Sustainable Innovation

Nicolas Hulot candidate for the French presidential elections in 2012









Photo credits : AFP (Le Figaro)

‘Nothing in my DNA would have forecasted the decision that I have made today’, says Nicolas Hulot.

The former television reporter, environmental activist and  ‘free electron’  Nicolas Hulot has announced today to be candidate for the presidential elections in France in 2012 – leading the French Ecologist Party. 

Nicolas Hulot is known in France as the creator of the Manifesto Pacte Ecologique  in 2006,  signed by 750 thousand French people, urging the French government to put Sustainability higher on the political agenda.

Even Nicolas Sarkozy signed the pact. After being elected in 2007,  extensive consultation rounds and the development of the new sustainability laws ‘Grennelle de l’Environnement’. The Grenelle has been both widely admired as well as received much criticism because the laws were considered not sufficient enough.

What decided Hulot to become candidate for the presidental elections ?  Hulot sees it as a ‘Personal Mission’. Having been active for 35 years wants to ‘change the current system that is not sustainable’ and ‘contribute to a new society that is more ecologically and socially viable’. Hulots feels strongly supported by its own party members and the younger generation.

Aware of his blind spots, Hulot has been consulting experts from various disciplines. Hulot will need to build a convincing Ecologist Party program that tackles not only environmental issues for which he is publicly known, but also bringing in solutions for the countries economical and social issues such as the large jobless population, the number of paperless people and the significant state deficit. In the coming months Hulot will provide information on his website






As a consequence of his policital involvement, Hulot has stepped down as the president of the NGO that he founded 20 years ago. ‘Fondation The foundation will continue its activities to create liveable and sustainable societies by engaging with citizens, governmental bodies and enterprises – such as Bouygues Telecom. The Foundation will be renamed ‘Fondation pour La Nature et Des Hommes’.

Sources : / / / /


Meet the Winner – Prix Entrepreneure Responsable 2011
March 24, 2011, 11:35 am
Filed under: Sustainability in France | Tags: , ,

To underline the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility ánd to encourage female entrepreneurship the European Professional Womens Network has launched the Prize ‘Prix Entrepreneure Responsible 2011’ .

Three finalists have been selected : All inspiring women entrepreneurs that demonstrate a clear vision, sound business strategy and an explicit social and/or environmental engagement :

INGRID LEYRET, who has launched a new e-commerce service that meets the needs of people suffering or having suffered from a cancer. Information, products and services such as sjawls, wigs, bio-make-up contribute to an improvement of the quality of life of this special target group: Comptoir de Vie.

FLORENCE HALLOUIN has developed new diaper system that is much more environmental friendly and ergonomical advanced than the fully disposable systems on the market : modern and colourful underwear that is comfortable to wear, easy to change and to clean and yet available in France : The Hamac system.

VALÉRIE DELESALLE. Valérie offers an end-to-end service ‘Versoo’ : a service addressed to companies and public bodies of collection, transportation and recycling of of plastic cups. Valérie has optimised all operational processes in order to create the lowest environmental impact and has hired handicapped workers.

More information on the finalists  here.

The event  ‘AND THE WINNER IS..” will be organised on Thursday the 31st of March 2011 . On this evening, the prize finalist will be presented and a round table (French speaking) will be organised on Women Entrepreneurship and Social Responsibility . The French cabatiere Blandine Métayer will cheer up discussions with a shortened version of her show ‘Je Suis Top’ . The event is open for everyone : men & women – EuropeanPWN members and non-members (40 euro). More information and registration possibility can be found here.

Update 1st of April 2011 : The Winner is Valérie Delesalle. Valérie has demonstrated a clear business vision and good arguments that illustrate her social and environmental engagement. Valérie will benefit from the competences of a ‘Dreamteam’ of commercial specialists that help her finetuning her business plan, a ‘CrashTest’ at the club of  investors ‘Femmes Business Angels’ and a year free membership of the EuropeanPWN to grow her prospects network.

City of Tomorrow : Seminar on March the 15th in Paris

In Europe, no less than 74% of the people are living in urban areas. Paris is among the top 3 largest cities in Europe with 6.4 million inhabitants, including suburbs. The growing population density brings a number of challenges such as increased energy consumption, traffic congestion, pollution and resource scarcity.

