Sustainable Innovation


Take good care

 

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2016 has brought us many positive turns. Perhaps we start to understand how to keep this world a great place to live in? The Global Climate Agreements following COP21 in Paris were rectified. Renewable energy is taking over fossil fuels as the cost price decreases. The UN Sustainable Development Goals offer a shared framework for public and private sector to mitigate societal issues. Unfortunately we are still witnessing devastating wars,  severe inequality, and malnutrition issues .. we are not there yet.

My wish for 2017: Keep up the good work and take good care:

  • Take good¬†care of the planet.¬†Let’s¬†keep¬†the world¬†the beautiful¬†place and home¬†as we know it. Use less stuff, use it longer, recycle and use renewables.
  • Take good care of the people. Pay respect and be¬†gentle.¬†Close to home and¬†as far as¬†you can reach. We are in this game together. Be kind.
  • Take good care of yourself.¬†¬†Be the best version of yourself. Work hard and play hard. Make choices. Enjoy. Relax. Be inspired.¬†Cycle. Paint. Play the piano ; ).

 Have a great 2017!

 

 

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Social impacts of products

Underpinning company mission

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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

 



5 reasons to start measuring social impact

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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 ‚Äėsocial impact‚Äô. 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 ‚Äėexternalities‚Äô 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 ‚Äėsense of purpose‚Äô 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.

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



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



Get to know the Aspirationals

Regeneration consumer segments

One third of consumers combine a materialistic orientation with an aspiration to purchase sustainable goods. Style and social status are key motivators for this segment called ‚ÄėAspirationals‚Äô.

No, we are not talking about the ‚ÄėAdvocates‚Äô formerly known as’Treehuggers’ which represent 14% of consumers. Advocates are driven by responsibility and guilt, actively search for products with social or environmental benefits and are prepared to pay more for sustainable alternatives.

To Aspirationals, shopping is not associated with guilt – not at all. ‚ÄėShopping contributes to happiness‚Äô. Aspirationals love to try new things, want to look good and are very much concerned about their social status.

These are among the results of the ‚ÄėRegeneration Roadmap‚Äô study by BBMP, GlobeScan and SustainAbility, based on an online survey among over 6000 consumers in Bresil, India, China, Germany, United Kingdom and Unites Sates.

In fact, Aspirationals represent the ‚Äėpersuadable‚Äô middle segment. Consumer goods companies should be carefully studying the needs and drivers of this group. Aspirationalists are always on the outlook for sustainable alternatives, and would buy products if this would connect them with their community of peers with shared values.

How to recognize the Aspirationals? They can be found amongst all age groups, with a significant higher share of households with kids. In China even one in two consumers can be counted among this group. One handicap: Consumers will not automatically come across products and brands that are conceived with a reduced environmental or positive social impact. Above average, this group trusts advice of friends and peers.

The challenge for companies will be to convince this well-connected group about the sustainability benefits of products despite their lack of trust in green claims or labels. Companies should consider social branding initiatives that make consumers connect with communities of peers, trust the social or environmental benefits and become – what’s in a name – advocates of sustainable brands.

The opportunity lies in the aspirations people have: sustainability connected with social status, style and a feeling of community. Companies not only should concentrate on developing green and socially responsible products, but create cóol products with great performance and sustainable benefits that people can be proud off.

In other words: Forget about the Treehuggers. Convince the Aspirationals.

Sources:
http://theregenerationroadmap.com/about-the-project/
http://www.sustainability.com/news/the-regeneration-roadmap-launches-consumer-survey
http://globescan.com/



Wishing you an inspirational 2013

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2012 was a great year.
2013 can only get better.

From Conversation to Co-creation.
From Buying Less to Sharing More.
From Diversity to Inclusion.
From Minimizing Impact to Circular Thinking.
From Contacting to Connecting.
From GDP to Well-Being.
From Treehuggers to Aspirationalists.
From Responsibility to Innovation.
From Doing Less Harm to Doing Good.
From Transparency to Trust.

I wish you a healthy and inspirational 2013.

Jacobine Das Gupta.
twitter: @thegreentake



More women on boards: improved sustainability performance

‘Corporations build better societies if they have balanced boards’. Kellie McElhaney found that companies with one or more women on their boards are significantly more likely to have improved sustainability practices. “This is not a women’s or men’s issue, it’s a collective and business opportunity,” says McElhaney who is also faculty director, Center for Responsible Business at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

McElhaney of UC Berkeley Haas School of Business recently published¬†a paper that identifies the relationships beween female coproate directors and corporate sustainability.¬†¬†The study, “Women Create A Sustainable Future,” is co-authored by Sanaz Mobasseri, PhD candidate, Berkeley-Haas Management of Organizations Group, and sponsored by KPMG and Women Corporate Directors (WCD). MSCI Inc. provided the dataset of Fortune 1500 companies and their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, which they have been measuring since 1992.

To measure corporate performance, the authors reviewed each organization’s ESG performance. Environmental criteria include steps to improve energy efficiency of operations, to measure and reduce carbon emissions, the reduction of packaging, and investment in renewable power generation. Examples of social factors include health care access for underserved populations in developing market supply chains, strong employment benefits and performance incentives, products with improved health or nutritional benefits, and products and services to communities with limited or no access to financial products. Finally, governance is defined as avoiding corruption and bribery, clean accounting, and a high level of disclosure and transparency about business practices.

‘The sweet spot is three’. Companies with at least three female board members had a better ESG performance but we’re talking about very few companies who meet this threshold‚Äďjust three of the 1,500 we studied: Kimberly-Clark, General Motors, and Walmart,” says McElhaney. McElhaney interviewed several female directors to learn more about their personal experiences on a board.

Source: http://responsiblebusiness.haas.berkeley.edu/Women_Create_Sustainable_Value_FINAL_10_2012.pdf