The Roundtable for Product Social Metrics — a coalition of multinational consumer product companies aimed at developing a comprehensive, consistent methodology for businesses to measure the social impacts of products, launched in 2013 — announced Monday that it is now moving forward as a multi-stakeholder organization, opening its doors to interested companies, industry associations, NGOs, researchers and consultants to join the collaboration. The main goals are to refine the concept of product social impact assessment and further its adoption in industry.
Roundtable milestones so far
In 2014, the Roundtable released the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment, a practical tool for sustainability professionals that describes an innovative method for assessing a product’s social impacts throughout its life cycle.
PRé Sustainability’s João Fontes, Roundtable spokesperson, said of the Handbook: “As supply chains and product life cycles increasingly span the world, businesses need a practical, systematic way to make decisions.” The handbook, a starting point for any business wanting to differentiate itself and create value through social impact assessment, was the first social impact assessment method at a product level that was developed cross-industry.
The collaboration continued in 2015, when the Roundtable participants — Akzo Nobel, BASF, BMW Group, DSM, L’Oréal, Mahindra Sanyo, Philips, Steelcase, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and Vattenfall, led by PRé Sustainability — refined the method, conducted new pilots across regions and developed tools to facilitate the application of the method in day-to-day business contexts. In addition, synergies with databases providers were identified and the handbook was adjusted to align with the WBCSD Chemical Sector methodology. Of the latter, Peter Saling, Director of Sustainability Methods at BASF, says: “This collaboration has very high value, as WBCSD is an important trendsetter. We should harmonize methods as much as possible.”
Toolkit to support Product Social Impact Assessment now available
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The revised Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment and an application toolkit are available for free download at the Roundtable website. Together, these tools allow sustainability professionals in all industries to “start assessing social impacts of products and services today,” according to Fontes.
“As a company, we’d likely use it to strengthen our supply chain requirements,” says Dennis McGavis, Goodyear’s Global VP of EHS & Sustainability. “And as an industry, we’d likely use it for materials or chemicals that are key to our supply chain and present a risk to the entire industry if not managed well."
The next phase: an independent, multi-stakeholder organization
The Roundtable for Product Social Metrics now invites companies and other parties interested in assessing the social impact of products and services to become members. The Roundtable will continue as an independent non-profit organization with a board of directors and a majority of industry members. Its ambition is to gain critical mass with a larger, more diverse group of members to create a widely used de-facto standard for product social impact assessment, with solid principles balancing scientific rigor with pragmatic solutions. One goal is to initiate sector-specific working groups to build on the handbook and tools developed so far. The Roundtable will remain transparent and continue to encourage pre-competitive collaboration to develop shared solutions for product social impact assessment.
More information about becoming a member can be obtained via the Roundtable website contact form.