Fortunately, a great number of enterprises and public bodies are starting to introduce new plans and technologies to contribute to the development of sustainable cities, such as the The Hague municipality, and Dutch energy provider Eneco.

If we look at a city as a ‘living being’, with all its buildings, streets, inhabitants, enterprises, we recognize different streams that enter, are used by and sometimes leave the city. Think about energy, water, primary resources and waste.

If the city were one living being, how should we manage all different streams (‘flux’) ? What role to play for the private sector parties that bring specific solutions ? What are responsibilities of municipalities, the territories, the national government or the European Union ? How should we develop our cities in such as way to guarantee a good quality of live respecting environment – for the benefit of ourselves as well as our children ? I invite you to share your thoughts by sending your ideas via email or posting them on this blog.

For those living near Paris : On the 15th of March 2011 in Paris the seminar  ‘Ville de demain : une ville qui respire’ will be organised. Senior speakers will share their views on the particular challenges of our future cities and the systematic approach that is needed. Among the key note speakers will be a Paris suburb mayor, the  Sustainability Director of a large fastmoving company and French largest energy provider as well as a waste management company and urbanism specialist.

The seminar is organised by the network ‘Femmes & Développement Durable’ (women and sustainability). Inscription for this particular seminar is open to both women and men. Note that the working language will be French. For more information look at :

Sources :, National Geographic ‘Planet Earth’, edition 2009, Washington DC,


Wishing you an inspiring 2011

Thank you for your reviews, comments and ideas in 2010. To stay tuned in 2011 on new articles, do not hesitate to subscribe on the left hand side.

Among the blog entries in 2010 were articles on Best Practices of Sustainability within leading private, public and non-gouvernemental organisations throughout Europe, following interviews with senior managers, among them at Philips, DSM, Redevco, SAP, Eneco, Nokia, Shell, Bouygues Telecom, Ericsson, association ADN, the Dutch municipality of The Hague and Rotterdam Floating Pavilion, as well articles on measuring social impact, new CSR reporting rules in France and new social impact product labels.

Sparkling little LEDlights on the Champs Elysées, December 2010, Paris.

I wish you an inspiring, healthy and  prosperious 2011. I look forward to continue our cooperation and exchange.

The Green Take. Implementing Sustainable Innovation.

France develops Social Product Indicators
November 30, 2010, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Sustainability in France | Tags: , , ,

The Grenelle Engagement 201 aims for environmental and social product labels. These labels should help consumers to make better informed choices, hopefully resulting in preferences for products and suppliers that create a positive societal and environmental impact. Concepts for new Eco-Labels will be tested as of July 2011. Currently product labels indicating social impact are under construction.

The French Ministry of Ecology, French normalisation institute AFNOR.

Measuring social impact of products is a rather complicated question. What to measure ? How to present the information ? A label or sticker ? There are already so many labels on the market that show that products respect certain ethical, environmental or social requirements .. How should this new label fit in ? How to measure social impact ? Impact on end-users, the employees of the company, the society as a whole ?

The taskforce ‘Affichage Social’ lead by the French standardisation institute AFNOR has defined its objectives as follows (1) :

  • Informing and encouraging customers and public and private purchasers on social aspects
  • Creation of tools for enterprises that are already rather advanced in monitoring social conditions
  • Encouraging enterprises to make sure social conditions are sufficient (producers, distributors, ..)

Various parties are at stake whilst looking at social impact. The United Nations workgroup UNEP-SETAC Life Cycle Initiative uses the Product Life Cycle Analyse as an inspiration for assessing social impact. Product life cycle analyses are known as a tool to analyse (see the ‘LIDS-wheel’ (2) applied for the company Arféo). When used to investigate social impact, the UN Group identified 4 major type of stakeholders  (3):

  • workforce (working conditions, remuneration, accidents,..),
  • local community (healthy environment, non-toxic, human rights, improved infrastructure),
  • users of the products (concerning the use-stage) 
  • society (national and/or global)

AFNOR has chosen to focus on social conditions of workforce, in the Production and Transport life stages. This means that thereby the social impact of the product on its users and society, and the impact in the end of life stage will be excluded. It is understandable the French workgroup needs to set some limitations to its scope of ‘social impact label’. At the very same time it brings up new questions about developing complementary indicators that, for instance, represent indicators of social impact of products on users and society, such as health, security or economical progress.

