Sustainable Innovation

A healthy, happy and colorful 2019!

kistVegetables and fruits are fabulous. Great taste, great colors, great looks. Most of us love them in all their forms and colors. Which is helpful, as eating plant-based foods benefits our health and those of the planet. Plants provide for many nutrients – and we can produce them with a limited environmental footprint. Which does say we won’t love our milk, eggs and fish anymore – they continue to provide us also great taste, essential nutrients when consumed in  moderation and produced sustainably – nevertheless: plants will become more important as of now.

In 2018, the picture of food has become much clearer. Food is personal, aspirational, habitual and rooted in culture. Its production provides for a living for many. Unfortunately we are not very good at feeding ourselves in a healthy way within environmental limits. Malnutrition occurs in all countries in different forms, whilst one third of all food is lost or wasted. The good news is that academics, industries, governments and customers have started to map out the most urgent challenges and solutions. And the picture will become more detailed in 2019.

Clear pictures provide the best starting points for those who want to make food more nutritious, delicious, affordable and sustainable. In this article you find 10 top reads with important messages to be of inspiration in 2019 and beyond.

Wishing you a healthy, colorful and impactful 2019!

#1 Drawdown ‘The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming’.

Paul Hawken and colleagues calculated the 100 most substansive ways to reverse global warming. Solution #3 demonstrates that by reducing 50% of food waste by 2050, avoided greenhouse gas emissions would add up to 70 GT CO2-equivalents. Also, the researchers also calculated that ‘Plant-Rich Diets’ (#4) would save 66 GT CO2 equivalents.

#2 Global Nutrition Report – Insights into the current state of global nutrition’ – Corinna Hawkes, Jessica Fanzo and team.

Malnutrition comes in different forms and is a truly universal issue. Undernutrition, such as stunting, wasting, underweight and micronutrient deficiencies, cause 45% of deaths of children under five. Overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases contribute to 7.1% of all deaths. To fight malnutrition the nutritionists pledge for (1) a non-siloed coordinated approach, (2) investment in better data collection, (3) scaling up diversified finance models, (4) governments to organise true healthy diets for people, and (5) setting new ambitious targets.

#3 ‘Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits’ – Marco Springmann and colleagues of the Oxford Martin Programme.

The report comes up with 3 food system scenario’s to limit the environmental pressures of the food system – greenhouse gas emissions, land use change, depletion of freshwater resources and pollution of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. The authors pledge for a combination of the 3 scenarios (1) technological and management improvements in agricultural yields and feed efficiency, (2) reducing food loss and waste and (3) plant-based/flexitarian diets.

#4 ‘Creating a sustainable food future A menu of solutions to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050′ – World Resource Institute (WRI).

How to meet the increased food demand, use our land in the most effective way and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050? The WRI states that this is possible, but will require significant innovation and investment by both the private and public sector. Five menu courses are proposed: (1) Reduce growh in demand for food and agri products; (2) Increase food production without expanding agricultural land; (3) Protect and restore natural ecosystems; (4) Increase fish supply as a healthy source of proteins and (5) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production.

#5 ‘Preventing nutrient loss and waste accross the food system – policy actions for high-quality diets’ – Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

Every year, approximately 1.3 billion metric tons of food produced for human consumption never reaches a consumer’s plate. To make matters worse, especially the high-nutrient foods have high rates of leakage out of the food system. Amongst the recommendations, the Global Panel suggests to (1) educate all food system actors to prioritize food loss and waste reduction (2) take practical steps and innovative solutions for nutrient retention (3) organise a better public infrastructure.

#6 ‘Sustainable and healthy diets: reviewing existing dietary guidelines and identifying gaps for future actions’ – WBCSD FReSH Project team.

Members of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) FReSH (Food Reform for Sustainability and Health) took stock of existing national dietary guidelines in 15 countries and compared these with average actual food intake. The project team concluded that consumers in all countries do not consume enough fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains. All countries would benefit from diversifying protein sources. Identified action areas are being followed up in 2019: improvement of nutrition of packaged foods (less sugar, salt and fat, fortification where needed), healthy and sustainably produced proteins and supporting consumers to choose more fruits and vegetables as part of their daily diets.

#7 Global Burden of Disease Study – United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UN FAO).

The main conclusions of the FAO overview leave no doubt: poor diets are now responsible for one fifth of all deaths – more than malaria, tubercoloses or measles. Diet-related non-communicable diseases such as cancer and diabetes are behind almost 75% of deaths last year. 6 of top 9 mortality risk factors are related to what we eat. We need food to stay healthy, but we need to change the way we do, to keep a good quality of life and improve public health.

#8 Connecting food systems for co-benefits: How can food systems combine diet-related health with environmental and economic policy goals? – Kelly Parsons, Corinna Hawkes.

Poor diets are leading cause of ill-health in Europe. As for many others, Europeans eat more sugar, fats and meat than recommended and fewer wholegrains, fruits and vegetables. The authors pledge for a more integrated approach for food systems to positively influence health, environment, economy and livelihoods outcomes, in a holistic way. This will need more cross-government and cross-sector collaboration to make the necessary steps for change.

#9 Putting Food in Food Packaged food as an essential lever in achieving positive health, social and environmental impact WBCSD-EAT FReSH.

Packaged food is a great means to provide for safe, nutritious, enjoyable food at scale to many. Packaged food can be transported, stocked and kept for a while – reaching also the most remote people. This year a group of academics, civil society and industry experts met to discuss the challenges and opportunities of packaged food, to feed the global population in a healthy and sustainable way. Food innovators are urged to develop their packaged food solutions whilst taking into account the different impact dimenstions of public health, social, environmental and business impact.

#10 Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment Roundtable for Social Metrics.

When developing new food systems, health and environmental considerations alone are not enough: steering towards positive social impacts should also be part of the design dimensions. The Roundtable for Social Metrics published this year an update of the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessments with a significant new section on small holder farmers – a welcome tool to design for the production of food whilst farmers enjoying a good quality of life.

*Read in 2018, shared via twitter, most of them published in 2018, some in 2017




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:


Social impacts of products

Underpinning company mission


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’Oréal 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 organisationsFor 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 ‘Global Impact Investing Network’. 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 – all 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® 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® 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® 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® is a plant based and waterborne paint ingrediënt 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


Abundance or Scarcity? Age of Wonderland Designers’ new concepts.
October 22, 2015, 6:26 pm
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abundance - jdg

Most designers are determined to make this world a better place. Trained to analyse complex problems and people’s needs, they are used to develop new solutions that are desirable, sustainable, and fit for purpose. We need these competences to tackle our major challenges such as Feeding the world within planetairy boundaries, and Climate Change. In a world where abundance and scarcity co-exist, we need Design Thinking to come up with new products that work, people like, are sustainable from financial, environmental and social perspectives.

At the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven designers are offered a stage to share their ideas to shape the world. One of the programs is ‘Age of Wonderland’, a social innovation program developed by Hivos and Baltan Laboratories. Each year six young creatives are invited to The Netherlands to develop their projects working with Dutch artists and companies. This years theme is ‘Balancing green & fair food’. The abundance of waste at one side, and scarcity of food and drink water have inspired Ahadi Katera from Tanzania and Achmad Fadillah from Indonesia to develop new concepts.

age of wonderland - jdg

Ahadi Katera, industrial engineering student from Dar es Salaam University, co-founded the social enterprise Guavay that collects organic waste and makes fertilizer from it using new ways. The venture uses both fermentation and composting to get nutrient rich fertilizers. Katera explains: ‘With a group of students we interviewed people in different neighbourhoods of Dar es Salaam. We observed a couple of challenges: 40% of the waste streams consists of organic waste: vegetables, fruits, eggs, bread. Most organic waste ends up on landfill, as the recycling industry is not full grown. Households produce on average 2kg of waste every day, and huge local food markets produce no less than 20 tons a day. At the same time, a few kilometres away, farmers badly need additives and nutrients to prepare the soil to grow new crops. There was clearly an opportunity here’.

 Guavay producing organic fertilizer in Dar es Salaam

Guavay producing organic fertilizer in Dar es Salaam

Katera and his team developed a system to collect and treat waste streams all the way from supermarkets and households. The venture created a potential to scale up process for converting of the collected vegetables, fruits and egg shells into fertilizer. The process takes approximately 15 days at the moment, and still being tested to shorten this period. The venture currently employs 4 people with a manager from the local community, people well-connected with government and enterprises. The fertilizer is being sold to farmers and florists.

To Katera success means that ‘all people involved are happy’: the families and supermarkets, the waste collectors and factory labourers, the farmers who can create better harvests, and the families who can enjoy tasteful and organically produced food. Guavay can be a blueprint for other cities, that want to turn their valuable organic waste into something so valuable and useful,

His visit in the Netherlands has brought new insights in waste collection, separation and composting systems to the African venture and also built interest to research on other potential products that can be made from organic waste, like liquid soap for dish and laundry washing and organic leather bags.  In return, Katera brought to the Dutch community grass roots experience, a deep understanding of local issues prompting the best possible solutions suiting the local situation, contributing to the lives of all people involved. Interested in more? Meet Katera October 25th at his workshop in Eindhoven.

