HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT

The environment in dialogue with consumers – December 2017

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The environment
in dialogue with consumers

“The way companies communicate toward their customers is a key factor. It is the most influential force when it comes to changing people’s lifestyles, as family and school education tend to play a more traditional role, reproducing the system we already live in.”
Jean-Dominique Senard, Chairman of EpE, Chairman of Michelin

The way a company communicates to its consumers is crucial to its business activities, and is the subject of countless studies and innovations. Entire advertising departments are rising up to this challenge, as are customer service management teams, marketing departments and salespeople,
to name a few. So why should sustainable development departments also be contributing to this pool of expertise which is constantly being renewed?

The answer: because of the environment, of course.

However, consumers do not like others interfering with how they consume. They do not want to harm the environment but refuse to be forced to protect it – they have so many other priorities!
They therefore rely on companies to manage this topic for them – and if possible without disturbing them – by finding other ways to satisfy their consumer needs. Whether it is through new products, product quality or a product’s life cycle, everything can indeed be produced in a more or less
environment-friendly way.

In this context, communicating about the environment towards customers can often be difficult or even risky – what should be talked about, and how? Will sales increase as a result? What are the risks in doing so?

The difficulties are very real:

  • Environment has many sides and issues, and if a company raises one particular subject, it may also be asked about others: is a product that is good for the climate also good for biodiversity? Does it pollute more?
  • When it comes to the environment, everything is relative, and all those involved are making progress, so at what point can one claim to have an environmental advantage?
  • While the tone of consumer communications is generally positive, mentioning the poor state of the environment may in fact deter people from spending, instead of encouraging them, since such communications can appear to be sanctimonious or finger-pointing, and may therefore lead to rejection.
  • Talking about the environment is technically difficult if the aim is to be rigorous, since specific research is needed. It is also necessary to continuously adapt to the increased knowledge people have of the subject.
  • Above all, various studies, and the experience of many salespeople, show that environmental benefits are rarely decisive when it comes to buying something, for consumers mainly make their decisions based on other criteria, such as price, social, status, and the impact on their health. So why would companies try to overcome such difficulties if the end result doesn’t stimulate sales?

A key evolution is the level of knowledge and awareness the general public has about environmental issues, both of which are growing. Biodiversity erosion and climate change have become common subjects of conversation and concern. While some feel helpless in front of these global problems, many feel that companies could find solutions, and that it is up to them to resolve these issues.
There is therefore a growing societal expectation for companies to offer products with less of an environmental impact, and to provide solutions without consumers having to change their purchasing habits or their lifestyles too much.

For a company, talking about the environment to its customers can then become a way of meeting this expectation and can be beneficial, either because it reduces certain risks or because it leads to new opportunities. It is in any case a sign that the company is assuming its responsibility towards the environment. It is also necessary to approach it in a well-constructed way, with wellchosen tools and an appropriate tone, while meeting expectations that are often unformulated or contradictory, and aimed at audiences with varying levels of interest and receptiveness.

The purpose of this publication, which is based on the experiences of EpE members that have worked on these issues, is to provide some answers to the two questions of why we should communicate about the environment with consumers, and how we should do it.

From A to W. Water Stewardship – March 2018

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From A to W. Water stewardship: the first dictionary launched by EpE

This brochure brings together 50 concrete, pragmatic actions taken by EpE members for sustainable water management. It reflects not only the involvement and maturity of these companies with regard to sustainable water management, but also how they manage to address the issue. The aim is to inspire and mobilise all corporate actors affected by the conservation of this essential resource – water.

 

Environment and Health : Stakeholder Dialogue – March 2016

Stakeholder dialogue - page de couverture

This publication is the result of work by the Health and Environment Commission between 2013 and 2015. It brings together the experience and best practices of EpE members in the area of health and environment dialogue with the stakeholders.

Issues of health and the environment now concern environmental associations, local residents and public authorities, but also clients, shareholders and the company’s entire value chain.

The publication “Environment and Health – Stakeholder dialogue” is divided into 3 parts, illustrated by concrete cases of EpE members.

Measuring and managing water – April 2015

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« Measuring and managing water »,
a guide for companies to better evaluate their water footprint

 

The new EpE publication “Measuring and Managing Water”, illustrated by around forty concrete cases, is intended to companies wishing to improve their water management and in need of effective tools and experience feedback
This new publication follows the «Water Footprint Measurement» working group, active between 2012 and 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

Water issues for a company
Water is a source of life for companies just as it is for living things. Its multiple uses put growing pressure on this resource. Causing part of this pressure, companies depend on water resources to run their operations. This dependence means that they have to identify, map and anticipate the risks linked to water scarcity and pollution and take a long range and global look at how they interact
with their environment their water footprint.

Measuring a company’s water footprint
Once the risks have been identified and prioritised, the actual water footprint can be assessed using indicators on the volumes used in the company’s business, and the resulting impact on water quality. So the right questions have to be asked on the scope to be used: what are we measuring? Should we take a sector-based approach or take into account the entire product life cycle? Finally, which indicator should be selected for use, among existing tools? As for all types of reporting, a good indicator must be credible and acknowledged, it must be possible to reproduce it over space and time and it should be founded on science.

Action and monitoring plan
Measuring the water footprint gives a company a clear view of their water management to implement appropriate actions. Reporting gives the chance to define precise objectives and action plans to reach them. The company local sites apply and then can adapt these guidelines to a local scale. The effectiveness of actions implemented at site level, when reported, allows, if necessary, to readjust the objectives, in a continuous progress path. Participants can be involved throughout the process to make sure that the work is moving in the right direction.

Emerging issues
The interdependence of water management with other environmental issues creates new challenges for companies, questioning assessment methods or in any case making them seem uncertain. The need to anticipate risks appears even clearer for companies when the issue becomes adapting their water management to changes caused by global climate change or new public health issues raised by micro-pollutants.

 

 

 

Charter on Private-Sector Expertise – 2007

charter private sector

Business makes a significant contribution to scientific knowledge on the effects on properties of their products. Companies allocate a large share of their resources to research and development and work as partners with public laboratories that are encouraged to seek out private funding to complement public monies.

And yet this expertise is rarely recognised as legitimate and called upon to contribute to collective knowledge of environmental and health issues. This can be naturally explained by the presumption of a conflict of interest inherent to experts funded by private resources, in addition to commercial confidentiality issues.

What could be the terms of a new legitimacy for private-sector expertise? Would it be possible to restore credibility of the reports and studies carried out by scientists working in companies if their work conforms to strict ethical and methodological rules?

The attached “Charter on Private-Sector Expertise” is an attempt to move in this direction. It establishes a series of principles and rules that some private-sector experts and/or some sponsors of expertise will willingly agree to follow in the course of their work. The resulting expertise will then be granted more credibility, enabling them to better fulfil the needs of the entities that use such studies.

This Charter on Private-Sector Expertise is a voluntary approach and can be used to structure corporate expertise to be disclosed : in the context of participation in a multiple expertise process, or in response to an opinion issued by other scientific institutions, or within the framework of any other scientific dialogue.