The key principles of the Taskforce ‘Affichage Sociale’ were presented by Eric CORBEL, of the French Ministery of Ecologie and Rim CHAOUY of AFNOR (1)  :

  1. Volontairy principle : A guideline of ‘Best Practices’ with a framework for measuring and presenting social conditions on product level, published April 2010 (5).
  2. No indication on the product itself, but on Internet, a brochure, given the ‘label jungle’ already existing.
  3. Transparency about the Value Chain : the producer will explain how the value chain is being built up.
  4. Mentioning the date and refreshing the information on a regular base like the Carbon Footprint Calculations.
  5. Qualification of the information : Self-declared, Evaluated by a third party or Miissing..  
  6. Addressing 8 social aspects (Principles of the UN International Labour Organisation) : 1. Liberty of association & right of collective negotiation, 2. no forced or obliged work, 3. no children work, 4. no discrimination (work and profession), 5. respect of working hours, 6. respect of laws on hygiene/health/security/working conditions, 7. proper remuneration, 8. social protection.

Emmanuele BERTIN of the cosmetic company Terre d’OC has tested the new framework . Based on the product ‘l Huile Argan bio 50 ml’ she specified the social conditions aspects, using the new guideline called ‘BP X30-025’ published in April 2010 (4).


Cosmetic oil ‘Argan Bio 50 ml’ of the cosmetic company terre d’Oc, test product for the 1st ‘Affichage Social’, and picture of the ‘Argan’ nuts, the source products for the Argan Oil.

Mrs BERTIN has questioned all suppliers and transporters of the (sub) products. For that she needed to trace back the origins, production and transport of the glass bottle, the Argan oil, the metal cork and the cardboard box.

The resulting schemes show a breakdown of product components against the primary social indicators, applied for the Product Life Stages Production and Transport. See below a part of the large scheme for the Production Phase. Following the guideline, for every element, Mrs BERTIN has indicated :

  • 0: no information
  • 1 : if the supplier has directly supplied the information
  • 1bis : if the supplier has supplied the information from one of his suppliers
  • 2 : if the information has been validated by a third party
  • 2bis : if the information has been validated by a third party controlling a supplier


Findings and discussion Mrs BERTIN shares her experiences with the audience of interested people at AFNOR in St Denis 16th of November 2010. She remarks that, contrary to her expectations, suppliers were OK to take time to answer her questions. They are getting used to answer questions from professional customers, notably now companies are launching environmental audits for ISO 1001 certification for instance. However, despite reminders, it was not possible to find all information.

Generally speaking, the public audience fears that suppliers give political correct answers in surveys (for instance about working hours or other working conditions). In this case Mrs BERTIN is confident that due to the close relationship with suppliers one can assume the correctness of the information.

Mrs BERTIN recommends the development of a small sign or logo would be good, showing that for the given  a ‘Social Conditions’ audit has been made to be found on the companies website.

Inspiration for European application. The studies and developments around the ‘Eco-Etiquette’ and now the ‘Etiquette Social’ are not only of interest for France, but could and should also be used on an international level. Only when guidelines are being used on an international level, representations of ‘environmental’ or ‘social’ impact will gain momentum and become accepted.

The repetitive character of supplier questionnaires are starting to become an issue for SMEs with limited resources, notes Eric CORBEL of the French Ministery of Ecologie. Mr CORBEL adds that new initiatives are being set up by French industry to share best practices and redistribute information to professional adherents, eventually to avoid time-consuming repetitive questionnaires. (Comment of the author : One of this new initiatives is the ‘Observatoire des achats responsables’, a new initiative of private parties in France (5)).

 : more about Sustainable Product Development Strategy, environmental and social transparency and co-creation.

