Decisions about the final design of the cascade are made based on what stakeholders of participating parties consider important. That is why we asked our partners of the Circular Cotton Cascade-project to prioritize the areas of impact. We distinguish 6 areas of impact (based on consensus in certification list, like ISO and the MVP Prestatieladder), and for each area, they could place a range of statements in order of importance.
The 6 areas of impact are
- ecological value (e.g. minimising energy consumption)
- consumer issues (e.g. improving health and safety)
- fair business (e.g. ensuring fair payment and living wages)
- good employment practices (e.g. caring for employee welfare)
- human rights (e.g. contributing to equal treatment)
- economic value (e.g. transparency about cost structure)
In February, we went on a fieldtrip to India. We visited our partners and experienced the work of Indian farmers. After our visit we shared our experiences with the Dutch partners. The Dutch partners have prioritised the impact areas in the questionnaire prior and after our visit. In addition, we interviewed both our India and Dutch partners on their prioritisation to gain more insight into their choices and considerations.
In this anonymous system, we observed that partners have lost the connectedness with each other and also with the soil and earth, leading to two types of (unconscious) abuse: socio-economic abuse (e.g. exploitation of farmer and textile workers) and environmental abuse (e.g. using pesticides). The consequences are an overall negative impact on the earth.
Awareness leads to understanding and compassion
We concluded that equality and fairness are important when a partnership is creating collective value. The collective includes multiple perspectives in which partners embrace differences, resulting in collaboration towards equal and fair networks. Awareness of the differences leads to understanding and compassion, which ultimately results in better decisions for the collective. Experiencing the processes and motives of Indian companies (rather than interpreting figures) is a must for collective value creation. The Dutch partners prioritised ‘Ecological Value’ in the first round, based on meeting the requirements of legislation and certifications. When the Dutch partners learned more on the vulnerability of the Indian farmers and partners, they prioritised ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Fair Business’ higher. They indicate to be more proactive in these areas. The Indian partners thought, that through the project with Dutch partners, they can enlarge their ecological impact. ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Fair Business’ are already core to them.
To realise collaborative value models, we think it is crucial that partners create transparency on ecological (material passport) and social impact (social passport). Information must be interpreted as the same by all partners. This appears to be challenging because the exact interpretation of values could differ. For instance, the Indian perspective for transparancy considers a holistic approach, integrating both the socio-economic and environmental impact. The Dutch perspective has a primary purpose for justification for responsible (re)use of materials to avoid greenwashing and having proper insights to jointly (re)design products.
The results of this research were presented at the ISPIM Innovation Conference, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 4-7 June.
Karen Janssen and Marco Verkooijen, Centre of Expertise Wellbeing Economy & New Entrepreneurship, Avans University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands