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Impact Assessments — A Driver of Change?

Image Credit: Rob Bates

At dormakaba, we aim to become the trusted industry leader and to make access in life smart and secure. We also want to be smart about the choices we make as a company — including how we manage sustainability. That is why we decided to conduct a sustainability impact assessment of our business activities. Our goal is to responsibly manage our business, focusing our sustainability efforts where we can have the most impact.

Assessing business impacts on sustainable development has gained momentum in recent years. In 2016, RobecoSAM included impact valuation in its Corporate Sustainability Assessment questionnaire, which builds the basis of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. The EU Directive on non-financial reporting requires the disclosure of a business’s impacts on society. Last but not least, the GRI Standards have clarified the inside-out nature of the term ‘impacts’ in its materiality definition. These developments emphasize the importance of considering the impacts of business activities on the environment and society.

How to assess impacts

Evaluating, measuring and comparing different risks and impacts across different topics is complex. The field of impact assessments and natural capital accounting is in its early stages. Nevertheless, various projects demonstrate that it is possible to properly quantify and evaluate such impacts (e.g. BASF or Kering).

The challenge is that this work can often be very time and resource consuming, with most methods focusing only on environmental issues. Our goal, then, was to gain a better understanding of our environmental, social and economic impacts for our materiality assessment, without having to conduct an extensive quantitative analysis. We wanted a pragmatic, yet solid approach — one we found with the study-based impact assessment methodology of global sustainability consultancy BSD Consulting. BSD’s approach provides for a structured qualitative analysis of environmental, social and economic indicators for the countries and industries dormakaba is involved in throughout our value chain (see diagram below).

Diagram: Qualitative, study-based impact assessment for materiality analysis

What we learned

Systematically assessing our impacts is an important foundation for making our business more sustainable. It provides us with three key benefits:

1. Better insight

First and foremost, the impact assessment improved our insight into the potential economic, environmental and social impacts of our business. It enabled us to better understand how we can best drive change, and where in our value chain to address it. Besides confirming the importance of energy and emissions topics, the assessment highlighted the relevance of impacts in our products and supply chains. This strengthens our resolve to continue developing efficient, environmentally favorable and socially responsible products, as well as to extend our sustainability efforts to upstream value creation processes.

2. Better buy-in

By improving the visibility of our impacts, we gained internal alignment and strengthened buy-in from decision-makers across the organization. This shared understanding of our priority impacts is key to creating the engagement necessary to successfully address them.

3. Better decision-making

Along with leadership buy-in, this shared understanding is also key to taking a holistic approach to sustainability. Specifically, it will help us make more informed decisions, allocate resources accordingly and embed sustainability across our business — from our procurement practices through to product development. In addition to the positive environmental and social impacts, we also aim to realize new business opportunities in the global green building market and value creation processes.

Overall, the assessment process has not only helped us identify hotspots along the value chain, it has generated internal momentum and sharpened our understanding of such impacts. This will serve as a basis for informed decision-making as we manage our sustainability efforts going forward.  It is also the next step in our journey as we translate these insights into action and embed them in our daily management activities.


Stephanie Ossenbach is the Sustainability Communications Manager at dormakaba, one of the top three companies in its industry, and the trusted partner for products, solutions and services for access to buildings and rooms from a single source. Stephanie is a… [Read more about Stephanie Ossenbach]


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