Sources : 1. Presentation ‘Affichage Social’, by Eric CORBEL of the French Ministery of Ecology, Rim Chaouy of AFNOR, Emmanuelle BERTIN of Terre d’OC, at AFNOR, 16th of November 2010 ; 2. Brezet, J.C., Hemel, C.G. van, UNEP Ecodesign manual, Ecodesign: a promising approach to sustainable production and consumption, United Nations Environmental Programme, 1997 ; 3. Griesshammer, R, et al ‘Feasability Study : Integration of social aspects into LCA’, 2006 ; 4. AFNOR Publication of Bonnes pratiques pour la transparence de l’affichage des conditions sociales de production et de mise à disposition des produits  ‘BP X30-025’; (51,35 euro ! )  ; ; 5.

French government presents new plan for boosting sustainable development

Jean-Francois Borloo has unveiled his new plan for boosting sustainable development in France. New goals are set to encourage green economy as well as backing the creation of an World Organisation for global governance on environmental issues.

By launching its new plan  ‘La Strategie National du Développement Durable 2010-2013′ government Sarkozy wants to boost the national green economy and fair trade.  The new plan is in line with the bills ‘Grenelle d’Environnement I and II that have been presented previously in 2007 and 2010 (1,2).

First of all, the French government wants to make sustainable products more accessible and to more people. As one of the indicators for this, the sales of eco-labelled products should be doubled by 2012.

Secondly, the French government wants to encourage companies to ncrease their recycling practices, use renewable energy and develop responsible products by taking into consideration the complete life cycle of products : from design, production, distribution until disposal or recycling.

Among the goals (see all here) are :

  • Reduction of Frances  greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in 2020 compared to 1990 (similar to EU objectives)
  • Increasing the part of French national energy consumption to 23% from renewable energy by 2020. Despite extensive oppositions from (fishing) communities in France a RFP will be launched for 600 offshore windmills representing 3000 MW and 10 to 15 billion euros (3)
  • Realisation of at least 1000 ‘Agenda 21’  implementations within local communities,
  • And a reduction of national poverty by 30%  up till 2012.

Special dashboards have been developed to track the progress of a variety of indicators : R&D investments, working women participation within governmental institutions, green house gas emissions, renewable energies, energie consumption transport,  life expectancy, pauvrity, working seniors, jobless youngsters, public donations and general social-economical factors like under and unemployment, income spread, demography and fertility rates.

Sarkozy is also supporting the development of a new World Environment Organisation. This new organisation should guarantee environmental governance on a global level. The next Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit 2012 is ought to be the good momentum (4).

If you want to read more about French sustainability developments I invite you to read my previous blogs on : Pacte Ecologique of Nicolas Hulot that urged for stronger governmental intervention ; Grenelle d’Environnement I focussing on Building Sector and Transport ;  Why Eco-labels are developed to help consumers make a balanced choice, CSR reporting rules extended to large SMEs ; Grenelle 2 focussing on local application ; How to turn around media saturation’ and  Why targeted examples of individual benefits of responsible products and behaviour are needed.

Sources : 1. ; 2.; 3.; 4. ;

French media to provide more information on Sustainable Development

The French market research agency ‘Opinionway’ concludes that a majority of French people considers that ‘there is not enough information in the media on Sustainable Development’ . 

Opinionway survey unveils French public opinion about role of media

Opinionway recently presented its study ‘Média et développement durable’ on the 26th of May. The study has been conducted end of May 2010 and was based on computer assisted web interviews with 1055 participants of 18 years and older in France.

57 % of the French people consider the current information in French media on Sustainable Development as ‘insufficient. As well, the quality of the information is being disputed : only 33 % believes the quality of the information is ‘good’ or ‘quite good’.

Who is responsible for Sustainable Development ?

In 2010, French people are less convinced about who carries the main responsibility for Sustainable Development.  Whereas in 2009 70% of the people agreed that ‘Sustainable Development is everybody’s responsibility’, this year only half of the people agreed with the statement. The responsability enterprises if confirmed by only 51`% (down from 61%), the role of the media to provide complete and correct information was confirmed by only 43% (down from 51%). In 2009 50% of the French people believed the public authorities should drive the a sustainable policies, where as in 2010 only 36% agrees with this statement. 

