Roundtable for Product Social Metrics

Even though the evolution of sustainability metrics and methodology has advanced significantly over the past decades, social sustainability at product level is still relatively immature. Complex issues had not been addressed sufficiently. Triggered by practical shortcomings, a group of experts from large companies decided in 2013 to join forces, initiating the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics.

Since then a group of leading companies from a variety of sectors is working on the development and implementation of a methodology for Product Social Impact Assessment. This collaboration resulted in the development of several iterations of the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment, building on the participant companies’ approach and existing standards at global level.

Product Social Impact Assessment helps companies to identify the social impacts throughout the life cycle of a product or service. The method supports the identification of social hotspots and improvement opportunities, including risks in supply chains, production, use phase and end of life. The method also allows companies to identify both the negative and the positive impacts, which is the basis for strengthening the positive impacts and better managing the negative impacts. In this way, Product Social Impact Assessment can be a business driver and a source of inspiration for product innovation.

Mission of the Roundtable

Be the leading, cross-sector initiative to give guidance on how to measure social impacts of products and services, in a way that is recognized for its high quality, credibility and business viability. The purpose is to improve the lives of workers, users and local communities by better insights that enables more balanced decision making.


  • Methodology is in alignment with best in class and up-to-date standards to measure social impacts
  • Methodology aims to create “shared value” for all involved stakeholders, creating economic value and value for society, taking into account the needs of all stakeholders.
  • Methodology is further developed by practicing and exchanging experiences


  • Reporting the impact of company’s activities in the area’s of the relevant SDGs
  • Steering product portfolio’s
  • Guiding investment decisions
  • Steering engagement programs

Currently the Roundtable is working on Phase 7.

The members

Since 2013 ca. 20 companies have contributed to the development of the methodology. Each year new companies connect while others decide to follow from a distance. Currently ( in Phase 7) the Roundtable has the following members:

Former members

The following companies contributed in earlier phases:

  • Ahold
  • AkzoNobel
  • BMW Group
  • Covestro
  • Goodyear
  • L’Oréal
  • Mahindra Sanyo
  • Marks & Spencer
  • Philips
  • Reckitt Benckiser
  • Steelcase
  • Vattenfall
  • Vebego


Roundtable Phases

We are currently in Phase 7 of the Roundtable.

Roundtable Phase 1: Harmonize methodology and develop Handbook 1.0

January – August 2013 The first phase of the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics started with seven companies: Ahold, BASF, BMW Group, DSM, Goodyear, Philips and RB. Roundtable Phase 1 resulted in version 1.0 of the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment, which included the Product Social Impact Assessment methodology and performance indicators. Version 1.0 also included principles for impact assessment, and social topics were discussed and selected. As version 1.0 was still in an early stage of development, it required additional features to improve the usability of the methodology. Before finalizing version 1.0, the Roundtable invited experts from external organizations to provide feedback on how the Handbook could be improved.

Roundtable Phase 2: Refine handbook, share & align

October 2013 – July 2014 In Phase 2, five new companies (AkzoNobel, L’Oréal, Marks & Spencer, Steelcase and Corbion) joined the Roundtable, also providing feedback on Handbook version 1.0. Their feedback and that from external parties in Phase 1 was processed in the Phase 2 of the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics. As a result, the Roundtable:

  • improved the definitions of social topics and performance indicators,
  • included reference values and reference scales to support the assessment, and
  • provided guidance for communications and examples of applications

After this refinement, the Handbook was tested by the participants of the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics and fine-tuned.

Roundtable Phase 3: Support implementation

December 2014-December 2015 The Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment is available for sustainability professionals in all industries to get started on product social impact assessment today. The Roundtable itself continued to work on solutions for cross-cutting implementation issues and exchanged experiences with other practitioners and experts. Phase 3 focused on business cases and practical implementation, data and database issues, refinement of the methodology, and support for communications.

Roundtable Phase 4: Accelerate Acceptance, Case studies and Data collection

July 2016-July 2017 Phase 4 started with a Forum on July 19th, 2016 in order to interact with experts from outside the members of the Roundtable to get feedback on Handbook version 2 and way forward. The Forum has also led to the participation of some new members in the Roundtable. Currently, the Handbook for Product Social Impact Assessment has been downloaded more than a thousand times and is used as a basis for the chemical sector project of the WBCSD.   Phase 4 has focussed on the addition of business cases, practical implementation, data and database issues, refinement of the methodology and accelerating acceptance. In addition the current stakeholder groups and social topics have been reviewed and small-holder farmers ( small scale-entrepreneurs) have been added as a fourth stakeholder group.

Roundtable Phase 5: Circular Economy

In September 2017 the Roundtable Phase 5 started; during this time the members have worked on an overall update of the Handbook and a separate Methodology Report. Part of the new methodology is a link to the capitals approach and a shift to qualitative assessment. Also a chapter in the Handbook describes how to integrate the social impacts with the Circular Economy. The new Handbook 2018 (version 3) was launched during the S-LCA conference in Pescara in September 2018. Almost all the members from Phase 5 have now continued in Phase 6.

Roundtable Phase 6: Case Studies and Implementation

Phase 6 has focussed on the development of an Implementation Guide, which presents a stepwise approach for implementation of the methodology in a company and experiences with cases were exchanged.

Roundtable Phase 7: Update of the handbook, Cases on Impact valuation and engagement with other initiatives.

During this Phase ( September 2019 till October 2020) the group is working on evaluation of datatools and an investigating whether the methodology could be used for an efficient impact valuation approach. The learnings from case-studies about the social topics and performance indicators will be reflected in an update of the annex of the Handbook.

Interested  industry companies who would like to participate are welcome to join the group.


Join the roundtable for Product Social Impact Assessment

  • Be recognised as pioneering member of this important initiative
  • Be able to steer the next developments (e.g. standardisation of the methodology, development of a common database, etc.)
  • Learn by doing and from working with peers
  • Get access to the latest insights, help and support
  • Get access to a future shared data platform for companies from a variety of sectors
  • Stay ahead of future demands and changing markets
  • Present your company as proactive and progressive
  • Confidently use social metrics in communication about your products
  •  Support the implementation of social impact assessment and increase the use of social indicators in a LCA-based context