Collaboration and Sustainability: a Perfect Match
By including stakeholders in company sustainability efforts, greater things can be accomplished.
Collaboration is the foundation of success. When all gathered at one table, different backgrounds, perspectives, knowledge, expertise and approaches to problem solving can bring human creativity and innovation to the next level. By working together and focusing on a common goal, the power of collaboration can be unleashed. This is even more important when working toward goals that are applicable to so many different interest groups and are as complex and vast as sustainability. We’ve always considered stakeholders an important part of our sustainability efforts and we continuously work to strengthen our relationships to improve results. This year we invited them to play a more active role in our sustainability report and started the new ECONYL® Qualified Project to make the ECONYL® value chain even more sustainable.
Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean. — Ryunosuke Satoro
Corporate sustainability is collaborative by nature. Companies can only achieve sustainable growth by optimizing all three factors in the sustainable equation: profit, people and planet. This concept demands that companies do not just follow shareholders interest (i.e. profit), but interests of all stakeholders — that is of anyone influenced by the actions of the company: customers, suppliers, employees, governments, local communities, NGO’s and others. Since those interests are so different and interconnected, collaboration to coordinate and optimize them is vital.
Improving value chain sustainability through collaboration
Each organization needs to find what works best to build collaborations for improving sustainability. For us, the importance of including stakeholders was clear from the beginning of our sustainability journey in 2007, when we launched our Eco Pledge, a path towards full sustainability, which is well represented by our ECONYL® Regeneration System.
By focusing on the development of regenerated products in a closed cycle, the challenge was not just to find sustainable technology, but also to reimagine the value chain. Where would we source materials? How do we assure re-commercialization of regenerated products? How do we design products to be easily recyclable and returned at the end of their product life? We had to build entire ecosystem, involving stakeholders across the board.
This wasn’t easily achieved, nor was it achieved all at once. Over the course of years, we created partnerships with stakeholders and encouraged them to play an active role in several key areas:
- The ECONYL® Reclaiming Program was established as a structured waste collection network. Based on key partnerships with institutions, customers and public and private consortia, this program allows us to gather large quantities of materials, otherwise destined for landfills, from all over the world to regenerate into new nylon.
- Together with European NGO based in the Netherlands ECNC Land and Sea Group and sock manufacturer Star Sock, we founded Healthy Seas — a journey from waste to wear to tackle the growing problem of abandoned fishing nets at sea. It has evolved into international network with new partners constantly joining the cause.
- We have partnered with Interface and the Zoological Society of London for the Net-Works™ initiative to recover abandoned fish nets in the Philippines in cooperation with local fishing villages.
- We are continually developing new partnerships with our clients to mutually promote sustainability and improve the ECONYL® value chain. Many of our BCF (Bulk Continuous Filaments) clients have take-back programs which allow us to recover the fluff from old carpets while the recent announcement of a fabric take-back program with Speedo USA, a first in swimwear industry, is the latest collaboration in the NTF (Nylon Textile Filament) field.
The new approach to sharing
Successful collaborations to reach sustainability goals require accountability and transparency. Over the past 20 years, sustainable reporting has become a standard to track progress in achieving a company’s sustainability goals. To no surprise, a growing number of companies in today’s society are publishing sustainability reports as the public shows an increased interest in environmental, social and economic performance. Surprisingly, only 17 % of readers declaring the purpose of reports have met their expectations. So what can be done to make them more relevant and engaging to readers?
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) has given companies a new option: invite stakeholders to collaborate in the development of sustainability reports. Aquafil has been among the first companies to endorse this technique. New approaches have enabled us to focus on sustainability issues that are relevant to both Aquafil and stakeholders. Approximately 30 internal and external stakeholder representatives (employees, suppliers, partners, clients, local communities and NGOs) took part in the decision-making process regarding the selection of the topics to be included in our 2014 Sustainability Report.
Following the GRI G4 guidelines, the selection and analysis was based on the materiality principle and was carried out in 4 specific phases:
- Identifying sustainability issues by an internal interdisciplinary technical committee.
- Assigning priority to the identified issues internally and externally by actively involving a panel of stakeholders. The tool used was the sustainability materiality matrix.
- Evaluation of whether chosen aspects proved to effectively reflect an influence on environmental, social and economic issues.
- Review of the process by stakeholders — which is to be carried out following the publication of the report with the goal to improve the matrix.
Evolvement of collaborations should never cease
Sustainability reporting also represents a practical tool for analysis and improvement. Following our main objective to improve the environmental performance of our products, we have been using the life cycle analysis (LCA) as a measuring tool. Thanks to the LCA approach, we identified raw materials as the primary culprit on environmental impact in the production of nylon filaments. Replacing raw materials obtained from non-renewable resources, such as oil, with recycled materials, we’ve already improved our sustainability performance a great deal.
So what’s next? Do we have other areas to improve? What can we do to improve? We identified new possibilities of improvement for suppliers, as well. As a result, we now intend to focus on other elements of the ECONYL® production process (transportation, production of supplementary raw materials, etc.) with the aim of reducing environmental impacts and making the process even more virtuous by collaborating with suppliers.
This led us to the implementation of the ECONYL Qualified® project. We will ask our suppliers operating within the ECONYL® supply chain to introduce more sustainable practices. We want to encourage a common path of sustainability measures and inspire them to improve their supply chain.
We are sure, that in the near future, collaboration with our stakeholders will become more fruitful with the implementation of these new collaborations which have the dual purpose of improving the value chain and reducing the environmental impacts caused by the production chain.
Share your thoughts
Collaboration is also about listening. Feedback from stakeholders is part of our sustainability reporting process yet to be fulfilled, however, we would also like to hear from you. What do you think? Did we cover social, environmental and economic issues that are important to you? Did you get the answers regarding our sustainability performance you expected?