Steering Product Portfolio to Foster Sustainable Solutions

The ambition to create sustainable products and services is being driven by a number of compelling business factors. New laws and standards regarding carbon emissions and other sustainability topics are being implemented all over the world. At the same time, there is growing market uncertainty about the cost of raw materials and the availability of natural resources. Finally, the end consumers are evolving their expectations about the goods and services they purchase. Increasingly, they are holding brand owners and companies to a higher account in terms of materials that go into consumer products and the way those products are made.

BASF started and will continuously analyze the complete portfolio from the viewpoint of the sustainability needs of their customers. Therefore BASF developed the evaluation process “Sustainable Solution Steering” that allows to gain enhanced internal transparency and consistency on the sustainable development performance in all areas of the business globally (BASF 2015). The process also acts as an early warning system that can identify where solutions are facing sustainability obstacles. It also helps to identify sustainability benefits for the company, customers, society and the environment. In addition, Sustainable Solution Steering provides the business units with the information they need to communicate opportunities for sustainable solutions. This insight can be used to differentiate in the specific markets, enter into dialog with customers about their sustainability needs and hence generate new business opportunities.

First a qualifier check is conducted, where each solution is evaluated based on companies and the value-chain-specific performance for economic, environmental and social criteria. After that, the solutions are ranked according to their sustainability performance in the respective application and clustered into one of the following four categories:

• Accelerator: A solution with a substantial sustainability contribution in the value chain

• Performer: A solution that meets the basic sustainability standards in the marketplace

• Transitioner: A solution for which a specific sustainability issue is actively addressed

• Challenged: A solution with a significant sustainability concern identified and for which an action plan is under development

LCA information or as well eco-efficiency analysis results can be used to support this evaluation process.

Ultimately, Sustainable Solution Steering will benefit customers by delivering new business opportunities through innovative solutions as well as providing support on their own sustainability needs. It is a life cycle management process that can be applied to other industries as well (Kicherer and Voeste 2014).

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