Build a better sustainability strategy with a portfolio sustainability assessment

Many companies have lots of experience when it comes to long-term strategic portfolio planning. They review their portfolios regularly to identify growth opportunities, to decide where to invest and whether to discontinue products or develop them further. Thinking about sustainability during this review, however, is often unpaved territory. Companies usually report on their environmental performance at the level of the entire company or, with the use of impact assessment, at the product level. But doing a portfolio sustainability assessment can really elevate strategic decision-making.

Portfolio sustainability assessment in a nutshell

Portfolio sustainability assessment takes a high-level, holistic screening approach to help you identify what to focus on. You’ll identify both those products or product groups that show potential from a sustainability perspective and those that may be a potential threat.

The approach consists of the following building blocks:

  • A materiality assessment to identify the most important issues in the (regional) markets they are serving or want to serve, as well as an outlook into the future trends in these markets
  • A sustainability scorecard specific to the sector
  • A high-level assessment of the environmental impacts of products or product groups, using input-output databases

Each portfolio assessment is developed in consultation with external stakeholders, to best meet the company’s needs. The result is a quick assessment that gives direction on a portfolio level. From there, you can use more in-depth assessments, such as life cycle assessment (LCA), to look into specific environmental or social indicators.

Better strategic decisions

Portfolio sustainability assessment provides companies with the insight to classify their product portfolio into performance categories, identifying both high-performing product-market combinations and challenging ones, from both a sustainability perspective and an operational perspective.

With enhanced focus on the issues that matter most, it is easier to create a shared language throughout the organisation; one that includes sustainability performance. That way, your business can make better strategic decisions with long-term success and sustainability in mind.

Case study: biodiversity impacts of investments

ASN is one of the leading sustainable banks in the Netherlands. Their aim is to contribute to a fair distribution of the world’s wealth to present and future world citizens. As such, they are concerned about the effects that the investments of the banking sector might have on different aspects of sustainability.

As part of their strategy, they set the ambitious goal to be Net positive in 2030 regarding their biodiversity impact, as they had already done with their climate impact. As it is clear almost all impacts lie in the way they purchase bonds and shares, they wanted to understand and quantify the impact of their investments on biodiversity. We did a quantitative assessment of ASN’s entire investment portfolio, using input-output databases and ReCiPe, to assess its biodiversity impact. The results allow ASN to focus their investment portfolio on the products with the lowest impacts on biodiversity.

Ready to take sustainability assessment to the next level?

Is your company interested in identifying your product groups with the highest sustainability potential? Get in touch with us.

Anne Gaasbeek

Anne worked for PRé from 2012 to 2021. As a Senior Consultant and excellent program manager with a hands-on background in sustainability metrics, she helped a wide range of organizations, including SMEs, multinationals and policy-makers. By focusing on the user perspective, Anne helped develop better tools for both technical and non-technical users. Her areas of expertise include product social footprinting, impact measurement and valuation, measuring supply chain sustainability and sustainable business performance.

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