Sustainable Innovation


Handbook Product Social Impact Assessment available

Handbook Cover

‚ÄúStakeholders increasingly demand transparency about the social impacts of products,‚ÄĚ says Jo√£o Fontes of PR√© Sustainability. As supply chains and product life cycles span the world, businesses need a practical, reliable way to systematically analyse risks and identify improvement opportunities.

‚ÄúResearch on consumer preferences, like The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, shows that half of the world‚Äôs consumers are prepared to pay a premium if products have an ecological or social benefit,‚ÄĚ says Jacobine Das Gupta, Corporate Sustainability Manager for DSM.

A group of likeminded multinationals – Ahold, Akzo Nobel, BASF, BMW Group, DSM, L‚ÄôOr√©al, Marks & Spencer, Philips, RB, Steelcase, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and a chemical company, led by sustainability consulting firm PR√© Sustainability ‚Äď understand the need for a social impact assessment method that is capable of screening a product‚Äôs entire supply chain across continents and throughout its life cycle.

A cross-industry accepted product social impact assessment method did not exist so far. The Roundtable’s innovative social impact assessment method gives businesses the power to assess a product’s entire life cycle, scan their supply chains for risks and improvement opportunities and improve sustainable product development, reporting and communication.

The group developed a Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment which is now available as free download for any business wanting to differentiate and create value through social impact assessment, being the next stepping stone towards a future broadly accepted standard. For more information see: http://product-social-impact-assessment.com/handbook/.

Logos handbook

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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.



Cultural Differences and Sustainable Development

If you ask people what sustainability is all about, you will probably get multiple answers. Between 2009 and 2011 I interviewed sustainability managers across Europe. I found out that sustainable development has different connotations. Interpretations are often linked to historical developments.

In France, sustainability (d√©veloppement durable‚Äô) has a strong social connotation. The principles of the French revolution, ‚ÄėLibert√©, Egalit√© and Fraternit√©‚Äô, are still visible in today‚Äôs society. People believe that rights of individuals, employees and families should be defended at all times. You can recognize this social connotation of sustainability in the approach of Orange and of La Poste.

The Swedes are known to be very close to nature. For many Swedes, sustainability is more connected to environmental aspects. You can read more about this in the case study about best practices of Ericsson.

Not only national connotations may differ. Differences in business culture impact the way how sustainable strategies can be implemented in a successfull way.

In France, the society is organised in a strongly hierarchical way. Important decisions are taken at top level. This allows a swift implementation of new strategies. Decisions are taken early in the process and handed top-down through the hierarchy, as is done for example at Danone.

In Northern European countries, important decisions are often being made after intensive consultation rounds. These consultatations are being used to gather ideas but notably to make sure that all participants agree on the specific decision. A disadvantage is that this process may be time consuming.

What can we learn from the above?

First: Never assume that your understanding of sustainability is being shared by everyone across Europe – let alone people in the Americas, in Asia or Africa. When you are developing a multinational sustainability strategy, make sure you understand the regional connotations and include them as much as possible.

Second: Be aware of differences in business culture. Your sustainability implementation plan will need to be challenged by local experts. You will probably need to adapt it to the local business culture and decision making process in order to be successfull.

Globalisation improves a mutual understanding between people in different countries. Also national business cultures may change. French organizations slowly get less hierarchical. Generation Y employees get in direct contact with company boards as the case study of the Veolia Environnement illustrates. Globalisation however needs time to develop. At date, the differences in connotations, historical legacy and business culture are still very important.

Develop global, but adapt to local conditions: Test your global strategy with regional experts, and complete your strategy with regional implementation tactics, for instance in cooperation with national governments and local NGO partners, as DSM, Philips and Nokia show.

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More about Best Practices of European Sustainability Leaders in: ‚ÄėYour customers want your products to be green‚Äô.



Dutch Business News Radio Interview

Why do customers want green?

This week I have presented my new book on the Dutch radio in the Business News Radio program ‘BNR Duurzaam’.

Presentator Mark Beekhuis, Jos Cozijnsen and I exchanged about sustainability news and strategies, employee engagement, cultural differences and the new book.

For those who understand Dutch find hereby the link to the radio emission: http://www.bnr.nl/programma/bnrduurzaam/555237-1201/bnr-duurzaam-14-januari-uw-klant-houdt-van-groen



Your customers want your products to be green

I am proud to announce my new book:

‘Your customers want your products to be green’

During the last few years I have had the chance to interact with senior managers of European sustainability frontrunners.

‘Your customers want your products to be green’¬†contains Best Practices of Sustainability Frontrunners such as Ericsson, Shell, Rabobank, DSM, Philips, Danone and Veolia Environnement completed with freshly printed business recommendations.

Create societal impact and develop new business opportunities. More information on The Green Take website here. Enjoy and be inspired!

I wish you a happy and healthy 2012!



CSR Automn School 7-11 November in Rotterdam

If you want to learn more about Corporate Social Responsibility, ISO 26000, GRI reporting, supply chain and reputation management : Join the International CSR Automn School from 7 to 11 November in Rotterdam.

The CSR School has been developed by the Erasmus School of Accounting & Assurance (ESAA) of the Dutch Erasmus University. The Summer School targeted at CSR professionals on middle and senior management level.

CSR insights will be presented by experts from around Europe. Among the speakers will be Karen Maas PHD of the Erasmus University, Prof. dr. Jan Peter Balkenende, Jvan Gaffuri of SAM (Sustainability Asset Management AG), Piet Sprengers of the ASN Bank, Alex van der Zwart of Concernz Consulting, and Jacobine Das Gupta of The Green Take.

For more information contact Ms. Henny Lammerschop at Lammerschop(at)ese.eur.nl. or look at http://www.esaa.nl/fileadmin/ASSETS/esaa/brochures/Autumn_School_Brochure.pdf



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 √°nd to encourage female entrepreneurship the European Professional Womens Network has launched the Prize ‚ÄėPrix Entrepreneure Responsible 2011‚Äô .

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.

VAL√ČRIE DELESALLE. Val√©rie offers an¬†end-to-end service ‚ÄėVersoo‚Äô : a service addressed to companies and public bodies¬†of collection, transportation¬†and recycling of of plastic cups. Val√©rie 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 ¬†‚ÄėAND 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 M√©tayer will cheer up discussions with a shortened version of her show ‚ÄėJe Suis Top‚Äô . 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 Val√©rie Delesalle. Val√©rie has demonstrated a clear business vision and good arguments that illustrate her social and environmental engagement. Val√©rie 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.