Sustainable Innovation

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‚Äôs the direction¬†we are heading for.
  • More¬†than kickstarters, we also need people that¬†can be engines¬†for change.
  • More than transparency, it‚Äôs about impact.
  • More than feeling pity, it‚Äôs about empathy.
  • More than admiring individual heroes, it‚Äôs about¬†fostering collective pride.
  • More than pitching ideas, it‚Äôs about sharing and implementing.
  • More than avoiding harm, it‚Äôs 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 ‚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:

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:

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 ‚Äúknowingly contributing‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs ‚Äėprecautionary principle‚Äô 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. ‚ÄúAny 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:

Have a Wonderful 2015
December 19, 2014, 10:24 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

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!

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

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.

Personal care product used to pilot methodology

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).