Societal impact management

Sustainability is all around us. Media like web channels, news shows, documentaries and advertisements pay attention to the plastic soup, palm oil in our products, climate change, healthy food and so on and new policies and agreements, like the Climate Agreement, are changing the playing field. So, how do we handle these topics as a firm? How do we use sustainability as a competitive advantage? With our knowledge of sustainability measurement and improvement in Agri & Food, we support businesses in their sustainability challenges.

Insights in sustainability needed

Increasing population and per capita consumption put the planet’s resources under threat and contribute to climate change. Also, our unhealthy diets drive the increasing rates of Western diseases like obesity. Throughout the food system, which has become global and complex, many stakeholders demand transparency from international Agri & Food firms and actual improvements on sustainability. How is our food produced? What environmental burden does it create? How nutritious is our meal?

Stay ahead of the game

We believe that firms will be pushed and pulled into a new way of doing business. Integrating and managing sustainability in your company and supply chain will be the new normal and will help you gain a competitive advantage. If you are looking for opportunities to integrate sustainability in your strategy and business operations to stay or be ahead of the game, Wageningen Economic Research can challenge your status quo and support your improvement in five steps.

Integrated sustainability in five steps

We deliver fact-based and refreshing insights that enable you to reach your sustainability goals. Based on our sector knowledge, research capabilities and data infrastructure, we build a customised and sound plan, map the relevant impacts and set up an effective, integrated monitoring system to improve sustainability. Regardless of the scale of your challenge, we can provide you with applied answers and evaluate if you deliver on your impact strategy.

These steps altogether form the cycle that allows you to measure and improve your business strategy in order to reach your goals. It is a cycle, as the context and business operations change continuously, while we also learn more every day on sustainable business cases, effective interventions, environmental burdens and methodological developments.

We are a renowned, academic and independent research institute that guides you through this process. Whether it be from start to finish, or during specific steps, we deliver the rigour and multidisciplinary thinking that is required to improve on sustainability. We work on all continents and have a global network of local partners in the Agri & Food domain.

1. Develop & review sustainability strategy

A sustainability strategy will only be successful once tailored to specific sector, value chain, country and sustainability themes. But equally important are the following questions: What are your drivers to act, and, what would you like to accomplish? And how do you expect to control or influence challenging sustainability themes (i.e. theory of change)? To draft a successful strategy or programme, we employ our Agri & Food market intelligence, insights into the relevant sustainability themes, and independent overview of what to measure and how.

This results in a relevant, ambitious and feasible strategy and a baseline insight into your sustainability footprint. This is a starting point to line up your organisation, form partnerships, and brings focus in the areas of improvement.

2. Improvement plan

This strategy provides a high-level road map. The next step, an improvement plan, provides concrete options to intervene on themes such as carbon, water, responsible consumption, packaging or social working conditions. Here we identify cost benefits of each measure and intervention, but also examine the expected effort of your organisation and its stakeholders.

We deliver a set of recommended options to improve your sustainability, which are ex-ante tested on their expected effectiveness.

3. Integrated monitoring

Measuring progress requires integrated monitoring that shows you not only the ultimate impact goal (e.g. lower carbon emissions), but also the key performance indicators you can manage directly, such as the adoption rate of carbon-friendly technology, and the intermediate effects.

We deliver monitors in reports, presentations, dashboards and apps that show your real-time progress and can be shared easily with your internal and external stakeholders.

4. Implementation

During implementation, we provide you with crucial and fact-based explanations on the effects of the defined interventions. We have a clear understanding of incentive structures at farms, value chains as a whole and consumers and how to positively influence these groups.

For instance, when do consumers accept food with less sugar, salt and fats? Why don't farmers adopt climate mitigation techniques? At the same time, we understand integrated food systems: Can changes occur in a current supply chain structure, and how do you get external stakeholders on board with a shared improvement agenda?

5. Impact evaluation

During this step we tell you whether your project, programme or strategy has delivered. We also answer the question if you can link specific observed effects (e.g. higher yields, less water use) with the interventions, which help you to draw the right conclusions.

Furthermore, we give you insight into the cost-effectiveness (i.e. impact per invested dollar). Based on our extensive experience in executing robust mid-term or year-end evaluations, we can apply up-to-date techniques to do an independent, rigorous evaluation with the involvement of sector and theme experts. The insights provide evidence that you are on the right track or that you have to adjust your sustainability plan. Here, we strike the right balance between societal impact, investments and financial gains.

We believe that sustainability will only take off within a business case and the right incentive structure.
Willem Ruster