Sustainable Innovation


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

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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

 



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 ‚ÄėAge of Wonderland‚Äô, 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 ‚ÄėBalancing green & fair food‚Äô. 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: ‚ÄėWith 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‚Äô.

 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 ‚Äėall people involved are happy‚Äô:¬†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: ‚ÄėIn 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‚Äôt we just re-use them for other things? Consumers don‚Äôt know what to do else than throw away the bottles. It seems there are not any plastic bottles that is easy to re-use‚Äô.

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 ‚Äėafter-functions‚Äô or ‚Äėsecond-lives‚Äô 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: http://www.lcm2015.org



Tribute to scientists of the world
June 29, 2015, 7:00 pm
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Inspiring

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kfuc91MZchU



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!



Consumers prepared to pay a premium for products supporting social or environmental causes

More and more companies take an active approach to produce products in a sustainable way. But do consumers really care? The recently published The Nielsen Global Survey results point out they do.

A majority of consumers is prepared to pay more for products and services from companies committed to positive social and environmental impacts. This proportion is higher in Asia-Pacific (64%),  Latin America (63%) and Middle East/Africa (63%) than in North America (42%) and Europe (40%) Рand in all regions the proportion is increasing.

Proportions per region preferring products that support sustainable cause

Consumers care and willing to pay more from sustainable companies.
Source: Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, Q1 2014

What are the social or environmental causes that get the most support? Nielsen asked respondents to specify the causes¬†they are most passionate¬†about.¬†67% are willing to pay more for products associated with an increased access to clean water, 63% that help to improve access to sanitation and 63% products that ensure environmental sustainability.¬†Amongst the Top¬†10 are also¬†‘eradicating exterme poverty and hunger’, ‘combating non-communicable diseases’, ‘reducing child mortality’,¬†‘improving maternal health’.

Percentage of respondents willing to pay more for sust causes

Social and environmental causes consumers care about.
Source: Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, Q1 2014

Notably the Millenials (age 21-34) and Generation X (35-49) are prepared to pay more for sustainably produced products. Checking the packaging to be assured about the social or environmental impact is most important in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Middle East/Africa (63%, 63% and 62%) whereas in Europa and North America, this is only 36% and 32%. (Perhaps the jungle of eco-labels has made people lees receptive?)

And it is not just about buying products. Half of the Millenials prefer to work for a sustainable company, and a quarter of the Generation X likewise.

Proportions responsive to sustainability actions

Millenials most prominent in preference for sustainability actions
Source: Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, Q1 2014

So:¬†embedding sustainability in product development can create additional business value. That is encouraging news. Off course, just having a social or environmental cause associated with your product won’t do the trick. Old-school¬†product-performance, a reasonable price,¬†splendid marketing and communication skills are also essential. But if you are determined to produce great products that also support Planet and People, and you have the right conditions in place,¬†nothing should stand in your way to create a successful business. As a bonus, you’ll be¬†preferred employer of choice as well.