Sustainable Innovation


5 reasons to start measuring social impact

people

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 ‘social impact’. 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 ‘externalities’ 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 ‘sense of purpose’ 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.

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

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Some thoughts for 2016

It has been a crazy and tough, yet wonderful year, 2015. The world is changing at a high pace. Everybody is doing his or her utmost best to make the most out of it. The Netherlands experience a high influx of newcomers that arrive full of hope and motivation to build a new life, whereas we still are working hard on building these new mixed communities. The attacks in Paris, the city so close to my heart, make people realize that respect and empathy are the fundamental values that we should not stop advocating. In the city of light, end of the year, leaders of all nations concluded on an agreement to fight climate change, moving from fossil to a bio-based economy.

The plans are drafted for 2016 and beyond. Our success and future prosperity is depending on our perseverance to follow up. This counts for all of us: business and public leaders, entrepreneurs, managers, designers and consumers. Let’s stay sharp, be agile and make it work.

Some thoughts for 2016:

  • More important than speed, it’s the direction we are heading for.
  • More than kickstarters, we also need people that can be engines for change.
  • More than transparency, it’s about impact.
  • More than feeling pity, it’s about empathy.
  • More than admiring individual heroes, it’s about fostering collective pride.
  • More than pitching ideas, it’s about sharing and implementing.
  • More than avoiding harm, it’s about creating sustainable systems in which people can flourish, now and in the future.

Have a great 2016. Play. Learn. Enjoy. Be kind.

Happy 2016ing



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: 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



Dutch state ordered to step up actions against climate change
June 28, 2015, 3:56 pm
Filed under: Sustainability News

Dutch Climate Case

This week, the court in The Hague has ordered the Dutch state to take further action to stop climate change. 900 citizens, organised by the environmental group Urgenda, had accused the Dutch government of negligence for “knowingly contributing” to a breach of the 2C maximum target for global warming.

Current plans to cut emissions by just 14-17% compared to 1990 levels by 2020 are told to be unlawful, given the scale of the threat posed by climate change.

The Netherlands should step up its actions to stop climate change and protect its citizens. It should follow EU’s ‘precautionary principle’ which prohibits actions that carry unknown but potentially severe risks. The as being ‘too small’ to make a difference” did not stand as a counterargument. “Any reduction of emissions contributes to the prevention of dangerous climate change and as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead in this’, according to the judge.

A climate case like this has no precedent in The Netherlands. The country has a history of negotation, debate and ‘consensus. The discussion on climate change had not been extended to court, so far.

Herewith the video summarizing the lawsuit ith English subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQfa-htZVC0&t=30&app=desktop



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!