The European SustainValue research project coordinated by VTT Technical
Research Centre of Finland develops new types of tools for sustainable
industrial development. According to Senior Scientist Teuvo Uusitalo of VTT,
the methods and indicators used at present entail risks, since they tend to
over-emphasise the economic perspective and that of individual companies.
“Methods are required that take the social and environmental impacts of
business operations better into account, both within the company and among its
network of partners and stakeholders,” says Uusitalo. “If a change cannot be
effected, the current unsustainable way of life will continue, and we might
also miss some opportunities for creating new business. Market share is at
According to Uusitalo, other companies and customers demand that companies
take a wider view of sustainable development.
“Legislation will also inevitably lead development in this direction.
Environmental requirements, for example, are becoming stricter by the year.
Leading European companies have grasped the situation, but the rest are only
just beginning to wake up.”
Business networks that take into account sustainable development create
lasting added value. However, companies have lacked concrete tools for
ensuring that their partners are acting according to the same principles of
sustainable development. The SustainValue project, coordinated by VTT, has now
created such tools. The tools can be used to demonstrate where value is being
created and where it is being destroyed.
A networked way of thinking is the key innovation of the SustainValue project.
A design method that will help develop and measure the sustainability of
products and services is already being piloted by companies. Here, too, the
method focuses on networks and the complete life cycles of products. In the
end, selling comprehensive solutions might be more worthwhile than selling
Another tool created by the project is one that illustrates through visual
means the creation of value. This method reveals the positive and negative
values that a company's business operations produce for its stakeholders,
“We are also developing a set of indicators for assessing the economic, social
and environmental impacts of business in the entire network of stakeholders
and partners,” says Uusitalo. “The indicators that as such are currently
applied to the evaluation of sustainability impacts are inappropriate for
assessing the impacts of networked activities.”
Another important objective of the project is to transfer the results into
With the help of reliable indicators, companies can communicate to their
customers that their actions are in line with the principles of sustainable
The SustainValue project, which launched in 2011 and will end in 2014, belongs
to the EU's 7th Framework Programme. In addition to VTT, European
universities, research institutes, a national standards body and companies
participate in the project. The partners of the project are Politecnico di
Milano (IT), University of Cambridge (UK), University of Stavanger (NO),
Research Institute for Operations Management at RWTH Aachen University (DE),
DIN, The German Institute of Standardization (DE), FIDIA S.p.A (IT),
Riversimple LLP (UK), CLAAS (DE) and Elcon Solutions Oy (FI).
Project website: http://www.sustainvalue.eu/index.htm
“The research leading to these results has received funding from the European
Community´s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement