Life Cycle Thinking

Intervista ad Alexandra Florea sulla Roundtable for Product Social Metrics

15 Febbraio 2019

È con piacere che proponiamo un’intervista ad Alexandra Florea, che ci racconta il percorso di DSM nell’ambito della Tavola Rotonda sugli Indicatori Sociali di Prodotto. Il lavoro di tutti i partecipanti alla Tavola Rotonda ha portato alla definizione dell’Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment, le linee guide sulla Social LCA presentate a Pescara lo scorso settembre.

Alexandra is a Life Cycle Assessment expert at DSM. She is team lead for the Design Challenge at Engineers Without Borders (NL) and owns a Master’s degree on Chemical Engineering with a specialization in Water Technology at the Twente University. She has a heart for sustainability, volunteering for good causes and sharing experience.

Alexandra kindly accepted to tell us about DSM’s experience in the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics. The Roundtable developed the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment, recently released in a reviewed and updated version.

Why did DSM decide to take part in the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics and how was the experience?

At DSM our brand promise is to create brighter lives by bringing innovations to the market that improve people’s lives and we needed a way to measure up to this vision, so we first created a program and a tool internally which set the foundation of product social impact assessment at DSM. We understand that for most companies the product social impact assessments represent uncharted ground, so when we were invited by PRé Consultants to join the Roundtable together with other major international companies; we believed that this is an opportunity to work together towards a harmonized and broadly accepted methodology for product social assessment.

I have personally joined the roundtable representing DSM next to Dave Morris at the beginning of 2018 in the phase 5 of developing the handbook and methodology which were launched in September 2018. I have seen good progress from the previous version towards creating a methodology that is applicable in the different markets and guides the assessor with concrete steps in collecting data and completing an assessment. This phase has focused on moving the focus from measuring of compliance to measuring positive and negative outcomes according to the Theory of Change, integrating the fourth stakeholder category of smallholders, creating a better link to Circular Economy and the Sustainable Development Goals.

What is in your opinion the advantage for companies of using the approach of the new Handbook for performing Social LCA?

Companies are increasingly aware of the effect they are having on people’s lives, at the same time more and more consumers value socially responsible products. Transparency is key in this respect. The tool at present gives great guidance in asking the most critical questions when it comes to transparency and social impact of products and identifying the stakeholders involved throughout the value chain.

If I think of the areas that product social impact covers I see opportunities for the business. For example, the results can direct towards exploring new markets where there is no fair pay in place in supply chain and therefore the business could create job opportunities by partnering with the suppliers for better salary wages which leads eventually to removing the business risk, maintain loyalty with suppliers and secure supply for the business. Another example would be for the company to partner with sustainable small holders and collaborate to develop sustainable agricultural practices in the areas identified as hotspots with the assessment. In other words, the use of the product social impact would have a proactive approach rather than a reactive one, it could be a good tool for business developers and marketing professionals as well.

What would be your advice for a company starting approaching Social LCA?

First define why is it important to assess the social impact. Then start assessing. Either it’s data collection, either is listing down all the areas where the business has impact or interpreting the results, the tool is there to guide the company. At first it will bring new insights about the current state of the business by either unraveling business risks or identify business opportunities. Either way, a first step is needed to grow through the experience of assessing product social impact and translate that into business value.

Thanks Alexandra!

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