circular process - photo credits sas schilten

From food to organic waste to fertilizer to crops to food – photocredits: Sas Schilten

One of the other Age of Wonderland 2015 creatives is Achmad Fadillah. Fadil is leading an industrial design practice in Bandung. Fadil is member of ADPII (Indonesia Alliance of Industrial Designers) and graduate from Industrial Design, Bandung Institute of Technology (Indonesia) and Scuola Politecnica di Design, Milan (Italy). Worried about the growing pollution of soil and water due to water bottles waste streams, he is exploring ways to re-use the bottles as toys. Fadil: ‘In Indonesia, people have no clean tap drink water available. Most people use bottled water. I saw with my own eyes how our environment is suffering from the plastic bottle waste. Why don’t we just re-use them for other things? Consumers don’t know what to do else than throw away the bottles. It seems there are not any plastic bottles that is easy to re-use’.

Fadil developed a prototype water bottle that can also be used as a toy or a brick. From the bottle-bricks new forms can be made such as towers, bridges, or, why not, refugee homes. The new type of bottles with an obvious 2nd life, 3D printed from ABS, are expected to motivate consumers not to throw away the bottle.

fadil and bottles - sas schilten

Fadil bottles with an ‘after-life’ as toys & building blocks – photocredits: Sas Schilten

Working with Dutch designers has taught Fadil more about new possibilities for influencing user behavior.  Fadil brought nnew inspiration to European designers who search for new ‘after-functions’ or ‘second-lives’ that could be both useful and fun, after products has served their primary function. Fadil wants to continue his research in cooperation with a company that produces plastic bottles, or uses plastic packaging. if you want to know more, join Fadil Friday 23rd of October at his workshop in Eindhoven.

our curious engagement - jdg

It is great to see and learn from the journeys of the Age of Wonderland designers. Successfully addressing societal issues requires on the ground, grass roots knowledge and determined people: people who won’t rest before realising the right product or system that will solve the problems – best fit for purpose, desirable and sustainable.



How to integrate Social Metrics in LCM?
August 29, 2015, 5:06 pm
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LCM2015 Bordeaux conference websiteLCM2015

Don’t we all want to live in a prosperous world where people can thrive in good health, enjoying decent work or education ?

Companies have the ability to change the world as part of doing business. Corporate sustainability policies, supplier programs, CSR and employee engagement initiatives help to maintain a safe, healthy and fairly paid workforce within planetairy boundaries. They, however, do not always provide sufficient guidance for daily decisions.

How to make the right choices in daily work that can be precursors for the world we want? If you are a product developer, buyer or marketeer: How to make a good choice between product alternatives, supplier choices or the right messaging? What are the environmental and social aspects to take into consideration? What is ‘good enough’ and what are ‘aspirational’ levels? How present the outcomes in a consized but well balanced way  decision makers and customers understand?

Life Cycle Analyses (LCA) have become commonplace for academia and companies as the best way to measure environmental impact of a new product. LCA allows to identify differences and make informed choices as it gives insights in the with a good understanding of the created greenhousegas emissions, energy or water consumption and biodiversity along the lifecycle. Life Cycle Management (LCM) is about steering innovations and product portfolio along their life cycle.

Product social metrics or ‘Social LCA’ respresent the new area that will help to structurally integrate also the elements related to the ‘quality of life’ of people when assessing impacts of a product along the lifecycle. Assessing social impacts brings new dilemma’s such as how to measure working conditions, how to aggregate, and how to combine the impacts on different stakeholder groups such as employees, communities and end-users. Despite all dilemma’s and challenges a new method is emerging. The new methos is strongly driven by industries and building on the Social LCA guidance of UNEP-SETAC, DSM’s People LCA methodology, the Handbook of the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics and WBCSD Chemical Sector Working Group.

On September 1st, in Bordeaux at t the LCM2015 conference, practitioners from academic world and industries will share their experiences with Social LCA discussing the challenges and opportunities. Kithrona Cerri of the WBCSD and I will co-chair the debate. Be warmly invited! More information:

Tribute to scientists of the world
June 29, 2015, 7:00 pm
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The world faces important challenges.
Think about climate change, growing and ageing population and more.

We need the brightest minds and most perseverent people that are dedicated to find the best possible solutions for the problems we are facing.

Setbacks are inevitable. Many people are of the opinion that new ideas ‘won’t work’.

Fortunately many researchers do not give up
and continue their studies and experiments to make the world a better, healthy and sustainable world. Here is a tribute to all of them:

Have a Wonderful 2015
December 19, 2014, 10:24 pm
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wonderful 2015

It has been a marvellous year: 2014. Wishing you happy holidays and a wonderful 2015.
May it be a year of full passion, empathy and inspiration!