Let’s talk environmental impact in innovation

Board of Innovation meets Greenfish. An inspirational guide to boosting your company’s positive social and environmental impact.

Table of Contents

Social and environmental challenges are becoming more pressing by the day. These challenges lead to societal transformations that will impact economic and social life in the decades to come. 

At the same time, awareness is growing among corporations and they are stepping up their game to increasingly rise up to these challenges. That’s why Board of Innovation launched Impact Talks, a series of thought-provoking sessions in which we invite leading experts to zoom in on what’s next in the field of sustainability.

For the first edition of our Impact talks, we partnered up with Greenfish, strategic and technical advisory for sustainability. Together with Jessica Peters, CSR & Sustainability Lead at Greenfish, we discussed how businesses and organizations can boost their positive social and environmental impact. 

Buckle up, read the key learnings from the session and find out about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Lifecycle assessment: the impact of product development

When developing new products or optimizing existing ones, a lifecycle assessment is a valuable way to map your product’s impact on the environment and its ecosystems. At the same time, it helps you gain a clear understanding of your product’s impact on people and society as a whole. 

 

How to conduct a lifecycle assessment

For this assessment, it is key to analyse every step in the product’s lifecycle – from the earliest stage of its development to its disposal. Start off by gathering all the data, across all stages of the product’s lifecycle. Process it and use it to establish sustainability parameters

This will give you a clear overview of the emissions and waste generated in the development of the product and its lifecycle in use. Next, measure your product’s energy efficiency and environmental impact. 

Get hold of EPDs (Environment Production Declarations) and set up ecochain software to assess the carbon footprint of your production facilities. This allows you to stay on top of your product’s impact and reduce its footprint accordingly.

Energy efficiency: a roadmap to future-proof your processes ​

Say your business is expanding by building a new site. You’ll need to understand the impact that new machinery might have on your environmental footprint. 

Will you invest in machines with lower emissions, futureproofing the site by preparing for stricter regulations in the future? Or will you decide to keep the old ones and refurbish them where needed? 

Make sure you fully understand environmental policies and their projected evolution before making these decisions. Otherwise, you will end up developing operations that you will need to continuously improve and adapt to changing regulations. 

 

How to include sustainability targets

By including sustainability targets in your operations from the get-go, you’ll future-proof your energy impact and production processes. But where to start?

An energy audit of your facilities might be the way to go. Then, focus on developing a strategy to find alternatives to reduce your primary energy consumption. By assessing your current situation and collecting all the relevant data, you’ll gain crucial insights into your status quo. 

Identify a first batch of possible solutions to your challenges, and select the best ones after feedback rounds. Finally, draw up your energy efficiency roadmap and an implementation strategy to support it.

Waste and circularity: set the bar high, and act accordingly ​​

Boosting the circularity of your products and reducing waste is crucial to every future-proof product lifecycle. Are you looking to avoid waste in your operations, or valorise it to maintain your product’s value? 

Whatever the goal, you’ll want to focus on generating environmental, economic and social gains throughout the product’s lifecycle. This is important not only for your customers, but for your stakeholders as well. Genuine waste reduction has tangible added value for your company.

 

How to focus on waste reduction and circularity

You’ll need to gather all relevant data on every waste stream identified in the production process. Map all waste streams to identify the most significant ones (hot spots).

You can start by focusing on the low-hanging fruits to quickly reduce unnecessary input (quick wins).

With all this information in hand, you can start creating frameworks to valorise circular practices and the production of responsible products and services. Your entire organization will have to be brought up to speed. This includes providing clear guidelines and training for procurement officers in charge of acquiring sustainable packaging solutions. 

Finally, implement the processes needed to achieve your sustainability goals, to achieve less waste or more value at products’ end-of-life.

Measuring the impact of your circular strategy

Supply chain resilience: let science and innovation lead the way ​​

Policies to reduce emissions are ramping up the pressure on supply chains, one of the largest contributors to corporations’ environmental footprint and a major contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Supply chains are under scrutiny, with regulations only set to become stricter over the years to come.

 

How to improve the sustainability of your supply chain

First, you’ll need to gain clear insight into the sources of GHG emissions throughout your supply chain. You’ll then want to focus on creating a framework for supplier engagement and responsible procurement practices. 

Setting ambitious goals, with science-based targets that fully comply with mandatory reporting, is a first step. Integrate sustainability requirements at every single stage of your supply chain. Be sure to base them on government regulation, and aim to achieve cost-reductions through innovation at the same time. 

This will require a holistic approach and a concrete roadmap, involving everyone from third-party suppliers to procurement officers and product designers. This allows you to make an impact even in the earliest stages of your product development process. 

A comprehensive analysis of the product’s entire ecosystem is needed, to collect the relevant data and layout a roadmap towards a better, more environmentally friendly supply chain.

 

Check out Greenfish’ recent whitepaper on supply chain resilience

Impact Talk conclusion: the future is coming, make sure you’re ready

So yes, the challenges ahead are quite transformational. We’ll need to adapt to stricter emissions and energy-usage regulations. 

All products will need to be optimized to meet high environmental standards and minimize waste. Not only out of concern about climate change and environmental protection, but also because consumers and governments will demand it in the near and distant future. 

Many corporations are not waiting on regulation to change their tune: a large number of our clients are already at the frontline, working to future-proof their operations in order to balance profits and societal responsibility.

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