What is sustainability maturity?

What is sustainability maturity?

Sustainability maturity is a management approach developed by essensus to support companies in the integration of sustainability into product development in a consistent and systematic manner, ensuring competitive advantage and sustainable growth.

It builds upon a systematized set of hundreds of best practices, including concepts such as ecodesign, eco-innovation, sustainable design, circular economy, life cycle engineering, life cycle thinking, cradle-to-cradle , social innovation, shared value creation and product/service-systems.

Sustainability maturity establishes the learning process to be followed by the organization, step-by-step. Having the basis is essential and key to ensure that there will be a strong foundation for a consistent implementation in the long term.

Companies mature by improving their capabilities for the integration of sustainability into product development. Sustainability maturity is based on five capability levels that goes from the incomplete and ad hoc application of the best practices to a continuous improved application.

Sustainability maturity is directly related to how systematic is the integration of sustainability into product development. The higher the maturity profile of a company, the more systematic is their approach for the integration of sustainability into business, product development and related processes.

The improvement of sustainability maturity leads to the development of products with increased sustainability performance across the entire portfolio, which will, in its turn, mature the company’s abilities to sustain in the long-term.

How to manage sustainability maturity?

Managing sustainability maturity requires a continuous improvement process that goes from the identification of the current maturity profile, to the definition of strategic goals and roadmaps, implementation of the defined projects and monitoring of their evolution over time – in many cycles as needed to keeping improving the maturity to desired levels.

Companies mature constantly over time in order to increase their abilities to integrate sustainability into product development, and grasp the business opportunities related to that. Leading companies from a number of sectors such as Philips, LEGO Group, Embraer and Coloplast are already engaged to mature their abilities to sustain.

Maturing your abilities to sustain

Would you like to hear more on how essensus could support your company to manage and enhance sustainability maturity? Contact us!


Managing product-related environmental legislation

Managing product-related environmental legislation

As a way to protect the environment, and ultimately human health, from harmful effects, governments set up a series of laws and regulations. Generally referred to as “environmental legislation”, this external driver  forms a crucial piece for businesses to safely play the game in their industries with lots of specificities and varying levels of complexity.

For instance, the European Union (EU) alone has more than 200 legal acts to be observed and monitored in all of its 27 Member States, according to the European Commission. Usually, these laws and regulations cover all environmental sectors (water, air, nature, waste, noise, and chemicals etc.). Additionally, more emphasis has been posed on environmental impact assessment (EIA) as a way to formally anticipate environmental consequences of a given action.

Companies around the globe have also been presented with stricter legislation on liability for environmental damage and higher demands for access to environmental information from multiple stakeholders. Initially, within this context, some “end-of-pipe” techniques started to be adopted, aiming at removing contaminants from industrial streams at the last stages of production processes. Later on, the emergence of preventive postures, crystallized by initiatives such as Cleaner Production and Pollution Prevention, were based on the reduction of waste at the source of production processes.

Recently, a wave of proactive engagements have been observed mainly focusing on the environmental performance of products and associated with a lifecycle thinking. Any product impacts the environment throughout its entire lifecycle, from raw material extraction to disposal. Therefore, a number of laws, regulations, directives and standards emphasizes product-related requirements and defines significant restrictions regarding the production and use of many substances. Some examples of well-known pieces of legislation and standards in the EU include:

  • Integrated Product Policy (IPP): aims at minimizing the environmental impacts by covering all phases of a products’ lifecycle and taking action where it is most effective;
  • RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances – Directive 2002/95/EC): restricts the use of six hazardous materials in electronic and electrical equipment;
  • WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment – Directive 2002/96/EC): sets targets for collection, recycling and recovery of electrical goods. It forms an important part of efforts towards addressing the issue of increased amounts of toxic electronic waste;
  • REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemical substances – EC 1907/2006): holds industry responsible for managing risks related to the use of chemicals and for providing accurate information on different types of substances;
  • ISO 14.001:2015 – the new version of ISO 14.001 was released on September 15th, 2015, bringing more emphasis to top management involvement and accountability for environmental performance, along with environmental impacts management across the entire value chain. You can read more about the new ISO 14.001 on our blog post.

It is also expected that the complexity of environmental legislation and standards related to products will keep increasing over the next years globally, including emerging markets such as the BRIC countries. The understanding of environmental legislation is critical to ensure compliance and also go beyond. On one hand, the landscape for environmental legislation is undoubtedly more complex. On the other hand, it hides a collection of opportunities for companies to exploit. If well managed and monitored, environmental legislation can help companies thrive in a competitive scenario by fundamentally evaluating the legislative implications on its product development processes and extracting the best out of proactive approaches. By better understanding and managing the complexity of environmental legislation, companies are able to tap into new markets, niches, geographies and exploit innovation potential from legislative aspects.

By means of essensus’ approach, we’re able to definitely support companies to enhance sustainability maturity in the process of effectively and continuously monitoring, understanding and acting upon the tougher environmental  legislation scenario. We’ve been supporting companies through the adoption and internalization of management practices such as: (i) identification of relevant product-related environmental laws and regulations and (ii) deployment of environmental product-related requirements based on the relevant legislation.

If you’re now wondering how we can take this leap with your company, do not hesitate to drop us a line and we’ll be more than happy to assist you along the way.


How to get the most out of LCA?

How to get the most out of LCA?

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is one of the most well-known methods that can support ecodesign implementation. It provides a quantification of environmental aspects and impacts across the product life cycle and supports the decision-making task, when conceptualising and detailing ecodesigned solutions. LCA spans all successive life cycle phases of a product or system and has gained broad acceptance in industry as a trustworthy method to quantify the environmental aspects and potential impacts of the life cycle of product systems. The holistic systems perspective, which is applied in LCA, enables the company to disclose the ‘problem shifting’ which occurs when solutions to environmental problems at one place in a product’s life cycle create new problems elsewhere in the life cycle.

LCA has two important places in a manufacturing company: (i) the environmental, health & safety (EH&S) function of the organisation, where reporting and high-level (maybe product family) assessments are carried out; and (ii) in the product development department, where the knowledge of products, processes, ecosystems and use scenarios provide important guidance for ecodesign. The challenge is always, how to ensure the right level of LCA knowledge in the mind of the product developer and/or how to compensate for the lack of LCA expertise knowledge through a combination of tools and the pairing of LCA specialists with product development specialists. The solution to this challenge lies in a strategic management recognition, paired with a tactical management prioritisation.

At essensus we have created a comprehensive database of LCA tools, by charting and categorising all of the commercially produced and academically developed tools that are available for LCA as an aid to the ecodesign process. We have also developed measures to identify the management practices in the company, which will ensure an efficient and successful integration of your company’s LCA efforts into the sustainable product development process. Contact us for more information about the choice of LCA tools and their fitness for purpose in your organisation, and to gain insight into how an enhancement of your company’s ecodesign management practices can help you to ensure maximum value from your LCA efforts.


Best practices for maturing abilities to sustain

Best practices for maturing abilities to sustain

Best practices are often defined as approaches (activities, methods or techniques) that has consistently shown results superior to those achieved by other means.

Understanding the best practices business leaders are taking to implement sustainability into their business processes plays a key role in supporting the long-term success of sustainability efforts in an effective and efficient way.

Our comprehensive, and ever increasing, body of knowledge with more than 750 best practices for sustainability integration into product development and related processes can support your company to speed up the process and unlock the business opportunities linked to sustainability in the strategic, tactical and operational levels.

By diagnosing your current maturity profile and understanding your strategic drivers for sustainability implementation, we support you to prioritize which best practices are the most suitable ones to achieve your business objectives and long-term sustainability growth.

The strategic roadmap consolidates the planning for the best practices implementation, following a systematic approach that will ensure that the basis and foundation for a successful sustainability implementation is in place. By implementing the best practices, your company will be effectively maturing their abilities to sustain.

We are very much looking forward to supporting your company in this journey. Contact us!

Enhancing sustainability performance with leading KPIs

Enhancing sustainability performance with leading KPIs

The establishment of measurable goals and performance indicators are a fundamental elements of any successful program to integrate sustainability into business processes (e.g. strategic planning, product development, purchasing, manufacturing, etc.).

