Because you can only claim that a product is “green” once you’ve looked at the whole picture, Solvay aims to match the actual sustainability needs of the marketplace by going beyond simply devising biodegradable or renewable-based ingredients, and rather coming up with more complex solutions that consume less energy, waste less resources, have a positive social impact, etc. “As far as manufacturing footprint is concerned, SPM compares the environmental impact of a product to its value for society at large. We estimate this value to society on the basis of the price that the market is willing to pay for the product”, explains Francois De Vos, Business Sustainability Advisor at Solvay’s Sustainable Development Function.
To make sure our products are aligned with increasingly demanding marketplaces, SPM relies on a qualitative assessment consisting in 60 straightforward questions. The assessment is appreciated at the product/application level (which product for what use in what business environment?). “We want Solvay decision makers to make better decisions. If the sustainability benefit is not real but just an exercise in greenwashing, it’s very unlikely we will enjoy higher business growth”, explains Dominique Debecker, Solvay’s Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer.
The outcome of SPM evaluation is the classification of products in terms of business risks stemming from their environmental footprint and sustainability-related market opportunities or challenges. This creates a “heatmap” on which products place themselves as Solutions, Neutral or Challenges. To be in the “Solutions” category, products must serve in an application that demonstrates a “direct, significant, and measurable social or environmental benefit to society”. As of 2016, 84% of Solvay’s total turnover has been analyzed in this way, and 43% of it consists in sustainable solutions (a hefty increase from 25% just three years ago).