NewForesight invited at FMO for keynote talk on using finance for tackling complex sustainability challenges

Finance plays a huge role in the growth and development of smallholder agricultural sectors, and it is estimated that smallholder farmers around the globe represent a demand of $450 billion in agricultural finance. Regrettably, only a small fraction of around $10 billion of this demand is currently satisfied. This represents both a tremendous challenge to the development and professionalization of these farmers, as well as an opportunity for structural and positive change—if we are able to successfully unlock supply of and access to this remaining $440 billion.

Therefore, we were thrilled to be invited by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) to address a group of agricultural professionals from Colombia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India, Nigeria, South Africa, Vietnam and Kazakhstan to give a keynote talk on how finance can play a part in addressing the challenges that come with tackling complex sustainability challenges in agriculture. Hosted by the FMO, Netherlands Development Finance Company, the talk given by Hilde van Duijn (Consultant) and Niko Wojtynia (Analyst) sparked a lively discussion between the foreign visitors, FMO staff, representatives of the Dutch government as well as organizations like IDH (the Sustainable Trade Initiative), and the presenters.

The presentation focused on the global challenges of agriculture and the importance of farmer organizations and cooperatives when working with smallholder farmers who are not conventionally considered ‘bankable’. Hilde incorporated examples of her experience in organic cotton, where payment of price differentials (or ‘premiums’) often do not reach the farmer, and showed how ‘factoring finance’ can offer an inclusive solution throughout the supply chain and at farm level. Niko demonstrated how securing access to finance has been found to be a key driver of successful Service Delivery Models (supply chain structures that provide services to farmers to increase their performance and profitability, see the image below); the result of 30 real-world case studies performed by NewForesight for partner IDH, comparing such services across the globe

Hilde and Niko left the meeting both inspired and humbled: inspired by the visitors’ enthusiasm to drive change in their respective sectors, and humbled by their direct experience with many of the issues broached in the talk. We look forward to continuing this conversation with all frontrunner organizations that see the opportunities for positive impact contained in tacking this challenge.

Image: The FMO building (by FMO)

Image: Finance within Service Delivery Models (from FMO presentation)

Combining Ambition and Realism: 4 steps for business to leverage the SDGs and maximize their impact

By Jennifer Morton, Analyst at NewForesight

Companies today are looked to more than ever to drive the sustainability agenda, at a time when such challenges are increasing in complexity and scale. This leaves organizations which seek to lead in sustainability facing the balancing act of having to set ambitious goals while being mindful of the reputational risks that can make or break their business. Yet, solving tough sustainability challenges is not up to one company alone. Meeting the SDGs requires different sector stakeholders joining forces and aligning their resources and efforts to drive lasting impact together.

The UN Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have emerged as an essential tool for creating a common frame of reference for global sustainability efforts. Using the SDGs, different actors can set targets and track their progress and impact according to an internationally recognized sustainability framework, using collaboration and shared learning to create lasting change.

In this context, how can individual companies play their part in the collective efforts that are needed to achieve the global goals? Our experience working with clients across diverse sectors has shown us that following these 4 steps can help companies derive the most value from the SDGs–for the wider good and for their business:

  1. Aligning with the SDGs in focal areas of sustainability
  2. Translating SDG-aligned goals into quantifiable targets
  3. Implementing robust credibility frameworks to communicate real impact
  4. Collaborating to go further, together
  1. Align with the SDGs in focal areas of sustainability

The SDG framework is one of the most powerful tools companies have to ensure their sustainability efforts are aligned with, and understood as part of, a broader improvement agenda. Yet, the SDGs are often considered too high-level or generic for companies to engage with, and no company alone can solve all the global goals.

To uncover the value of the SDGs, companies should focus on select elements at the core of their sustainable business activities, and map (or even quantify) how these translate into progress towards specific SDG targets. Ensuring such linkages are communicated in the common language the SDGs provide is important for ensuring companies can more directly attribute any progress achieved to the result of their activities.

