Celebrating 25 years of sustainability metrics: Why sharing and collecting is the way forward
In 2015, PRé launched SimaPro Share & Collect, an online tool developed to create more engagement with LCA results in the company’s decision-making processes, and to make it easier to collect relevant data for LCAs. Share & Collect is one important result of 25 years of thought leadership in sustainability. PRé founder and CEO Mark Goedkoop discusses why this is so important.
Connecting LCA To Other Departments
For 25 years, SimaPro has been a reliable workhorse software for the majority of LCA practitioners, who are generally very happy with their tool and loyal to it. We know this from the high renewal rate for the service contracts we offer. Yet when we talk to the LCA teams in large corporations, we often hear about their difficulties to connect to other departments in the company.
Over the last few years, we organised roundtables with our corporate users in various countries. We do this together with our partners in these countries. At the roundtables, our clients share their experiences, their issues and their successes in being connected to the company. A clear picture emerged: because LCA results can be cryptic, ‘they’ – stakeholders in other business departments – don’t understand its value. In turn, ‘they’ don’t cooperate with requests for data. As a result, LCA results are not as thorough as they could be and their value in decision-making processes is underappreciated.
Since we cannot help each client individually, we decided to develop a tool that uses SimaPro to help facilitate better communication between LCA teams and the rest of the company.
‘They Don’t Understand’ – What does that mean?
‘They don’t understand’ can be interpreted in several ways. Perhaps the message is too complex or abstract for business stakeholders from other departments. Perhaps these stakeholders aren’t that interested in the results, so they don’t spend the mental energy needed to understand.
Fortunately, the solution is the same. The clue is in one thing we heard a lot: it is not very interesting to read a report or follow a PowerPoint presentation with fixed results and assumptions. People are much more engaged if they can interact with the results. If they can ask ‘what if?’ and see how the various parameters influence the results. That helps them understand what causes the impact, instead of just knowing the impact.
‘They Don’t Cooperate’ – What Can We Do?
‘They don’t cooperate’ can also be interpreted in many ways. We cannot change that most people have very full calendars, and are not really rewarded for cooperating with the LCA department. What we can change is the complexity of the data collection process: this can be done in a much more user-friendly way.
Most companies use Excel spreadsheets to collect data, which are sent around as email attachments, forwarded and forwarded again. Once the spreadsheet makes it back to the LCA department, you will often need to send out new emails to get clarifications or ask for corrections. Working with Excel attachments is not only tedious for the data provider, but it can also get chaotic for the LCA practitioner. There is often no clear audit trail, and it is easy to get confused about which Excel attachment is the latest, who answered which question, etc.
Transparency And Robustness To Improve The Process
With SimaPro Share & Collect, we have introduced a tool that builds on the power and transparency of SimaPro, but that makes it much more engaging to look at the results and provide feedback. The tool is also much more user-friendly during data collection. With a powerful way to organise the questionnaires and the different versions of an answer, it also provides an audit trail to keep track of who submitted which data.
Connection Is In The Heart And Mind
Does this solve all the bottlenecks? No. The minds and hearts of the LCA department and business stakeholders need to be connected to the organisation. LCA departments need a deep understanding of how a person in Purchasing, Marketing or any other department works and thinks.
In short, LCA practitioners need to spend effort to understand the other departments. This takes time, energy, and patience. It is a continuous process. And it’s worth the investment. Without that; the marketing, the purchasing and the design department will talk about you in the same way you talk about them: ‘They just don’t understand.’
We built you a tool that incorporates 25 years of learning, experience and research. It will support you in better connecting your LCA work to the rest of the organisation, or, if you are a consultant, to your clients. It’s up to you how to use it. And please, feel welcome to share your ideas with me, even and especially if they are critical!
When I established PRé in 1990 I ran a design consultancy, then I decided to do ecodesign. But, how do I tell the good from the bad? And how can I measure ‘eco’? So I started on a journey together with a few pioneers in the emerging LCA scene and gave up designing. I realized then that these same questions need to be answered by any company embarking on the route to more sustainable products and services, preferably in a scientific, honest, and businesslike way. Providing good transparent tools, data, and methodologies to empower organizations to make the transition to sustainability, that is my drive.