The Social Pioneers Roundtable: filling the gaps
PRé has a long history of supporting product sustainability with a focus on environmental issues, from developing methods to making tools available to a wide range of organizations. One relatively new demand has emerged over the past few years was posed by frontrunners who want to help their companies to go beyond the norm by addressing social sustainability in a similar way.
Multiple stakeholders have begun to question the associated social impacts of goods and services along the life cycle stages, not only from a risk management perspective but also as drivers for innovation. In anticipation, proactive companies began looking at product social sustainability to minimize risks, identify opportunities, and take action. Ultimately this is an opportunity for these companies to differentiate, enabling them to improve people’s lives while doing good businesses.
Reasons to undertake the project
Despite the consensus on the need to address social issues, we are still without a workable solution for assessing and managing social issues on the product level. There are many methodological and practical restrictions when considering the implementation of social metrics. For example, we lack a simplified yet useful impact assessment method and the available data does not cover every country, let alone every sector or product. Additionally, implementing social sustainability requires collaboration with direct and indirect business partners, access which is usually limited.
Companies prefer to differentiate while agreeing on the way in which they measure their social performance. Moreover, frontrunners want to avoid the burden of methodological issues, therefore they are open to building on their own experiences and sharing non-confidential information. We believe that open collaboration between companies is the way forward, and we have built our Social Pioneers Roundtable upon this concept.
The work in our Social Pioneers Roundtable will focus on three main objectives:
- Phase 1: Harmonization of key principles and methodologies. This phase will include a discussion on ways to assess social impacts while looking for common ground. At this stage, we will also seek external validation.
- Phase 2: Sharing with other companies and relevant stakeholders to develop critical mass.
- Phase 3: Develop solutions for cross-cutting implementation issues.
The scope of this phase will be determined by the participants, who may decide to tackle the issues, such as lack of data or the need for additional research during the use phase.
We have organized two meetings in 2012, which helped shape the scope and the objectives of the Social Pioneers Roundtable. We will kick off Phase 1 with a small group of companies soon. At this stage, we have firm commitments from DSM, Philips, Goodyear, BASF, AHOLD, and a well-known automotive company, followed by ongoing dialogue with companies from a range of sectors, including retail, consumer goods, food & beverage, personal care, and packaging.
We hope to be able to share the outcomes of phase 1 with you in the next edition of the newsletter, or as soon as it is concluded!
If you’d like to have more information about this initiative, please contact us.
João Fontes joined the Consultancy team in 2008, focusing on social sustainability. He co-initiated the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics. João worked at PRé from 2008 to 2016.