Product Social Impact Assessment |Hair care product

The pilots were intended to test the methodology proposed in the handbook during the 2nd phase of the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics.


The pilot was conducted by Philips and DSM. It addresses a new consumer hair care product currently in pilot-production and in pre-release when the study was conducted.

Application of the Methodology

The interest of both companies was to focus on opportunities that enable product differentiation on the basis of social metrics towards consumers, notably based on ‘experienced well-being’. In the assessment we identified and listed data quality levels driven by data origin and credibility.

Operationalisation and Feasibility

During this test the following departments were involved from both companies: Product Marketing, Procurement, Group/corporate Sustainability, LCA expertise centre and suppliers.

In our case the Procurement/Sourcing department, the Group/Corporate Sustainability departments performed the assessment. Time spent in total was 15 days (throughput time) and 2 days (in total at both companies) for data collection and review. The throughput time was influenced, for example, by availability of the data, willingness to share data, reliability of the data and the life cycle stage of the product (development, released, obsolete).

We consider this scales based approach is feasible for internal hotspot and business opportunity analysis if it is being performed by the same subgroup of stakeholders and if a subset of assessment indicators is used for comparison. The current way of questioning (questionnaire) may leave some room for interpretation. We advise optimising and updating the questionnaire and aligning it with the social topics description to make sure all users have the same understanding.

As we see it, the scales-based approach can be used by companies to create awareness and understanding of potential hotspots (negative scores) or product differentiators (positive scores) within a relatively short period of time.

We expect that all types of products can be assessed. The outcome depends on the scoping or coverage, the complexity of the selected product, the complexity of supply chain (N-Tier) and willingness or ability to provide information.

We expect this approach could be very valuable when identifying additional value of new innovations versus assessing commodities, as it could improve customer experience and increase customer satisfaction. If the existing supply chain is already known, has been checked, audited or even verified by a third party on the social aspects (such as the pilot already undertaken), we do not expect new information to surface. Differentiation at the customer stage is recognized as the most useful, especially in supporting benchmarking and customer research

Value Added

The added value of social impact assessments as tested for companies will notably be mid or long term, when a standardized and robust approach for product social impact can be integrated into different companies. It would then support product development and product marketing in gaining new consumer and market insights, in creating product specification and when making product claims.

Most added value can be created once this approach is implemented as part of the existing product development process. In that situation, when information is available over a range of comparable products, it would mean products having the same functionality from a customer perspective, even if this is achieved via a different technology. It can be used as a measurement instrument for product evolution or in the development of new products, to differentiate on social impact, such as well-being or health and safety.

Additional insights

This pilot is a typical example of using the handbook in early development or pilot phase (application 2 and 3), before product launch. It demonstrates that product differentiators in the use phase can be found and substantiated, contributing to consumers experienced well-being