Several approaches exist for measuring sustainability performance in organizational contexts. The use of leading key performance indicators (KPIs) has proved by business leaders to be a very effective way to keep track of decisions and understand their influence in the long-term with a life cycle perspective.

Leading KPIs aim to produce measures that will inspire effective actions in improving the sustainability performance across entire products life cycles (from raw material extraction and manufacturing to use and end-of-life). Increasingly, front-runner companies are implementing leading KPIs for a varied set of purposes:

  • Benchmarking of sustainability performance of companies, processes and products;
  • Monitoring of sustainability performance, ensuring alignment with long-term business strategies;
  • Identification and quantification of the optimization potentials of products and processes;
  • Reliable communication in sustainability reports.

The main challenge faced by most companies aiming at implementing leading KPIs relies in the selection of the most suitable KPIs, based on their strategic internal and external drivers.

With a comprehensive database of leading-KPIs and a strong selection methodology, essensus is supporting several manufacturing companies to select the most suitable leading KPIs based on their current maturity profile, business strategies and developed products.

If you or you company are interested in knowing more about essensus’ approach for increasing sustainability performance towards enhanced maturity levels, please do not hesitate to drop us a message. We have a tailor-made approach that performs a comprehensive assessment of you current situation and derives an accurate and solid roadmap accompanied by a sound action plan. We will be more than happy to go through the sustainability journey with your company!


What is circular economy?

What is circular economy?

A new study performed by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, and SUN (Stiftungsfonds für Umweltökonomie und Nachhaltigkeit) has just been released and points to major benefits of a circular economy adoption in Europe (you can access the brand new study here). Fore-worded by Frans van Houten, CEO of Philips, the study blaze the trails for quantifying the value that can be unlocked through the transition to the so-called circular economy.

Before fully understanding its potential benefits, we have to clearly state what the circular economy is all about. And here we will equip you with a brief definition and some tokens of characteristics.

But what is exactly circular economy (CE)? According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the foremost organisation supporting CE, it is a economy that “is restorative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value, at all times”.  This approach is inspired on the insights taken from the actual living systems, which main outcome is argued to be the idea of optimizing systems rather than its very specificities – or the systems thinking view of the world.

Circular Economy relies on important concepts, which ranges from decoupling economic growth from the consumption of Earth’s finite resources to unlocking innovation opportunities in product and service design. It is a long-term approach to solve pressing issues that are increasingly being presented by humanity. The principles that back this entire new thinking is based on: designing out waste, building resilience through diversity, working towards the use of renewable source’s energy and thinking in systems and cascades, which is basically assigning materials and components different end-of-life uses.

Above all, it is a new way of thinking and doing business, which leads to a mindset shift from the linear reasoning of “take, make, dispose” to the closed loop models, in which we are able to re-(use, manufacture, furbish, cycle etc). A good way of capturing the overall idea behind this concept is by analyzing the interactive system diagram, prepared by the Foundation and which could be accessed here. By navigating the diagram, you will be provided with relevant information regarding each one of the main components of a generic circular system on the click of your mouse!

The Circular Economy model goes in the direction of stimulating manufacturers and retailers to increasingly retain the ownership of their products to act as service providers, in a of product/service systems setting. This paves the path towards innovative and efficient products and business models.

To get an even more exciting introduction to Circular Economy, essensus deeply recommend this 3-minute animation by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation:

How can essensus help your company to move to a Circular Economy model?  

One of the most important aspects of adopting Circular Economy is the correct focus on design, which will guarantee the fitness of product and/or service into a world of finite resources and a rampant need for new business models. This means that in order to achieve a harmonized, steady and powerful transition to the a Circular Economy, your product development and related processes (such as purchasing and logistics) must be well grounded for the changes to come.

Our structured, step-by-step approach can successfully support your company in the transition towards Circular Economy. By understanding your current maturity profile and ambition levels, we support you to establish the best path towards circular economy, step-by-step for the creation of a strong foundation. We equip your organisation with the right action plan, management practices, methods and tools to effectively integrate sustainability into the core processes and thus realize all the potential that can be unlocked from the shift to the Circular Economy.

If you want to know more about how we can actually help your company, please drop us a message and we will be extremely glad to join the journey with you!

Are you ready for the new requirements of ISO 14001:2015?

