which companies can analyse lifecycle data.

Roundtable partners DSM, l’Oréal and AkzoNobel piloted the product social impact assessment approach on two products: a serum and a hand cream. Both products contain ingredients from AkzoNobel and DSM. They looked at the impact of the product on end-users as well as farmers’ wages and job security.

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Personal care product used to pilot methodology
http://product-social-impact-assessment.com/pilot-serum-hand-cream/

The assessment helped to highlight specific product differentiators that otherwise might not have featured so prominently on a product developer’s radar such as workers condition’s and local community impact. Other potential benefits arising from using the methodology are identifying new product ideas, identifying and mitigating supply chain risks and improving employee engagement. This approach has the potential to be beneficial for all companies that wish to innovate based on social impact performance metrics that take into account the whole value chain.

Extract of article The Guardian October 28th Рby Jacobine Das Gupta (DSM) and Charles Duclaux (L’Oréal). http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/oct/28/new-tool-measure-social-impact-products



Join the conversation at Sustainable Brands London on benefits of Products Social Metrics

What is the interest of Product Social Metrics for companies ? What are the benefits of branding and innovation? Do you want to learn more about the methodology described in the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment?

SB London Nov

Join the conversation at the Sustainable Brands Conference in London on November 5th. Joao Fontes (PRé Sustainability), Hazel Culley (Marks & Spencer), Markus Laubscher (Philips) and Jacobine Das Gupta (DSM) will share their experiences with assessing the social footprint of products, and how this supports branding and innovation. http://www.sustainablebrands.com/events/sblondon14/program

You may also be interested to¬†look and listen back to the registered webinar. During this¬†45′ webinar, Marzia Traverso (BMW Group), Joao Fontes (PR√© Sustainability) and Jacobine Das Gupta (DSM) provide¬†more information on the methodology described in the handbook,¬†share pilot results and exchange on the business benefits of product social metrics. http://www.sustainablebrands.com/digital_learning/slideshow/new_metrics/socialfootprint_how_understanding_your_products_social_impact



Handbook Product Social Impact Assessment available

Handbook Cover

‚ÄúStakeholders increasingly demand transparency about the social impacts of products,‚ÄĚ says Jo√£o Fontes of PR√© Sustainability. As supply chains and product life cycles span the world, businesses need a practical, reliable way to systematically analyse risks and identify improvement opportunities.

‚ÄúResearch on consumer preferences, like The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, shows that half of the world‚Äôs consumers are prepared to pay a premium if products have an ecological or social benefit,‚ÄĚ says Jacobine Das Gupta, Corporate Sustainability Manager for DSM.

A group of likeminded multinationals – Ahold, Akzo Nobel, BASF, BMW Group, DSM, L‚ÄôOr√©al, Marks & Spencer, Philips, RB, Steelcase, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and a chemical company, led by sustainability consulting firm PR√© Sustainability ‚Äď understand the need for a social impact assessment method that is capable of screening a product‚Äôs entire supply chain across continents and throughout its life cycle.

A cross-industry accepted product social impact assessment method did not exist so far. The Roundtable’s innovative social impact assessment method gives businesses the power to assess a product’s entire life cycle, scan their supply chains for risks and improvement opportunities and improve sustainable product development, reporting and communication.

The group developed a Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment which is now available as free download for any business wanting to differentiate and create value through social impact assessment, being the next stepping stone towards a future broadly accepted standard. For more information see: http://product-social-impact-assessment.com/handbook/.

Logos handbook