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New tool aims to help companies measure social impact of products

October 28, 2014

New tool aims to help companies measure social impact of products

Jacobine Das Gupta and Charles Duclaux
Tuesday 28 October 2014 14.13 GMT

Consumers are acutely aware of the provenance of the goods they purchase. They have greater access to product information than ever before, and are empowered to make more responsible purchase decisions.

Increasingly, businesses find that consumers favour products with ethical or environmental attributes and there is now evidence that a majority are also willing to pay more for them. A study by marketing research group Nielsen found that 55% of online consumers across 60 countries would pay a premium for ‘green’ or socially responsible goods.

Clearly therefore, there is now an opportunity for businesses to develop products and services that have demonstrable ecological or social benefits.

As consumers, we are accustomed to seeing ‘eco-labels’ on products and services. These are typically based on life cycle assessments (LCAs) that quantify the environmental impact of a product. These LCAs are being used to address issues such as climate change or water usage, and are based on a scientific approach, calculation models, and defined measurement units.

In contrast to the range of methodologies used to assess a product’s environmental impact, there is still a scarcity of tools and metrics to estimate the social impact of these products. A cross-industry social impact assessment method for products has not existed, even though many companies have implemented important social initiatives across their supply chains and operations.

Read more at The Guardian.

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