Assumed roles and reponsibilities of ‘everyone’, ‘entreprises’, ‘media’ and ‘public authorities’. 

Preferred information sources are online sites and specialised magazines

Being asked about the preferred media for finding adequate information, a large majority (82%) responds that they search for specialised magazines (82) and online information (70%) , over information via the radio (66%), in the daily press (65%) or on the television (49%).


Preferred media channels to find information on Sustainable Development

All age groups prefer the Internet (76%) for finding information on Sustainable Development and just 38% look or listen in the daily press,  the radio or the television. The people with 50+ years look for books (20% and 23% in age groups 50-59 and 60+,and only13 to 16% in the younger age groups). As of the age of 35 the role of personal relations increases to find adequate information.


Differences in first choice media channel by age group

No unanymous expectations about the role of the media

The supposed role of the media remains divided. 31% believes the media should report factually (down from 34%). 30% underlines the obligation of the media to alert catastrophes (down from 37%). 30% believes the media should launch the debate and controversies (almost the same as in 2009). 26% believes the media have an pedagogical role.


No unanymous declared role for the media (factual information, information on catastrophes, launching the debate, educational role)


The study of Opinionway offers a snapshot of sentiments. It does not provide answers why people seem to be less satisfied with the levels and quality of media information. Neither it comes up with suggestions of actions to be taken.

Following the public debate in France however, we could find however some traces and developments that support Opinionway’s Conclusions, as well define recommendations for actions to be taken.

Why has the initial enthousiasm been tempered ?

The optimistic tone of voice in 2007 and 2008 has changed into a more and more sceptical one. I wonder : Why do people  feel ‘saturated’ on the topic ? Why are they dissatisfied about the level or quality of information ? Could there be an ‘information overkill’  ? Has Sustainable Development been ‘overhyped’ ? Probably. Does it has to do with the economical crises ? Maybe. Is it an exemple of the maximum lifecycle of a ‘consumer hype’, which just fades away.. ? Hereby some reasons why public opinion seems to have changed :

  • Saturation of Information : In the last year, information on Sustainable Development is presented everywhere. IFOP concluded early 2010 that French people experienced a sense of ‘saturation’ of Sustainable Development Information in the media. There may be much information out there, but it is not regarded as sufficiently adequate nor sufficiently targeted.
  • Disappointment about Copenhaguen : As the high expectations for the Copenhague summit in December 2009 were not met, the conference was immediately regarded as a failure in the press. Hardly any attention was paid to the fact that for the first time in history world leaders start to discuss first steps to attack the world economical, social environmental issues.
  • Eco-sceptic people get attention : The eco-sceptical book of Claude Allègre ‘l’Imposture climatique ou la fausse ecologique’ has drawn much attention in France. Mr Allegre disputes the statements of climate change due to human intervention. Apart from the fact his book is disputed all over, it leaves some people with the feeling that ‘all ecologists are liars’.
  • The French government  has started in a tremendous way in 2007 ‘Grenelle d’Environnement’, with round tables and representatives of all civilian, employers, employees and NGOs resulting in a new series of laws like the Grenelle 2 laws and more specificly extended CSR reporting requirements and Eco-labels on products. The process has been tougher than expected. Some groups believe the Grenelle 2 is by far not ambitious enough. Unfortunately putspeaking NGO’s like the Nicolas Hulot Foundation have left the round table discussions.

Which actions to be taken ?

Fortunately,  numerous entreprises and public organisations have started their Sustainable Development and CSR programs, new green product development schemes and mobilisation of employees. They are all taking responsibility as their partners, the government and their customers (entreprises ánd consumers) ask for it.

I firmly believe that companies and governmental institutions should continue to show positive exemples. Positive examples are key to keep employees motivated. New achievements should be actively promoted as a counter-poison to the negative stories that turn around. Exemplary municipalities, successful green and social businesses, intentive civilians : they all should be highlighted and promoted. Exemples should be realistic, specific and ambitious.

I hope the Best Practices presented in this blog, and my consultancy activities,  give a positive impulse to this change : Look at these companies and public organisations : they are all successful, serve their customers in an excellent way ánd take responsibility for a greener, social and healthy world !

Source : 1.