  1. Translate your SDG-aligned goals into quantifiable targets

To turn this mapping exercise into actionable progress towards the SDGs, the next step requires setting company-level goals. To be effective, such goals must be S.M.A.R.T—specific, achievable, realistic, timely—and, crucially, measurable. In a study by Bain & Company, setting quantifiable targets was found to be the most critical factor behind successful flagship corporate sustainability programs. Alongside galvanizing a sense of shared mission and ambition internally within the organization, quantifiable targets were found to instill a culture of transparency between these companies and their stakeholders. This helped to enhance the value of these firms’ sustainability impact, whilst an attitude of openness, learning, and improvement helped mitigate any reputational risks.

The challenge comes in ensuring any quantifiable targets set by companies are both relatable to the SDGs, as well as realistic for your company. This raises a number of crucial questions, such as:

  • On what topic does your company possess the capacity, know-how and resources to make a credible contribution to the SDGs?
  • What are realistic SDG-linked targets for your company given the wider enabling environment you operate in?
  • How can you secure internal alignment for these SDG-aligned goals and targets, as well as widespread external legitimacy and support for your efforts?

As many companies today operate in complex supply chains across many countries worldwide, it can be extremely complex to find answers to these questions. A standardized method for mapping, evaluating, and monitoring sustainability interventions in a supply chain, such as the Service Delivery Models (SDM) approach, can help companies assess the wider sustainability contexts they operate in, and gain concrete data and insights about the impact of their current sustainability efforts. By using this model, which we have developed in partnership with IDH, businesses are better able to articulate areas where they can credibly contribute to the SDGs, and focus their resources in areas where they can actually have tangible and structural positive impact. In doing so, companies have the tools they need to decide on realistic targets when setting S.M.A.R.T goals.

  1. Implement robust credibility frameworks to communicate real impact

Crucially, using the SDGs in a way that generates value and impact requires having the ability to make credible claims on impact. For this, credibility mechanisms are key. One powerful mechanism for driving this credibility is a ‘Progress Framework’ which is crucial for helping companies monitor sustainability progress, ensure credible data gathering, and provide concrete and verifiable data to communicate impact to stakeholders.

However, tracking progress without a solid Theory of Change (‘how do your activities lead to your vision of a better world?’) can lead to companies ‘disconnecting’ themselves in the process of communicating their impact. The way M&E data is communicated often has an unspecified or unclear connection to the wider landscape of sustainability. Such misalignment risks a company’s sustainability efforts not having the desired effect of engaging stakeholders and society in their initiatives, and blocks collaboration on sector-wide or global sustainability challenges.

The SDGs offer the ‘golden ticket’ for avoiding this common trap. Based on our experience designing Progress Frameworks for our clients, credibility mechanisms are most effective when SDG alignment is part of their design—starting with the initial indicator selection process, all the way to progress reporting tailored to the SDGs and their specific language. Such an approach ensures that companies can generate relatable and understandable results to ensure their sustainability efforts are part of a larger story, and that their impact is recognized accordingly.

  1. Go far, together

Acting alone, companies can move fast in addressing sustainability issues, especially those that are limited to their own supply chain. However, the old adage rings true, that going further requires going together. The final SDG17–’partnering for the goals’–recognizes that cross-sector partnerships are critical for tackling the root causes of tough sustainability challenges, which often require the involvement of stakeholders such as local industry and government. Such partnerships should thus not be seen as separate goals, but integral in the approach to tackling any of the SDGs.

From organizing governance in sectors from cocoa, to coffee, to cotton, we have experienced first-hand the importance of creating the right incentives for stakeholders to collaborate. On a multi-stakeholder level, SDG-aligned target setting and progress reporting is vital, and this involves sector-wide goals, targets and Progress Frameworks. The CocoaAction Roadmap which we worked on with the World Cocoa Foundation, one of our long-term partners, is an example of these crucial components put into practice.

For a sector-level initiative to make sense for individual businesses, companies have to see the value in being part of a multi-stakeholder sustainability solution. In implementing transformational sustainability programs, companies are often in unchartered waters. Yet, by working together and setting long-term commitments, the weight of such a significant undertaking no longer falls on one company’s shoulders. Instead, there is an alliance of companies who are in it together for the long run, working towards a common goal with a shared, actionable strategy and a framework for progress tracking. Only then are risks and responsibilities shared and distributed between the collaborators, and the impact of their individual efforts are increased through synergy. That way, they really stand stronger together.

Want to know more on taking steps to make the SDGs work for your company?

At NewForesight, we understand the pressures and opportunities that companies in the public limelight are facing. Contact us to find out how we can help you take the steps you need to leverage the SDGs and turn your sustainability challenges into shared opportunities.

New additions to the NewForesight team

At NewForesight, creating lasting impact is an important company value, but it is the people behind the company that drive the change. We are therefore happy to have added a talented combination of people to the team in the past months. Each of them has their own unique talent, and together they bring a broad range of perspectives to the team. Head to their bio’s to get know them.






We moved to a new office: visit us at the Arthur van Schendelstraat

We moved to a new and bigger office in an area full of other like-minded organizations working for positive impact! Since the 1st of July our address is:

Arthur van Schendelstraat 750-760
3511 Utrecht

To ​celebrate our company’s growth and our move to ​a new office​,​ we will host our grand opening on the 29th of September, where we will reflect on ​what we have achieved with our clients in different sectors​, discuss trends in the sustainability landscape, and look at the road that lies ahead. The event will be organized together with our sister companies SCOPEinsight and ThrivingCoalitions and​ will​ consist of different themes, speakers and workshops. More information on the program will follow soon​. We look forward to officially opening the office with our close network of sustainability frontrunners!

Looking for a sustainably furnished workplace incl. meeting rooms, kitchen and lunch? And would you like to share an office with three dynamic and young companies dedicated to generate positive impact? Within our office there are workplaces available for smaller companies and freelancers. Contact Tessa or look at the brochure to learn more.

NRC Live: Towards a ‘Made in Holland’ to be proud of

Dutch agriculture is dominated by low quality production and still​ ​one third of food in supply chains is​ wasted. On June 1st, Lucas opened the NRC live Agrifood & Tech conference with a keynote presentation on tackling these challenges and transforming the Dutch agricultural sector. By setting a sector​-​wide shared vision, an actionable plan and ​implementing vehicle​,​ the agricultural sector of the Netherlands can be transformed towards a system ​that rewards high quality food production, ​minimizes food waste and reduces the negative impact on the environment with f.e. regenerative farming methods.

​In total​, ​​150 representatives of the government, private sector, research institutions and non-profits ​came together on this first edition of the Agri Tech conference to talk​ about​ the transition of Dutch agriculture​. ​As Dutch consumers are currently interested more than ever ​in where their food comes from, the time is ​​now to turn the tides to​wards​ a ‘Made in Holland’ we can be proud of.

You can download the presentation here.

The presentation in Tweets

Two NewForesight consultants selected as Young Sustainability Leaders of 2017

16 June 2017

We are proud to announce that two of our NewForesight consultants Bart Vollaard and Guus ter Haar have been recognized in the top 100 list of sustainable leaders in the Netherlands (Duurzame Jonge 100 2017). This achievement reflects the long-standing commitment of both to a more sustainable world and their tireless commitment to two groundbreaking sustainability projects: Bart for his work as program director at the Organic Cotton Accelerator and Guus for initiating the Green Protein Alliance (GPA) which was established last year.

Bart on his work for OCA: “The challenges the organic cotton sector is facing can’t be solved by one company alone. That is why OCA unites brands like H&M, C&A and Inditex to work together towards a prosperous sector with more impact. As program director, I fulfill a steering role. I have been responsible for setting up OCA’s intervention programs, such as organic cotton sourcing pilots within the supply chains of OCA partner brands in India. I am now coordinating the implementation of the sourcing pilots and other interventions, with plans to scale OCA’s impact in future beyond India to other countries”.

Guus on his work at NewForesight:  “As a consultant at NewForesight, I carry the title Positive Impact Provocateur as a joke, but this is actually something that is of great importance to me. For every project I work in at NewForesight, I am dedicated to bringing about a positive, structural impact for a more sustainable world. If we are doing something, we should do it right”. The Green Protein Growth Plan is an example of Guus putting this into practice: the practical action plan set up in 2017 and supported by industry, academia and government, has ushered in the Netherlands’ far-reaching commitment to a more plant-based food system by 2025.

At NewForesight, creating lasting impact is an important company value, but it is the people behind the company that drive the change. To gain recognition for their hard work makes what we do all the more worthwhile.

About last month: Meeting 24 Young Agents of Change at NewForesight

One of our values as a company is: We own it and grow it. Investing in professional and personal growth, as individuals and as a team, is central to our work every single day. Combining this with our drive to have positive impact, we wanted to invest in the next generation of change makers; the many recent graduates and young professionals that get equally excited about tackling sustainability challenges. Between some cutting edge thinking in projects set to transform, among others, seafood and organic cotton, we hosted our first Young Agents of Change event on the 6th of April.

Almost every week at different Universities, NewForesight consultants give guest lectures on market transformation and how to apply this in practice and they often receive much enthusiasm. For the Young Agents of Change event, we therefore invited 24 handpicked future change agents and invited them to a full day crash course of NewForesight’s theory and practice. The day started off with a presentation of Lucas Simons on Market Transformation and the power young people can have. This was followed by some personal experiences shared by our Junior Analysts (the current Young Agents of Change) and a presentation about best practices and lessons learnt by our organic cotton expert Bart Vollaard.

In the second part of the day, it was up to the future YoAC’s themselves to work on some tough sustainability challenges. Divided into groups everyone got to choose their own cocoa cases, and could strategically select limited information from literature, data-sets or scheduled interviews. The outcome of their work was presented to the ‘potential’ clients and stakeholders, such as for example the fictitious ‘Willy Wonka Chocolate Company’.

We are proud of investing in a new generation of change agents through this event, mostly owing to the positive feedback from participants:

“If you are thinking about a career in which you can have an impact, but are not sure how, go to the Young Agents of Change Day! You can learn what the NewForesight team does, how they make a difference in their jobs and that the right mind-set is the way to get there.” – April (24)

Another participant, Lennard (26) noted that during the day, he; “got an insight into the work of a progressive consultancy that drives positive change. This experience strengthened my motivation to contribute to positive change.”

Even though being able to offer talented young people a position in our team is an important outcome, this was not the true aim of the day: wherever these young professionals will work, we hope they will keep up their motivation and efforts in tackling tough sustainability challenges and turning them into opportunities, just as we strive to do every day.

Excited about joining an event like this? Keep an eye on our website or leave your contact information here, as there is more to come.

New Horizons Webinar: call to action for frontrunners to help accelerate the transition of our food system

Update 1 July 2017: following the positive reception of the webinar and questions from those who could not attend, we herewith share the recording of the webinar with you.

Following our New Horizons Report, which we co-authored with Commonland and presented to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, NewForesight is now focused on the next steps. For us, this means connecting frontrunners who are interested in putting insights​ about how to solve the challenges​ of our failing food system into practice​,​ while creating opportunities for systemic change.

To this end, on June 14th, 12:30 pm – 14:30 pm, we will be hosting a New Horizons Webinar. We intend this to act​ as a call to action for organizations that appreciate the urgency and recognize the far-reaching opportunities in fixing our food system.

During the webinar:

– Wouter-Jan Schouten (Lead author Horizons report and Senior Advisor at NewForesight) will present the challenges and opportunities that the New Horizons report puts forward

– Michiel de Man (Co-author Horizons report and Director Strategy & Business Development at Commonland) will offer examples of applying these insights using a landscape restoration approach

– Lucas Simons (Founder/CEO of NewForesight and author of Changing The Food Game) will present multiple examples of turning this new thinking into strategies that turn complex challenges into shared opportunities in different value chains and consumer end-markets.

We invite all sustainability frontrunners to sign up for this webinar and join us in a discussion on the next steps towards a more sustainable world.

After Rana Plaza: OCA at Tchibo’s Innovation Lab to collaborate for change in the fashion industry

After the Rana Plaza disaster, the world of fashion seemed to change forever. The industry realized they could not wait for another such catastrophe before taking sustainability to the next level. This was the verdict of the sector experts invited to the Tchibo Sustainability Innovation Lab in March 2017, which NewForesight attended on behalf of the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA). Yet, despite the far-reaching sustainability aspirations of many driven professionals, as well as a number of investments and initiatives geared towards sustainability, the sector’s issues are far from resolution. Tchibo’s Innovation Lab was set up to address this challenge by inviting sector frontrunners to exchange ideas about how we can collaborate to strengthen empowerment and sustainability in global supply chains.

As bringing about such systemic change is the core work of NewForesight, we had much to offer from our experience in a broad selection of sectors, including in the apparel industry. OCA was set up in 2015 by a group of sector frontrunners dedicated to tackling root causes and accelerating the shift towards a prosperous organic cotton sector. Based on NewForesight’s thinking and solutions, we provide ongoing support to OCA to help the sector develop a common Vision, Mission and Theory of Change and a roadmap towards implementation. To realize OCA’s shared vision, we are rolling out targeted interventions this year designed to improve the business case for actors across the organic cotton supply chain, using fit-for-purpose credibility mechanisms to ensure impact. In our experience with OCA as well as with our other projects, a sector platform which convenes key stakeholders around a shared vision and which enables collaboration, increased impact and shared learning, is the key to unlocking systemic change in a sector.

Connecting with like-minded organizations at this innovation lab also gave us the opportunity to share OCA’s Call for Collective Action (available soon on the OCA website); inviting key players to collaborate and organize the sector around a shared a vision and sustainability agenda.  NewForesight has issued similar calls in the coffee and cocoa sectors in the past which were successful in breaking the stalemate in the sector, and enabling systemic change.

“We welcome the continuation of Tchibo’s innovation lab series,” notes Hilde van Duijn, OCA’s Executive Director. “We believe this will allow the industry’s change-makers to continue to exchange ideas and connect different sustainability initiatives. Ultimately, this will aid the sector’s collaborative approach to tackle shared sustainability challenges.” Frontrunners in the organic cotton sector are invited to react to the Call to Action and join the movement for sustainable change in the organic cotton sector by contacting Hilde van Duijn.

Picture Copyright © Tchibo GmbH


Meet our Young Agent of Change: Andrea Viviers

 Why did you choose to join NewForesight?
I wanted to be part of an organization that promotes and drives change. I have always been opposed to people saying: we do it like this, because it has always been like this. The Junior Analyst program was perfect for me because it provides a bridge from an academic environment to the working world of sustainability consulting.

And? Does it live up to your expectations?
And more! Every day I learn something about myself or about this field. You really work with experts, both in the field of strategy as sustainability. Because it is a small company you really see them in action and you get invited to the core discussions.

How did you get received by the team?
These guys really make you feel at home: you are included from day one and you are really part of the team. Within NewForesight it is also really stimulated to focus on what you want to take out of it. You are continuously encouraged to ask questions, feedback and not to be afraid to make mistakes. And important to mention: we have fun whilst doing it!

But there must be challenges?
Well, you have 6 months to make impact, grow and find your voice. You want to apply everything you are learning at the same time and that is quite intense.

Ok, I have a dilemma for you: working on sustainability or working with this team?
Don’t do this to me! I would never be able to choose. The content we work with is really impactful, but you need passionate people to drive it, and that’s what makes NewForesight and my experience here so positive.  So for me it would definitely be a balance between team and content.

 As a ‘Change Agent’; why do you want to make a difference?
I come from South Africa where there is a lot of inequality, especially in the distribution of resources. This contributes to my need to learn about sustainable development: I hope to find my place in this field and in the long run, apply my learnings in the country I am so passionate about.

What can you advice new YAoC?
It is a valuable opportunity to explore and to really show curiosity about everything and at NewForesight this is 100% stimulated as well. If you really enjoy doing something different every day, this is your place!

Do you think you have what it takes to help us tackle our society’s biggest challenges? Then come and prove it to us, at our Young Agents of Change day on 6 April, 2017. Read more and apply before the 27th of March here.