Are you ready for the new requirements of ISO 14.001:2015?

Currently, the certification standard for Environmental Management Systems ISO 14.001 is undergoing a major revision, regarding its structure and requirements.

The scope and launch of the revision was agreed in late 2011 and the revision work commenced in early 2012. The Draft International Standard (DIS) of the revised version of ISO 14001 was made available for national language translation in July 2014. The three-month balloting and commenting period began in the third quarter of 2014.

The current draft entails major changes related to the structure and content of environmental management systems. The structure will be harmonized with the other ISO management systems, such as ISO 9001 (Quality Management System), facilitating the implementation of Integrated Management Systems (IMS).

The main expected changes in the requirements for the ISO 14.001:2015 are related to the integration of environmental management within:

  • strategic planning process;
  • leadership commitment and responsibility assignment;
  • emphasis on proactive initiatives to protect the environment;
  • focus on the improvement of the environmental performance;
  • implementation of life cycle thinking for products and services;
  • internal and external communication; and
  • documentation.

The DIS also reinforces the importance of expanding the scope of environmental management systems to the business and engineering processes of an organization that have significant influence on its environmental performance, from a life cycle perspective. In this context, product development becomes an important process for ISO 14.001, especially for manufacturing companies that have active product development.

Annex A of the draft clearly states that “(…) scoping is not to be used as a means to exclude activities, products, services, or facilities that have, or can have significant environmental aspects. It should be factual and representative of the organization operation and environmental management system boundaries in order not to mislead interested parties.

Recently, the results of the evaluation of the draft have been announced. The review process will be carried out in early 2015, based on the feedback received from the various countries.

The standard is expected to be launched in the third quarter of 2015 and a three-year transition period is projected for companies to adapt to the new requirements. In order to be able to keep the ISO 14.001 certification after this period, companies need to prove compliance with the new established requirements.

Since most of the companies certified by ISO 14.001 still focus on the management and improvement of the manufacturing processes and facilities, a significant gap is expected for ensuring compliance with the new standard.

Are you ready for the new requirements of ISO 14.001:2015?

We can support your company to identify your current maturity profile, to check the gap to comply with ISO 14.001:2015 new requirements regarding product development and related processes, and define an action plan through a strategic roadmap to ensure a smooth transition. Contact us!


Why focus sustainability efforts on product development?

Why focus sustainability efforts in product development?

The product development process is considered a critical business process to increase the competitiveness of companies. Similarly, it is critical for the improvement of the sustainability performance of products. Companies are increasingly recognizing that there are several opportunities for incorporating sustainability into product development, in order to increase the value to stakeholders and society.

The biggest opportunities for improving the sustainability performance of a product are in the early stages of the product development process, in which the degrees of freedom in the establishment of product characteristics are higher.

Recent studies show that ca. 80% of the sustainability performance of a product is fixed in the early stages of product development, when decisions regarding product performance, target market, use of materials, manufacturing processes, supply chain and stakeholders, distribution channels, maintenance and related services, etc. are defined.

As the features and product details are being determined, the degrees of freedom decrease gradually. In the final stages of the process, the design possibilities for change are minor due to the large number of decisions that were made previously in the process. At this point, the options are limited to the environmental improvement of production processes, logistics, recycling, etc.

The incorporation of sustainability into product development is characterized by a holistic view that expands the scope of sustainability considerations beyond production processes to the entire life cycle of the products, from raw material extraction and manufacturing to use and end-of-life. Life cycle thinking enables the transition towards circular economy.

A company that manages the product development properly and in a structured manner has a greater probability of being successful when integrating sustainability in product development: most of the factors that foster the successful integration of sustainability in product development process are the same factors that are recognized as essential to the success of product development itself.

Moreover, the success of integrating environmental aspects into product design and development in an organization is enhanced by the involvement of relevant disciplines and organizational functions such as design, engineering, marketing, environment, quality, purchasing, service delivery, etc. The interface among product development and the related processes, such as strategic planning, research & development and purchasing, play a crucial role in the definition of the sustainability performance of a product.

The integration of sustainability into business and product development has, therefore, a strong potential to increase the sustainability performance of products across their entire life cycle, making good business sense and enabling a positive impact in the society.