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How Companies Can Create ‘Net Positive’ Products, Services and Environmental Impacts

wind turbineThe Net Positive Project, a coalition of companies that aim to go beyond reducing their negative sustainability impacts to contribute in a “net positive” way to society, the environment and the global economy, launched yesterday.

“With the recent adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the ratification of the Paris agreement on climate change, the need for net positive approaches is more urgent than ever,” said BSR senior vice president Eric Olson in a statement announcing the project. “Business has a clear mandate to create sustainable technologies, products, and services that can help the world meet these goals.”

BSR and Forum for the Future launched the Net Positive Project in collaboration with Gregory A. Norris, who co-directs the Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE), based at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Founding company members are: Advanced Micro Devices, AT&T, Capgemini UK, The Crown Estate, Dell, Dow Chemical, Eaton, Fetzer Vineyards, Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, Humanscale, Kimberly-Clark, Kingfisher, Kohler and Owens Corning.

While several companies are considering “net positive” commitments, there is no standardized approach for them to measure and report on such claims, BSR associate director David S. Korngold told Environmental Leader in an earlier interview. “As a result, there is a risk of companies investing in redundant, fragmented, and unaligned approaches to net positive that waste resources and sew stakeholder confusion,” Korngold said.

The Net Positive Project aims to develop a common set of principles and develop resources, such as best practices and tools that companies can use to achieve net positive goals.

The organizations say during its first year, the Net Positive Project will focus on three main initiatives:

  1. Net Positive Principles: Expand, refine and agree on defining principles and a theory of change for net positive.
  2. Net Positive Methodology: Build on existing work to advance a framework on how to scope, measure, and communicate net positive outcomes.
  3. Case Study Methodology: Advance a standardized approach for companies to develop case studies describing how products and services contribute to social and environmental progress.

Net positive efforts can also increase innovation and investment, Dell principal environmental strategist John Pflueger told Environmental Leader in an earlier interview.

“From a business point of view, when we have measured data that says this technology solution in this city had these outcomes and these benefits and the benefits were net positive, it boosts the case for additional investment in those solutions,” he said. “Over time you can start to make decisions about what are the most effective types of solutions to invest in with respect to addressing environmental and social issues.”

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