Back in 2013, PRé and seven frontrunner companies developed a vision to create a standardised and trusted methodology to assess the social impacts of products. Creating such a methodology together would avoid the drawbacks of each company developing its own methodology. Two years later, the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics has reached its third phase.
The aim of the product social footprinting methodology was not only to measure and reduce social risks in the supply chain but also to identify improvement opportunities, reduce the social footprint of products and drive innovation.
The first phase of the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics was held in 2013, with the participation of Ahold, BASF, BMW Group, DSM, Goodyear, Philips and RB. It focused on harmonising the principles and metrics of social sustainability and resulted in the first draft version of the Handbook of Product Social Metrics. The second phase, from late 2013 to late 2014, welcomed new participants that increased the diversity of the group: AkzoNobel, L’Oréal, Marks & Spencer, Steelcase and a chemical company. In this phase, external stakeholders were consulted and the definitions of social topics and performance indicators were tested and refined. In September 2014, the Handbook was released to the public. It was disseminated through various channels, such as Sustainable Brands’ New Metrics ‘14 in Boston and SB ‘14 London, and EcoBalance in Tokyo.
From Theory to Practice
Phase 3 started in December 2014. The majority of the companies who participated in phase 2 are also participating in phase three: AkzoNobel, BASF, BMW, DSM, Goodyear, L’Oréal, Philips and Steelcase. The Roundtable also welcomed two new members: Mahindra and Vattenfall.
The main objective of this phase is to further test the Handbook and to address cross-cutting implementation issues such as practical implementation solutions, data and database solutions, refinement and alignment of the methodology, communication guidelines and dissemination. Four working groups have been set up, each with specific tasks and goals: Implementation, Methodology, Communication and Data. The working groups include experts from the member companies and are supported and coordinated by PRé, mainly acting as a facilitator in this phase.
Another novelty of this phase is the Product Social Impact Network (PSIN), the Roundtable’s pursuit to engage with other global initiatives such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
We’re now six months into the third phase, and have already made substantial progress: Member companies are preparing new case studies, implementation and communication toolkits are being developed, the new sub-groups on the quantitative and scale-based methodological approach are getting up to speed, and database requirements are becoming clear, among other progress.
The PSIN has also resulted in concrete actions: The WBCSD chemical working group on social metrics has used many ideas from our Handbook and added new and refreshing ideas of its own. We are now in the process of seeing how we can further align, by eliminating unnecessary differences and highlighting elements we could use in our methodology update.
We have challenging and exciting months ahead, and we are looking forward to keep you updated on our developments and new public activities. We still welcome new members to join as pilot contributors. If you are interested in joining the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics, please contact us here.