How Philips Engineering Solutions supported EXIT Toys in its mission to become a leading player in sustainability.
“We all felt highly motivated to take the next step in sustainability. Several initiatives already existed across the organization, but they were all quite fragmented. We all agreed that we needed a structural approach on a larger scale. The only question was: where do we start?”
Philips Engineering Solutions helped EXIT Toys, a manufacturer of outdoor toys to find (several) answers to that question. The consultants used a methodology that was structured, strategic and had already proven itself within Philips. The deliverable: a practical roadmap that can help the manufacturer of swimming pools, playhouses and trampolines to jump ahead in sustainability.
“More importantly, it changed our entire company’s mindset,” said Jeroen Koeslag, R&D Manager at EXIT Toys. “Sustainability is now top of mind with everyone, by getting together and ideating on how we might improve; be it our product design, packaging or logistics.”
Sustainability as a competitive advantage
In just eleven years, EXIT Toys grew from a start-up to a major European player. “Our retailers were increasingly enquiring about sustainable products,” said Product Manager Jeroen van den Bosch. “We also expect consumers demand to grow significantly over the next few years. The current generation of young parents have stronger sense urgency when it comes sustainability than ever before.”
“On top of that, children are the end users of our products. We owe it to them, this is about their future,” adds Jolanda Bosscher, Quality Assurance Manager. Jeroen Koeslag: “Sustainability is also a commercial opportunity for us. Not a lot is happening in our industry yet, so we can play a pioneering role.”
Prior to the project, the EXIT Toys team expected sustainable design and recycling of used materials to be the primary opportunities. “But the consultants of Philips Engineering Solutions taught us to really broaden our scope. There is so much more we can do.”
The team applied a proven methodology. Juan Bakker, Sustainability and Transformation Consultant at Philips Engineering Solutions: “Philips has a strong ambition in the fields of circular economy, climate action, access to care and natural capital. We have developed a methodology that has already helped several departments within Philips to formulate roadmaps; what do you need today and tomorrow to do to achieve those long-term ambitions? It is very rewarding to see that this approach can now also help other businesses, that have similar sustainability ambitions.”
One of the success factors of this methodology is making sure that the entire organization is involved. “We interviewed twelve executives in total: from HR and supply chain to business development. A webinar was the starting point to involve the entire organization in the process: why is sustainability so important, and what opportunities does it offer EXIT Toys?”
Employees brainstormed in groups to identify sustainability opportunities. Jeroen Koeslag: “Here we already saw some remarkable results; some ideas would have never come up if we hadn’t used this approach.”
For example, one team identified an interesting opportunity in the company’s supply chain: “We found out that the waste material from one supplier can be processed into raw materials from another supplier. How beautiful is that?”
“We found out that the waste material from one supplier can be processed into raw material from another supplier. How beautiful is that?”
Another eye-opener was that sustainability goes beyond the environmental aspect. Jolanda Bosscher: “The Philips project team introduced us to United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. These also includes social objectives, for example, which we had not even considered in the first place.”
“This again lead us think differently and make new choices,” Jeroen van den Bosch added. “For example, in transport, we expected that the distance of our suppliers would have the greatest impact on the environment. It now appears that the choice of transport, and more precisely ‘the last mile’, relatively have a much bigger impact. In addition, we have become aware that we can help our suppliers to develop into more sustainable partners, for example by improving working conditions in the factories.”
One of the outcomes of the project is that EXIT Toys has an overview of actions to be taken, including their potential impact. Jeroen Koeslag: “It turns out, for example, that we can retrieve more spare parts from our product returns. Another great future opportunity is refurbishing, something we already do with our heat pumps.”
“We also realized that we help our customers to use products more sustainably,” Jeroen van den Bosch added. “Swimming pools use a lot of water. By helping consumers to maintain the water quality, they do not need to refill a swimming pool as often. Which, of course, can save a lot of water.”
The Philips project teams helped EXIT Toys make a more sustainable way of working actionable, according to Jeroen Koeslag: “The main benefit of this approach is that we have not only prioritized what to do, but also who is going to be responsible. Every action on the roadmap has initials next to it. That really helps us to make actual progress and not just plans.
That has been the biggest added value of Philips Engineering Solutions in this process; creating a sense of urgency and driving progress. If we had done this by ourselves, we could never have made these steps in this short timeframe. The strength of this team was that it has always kept us on our toes to monitor progress.”
“That has been the biggest added value of Philips Engineering Solutions in this process; creating a sense of urgency and driving progress. If we had done this by ourselves, we could never have made these steps in this timeframe.”
“Sustainability is high on the strategic agenda of more and more companies,” said Juan Bakker. “The number one challenge is to actually make it happen. Our methodology provides a fresh perspective from the outside and a structured process. But what makes the methodology strong is that we identify opportunities by talking to employees in the organization. The priorities that EXIT Toys are now working haven’t been suggested by us; they mainly did it themselves. I am certain that this adds to the success of this transformation.”
“From now on this is just how we do it”
The mission? “In 2030 we want to be the sustainability pioneer in the toys industry. This project was just a first step, but a significant one. Sustainability is much more top of mind now with everyone. Before the identified improvements had even been implemented, you could already see the shift in mindset. It has planted a seed. Whether it concerns the design of new products, new coatings or packaging; sustainable ideas are applied everywhere. From now on this is just how we do it.”
The project consists of roughly three phases.
Phase 1: Inventory
Make an inventory of sustainability opportunities within the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals through interviews, brainstorming workshops and external research.
Phase 2: Prioritize
Prioritize identified opportunities based on tailored attractiveness & fit criteria together with internal stakeholders.
Phase 3: Design
Design and propose framework for strategic roadmap and content programs based on prioritized opportunities.
Examples of identified sustainability priorities:
- Roll out internal transformation program
- Leverage spare parts from commercial returns (short term)
- Refurbish commercial returns (medium term)
- Offer spare parts to end users to extend product use phase
- Partner with suppliers in China to continuously monitor and improve working conditions in factory
- Set up a circularity program to turn waste of one supplier into raw material of another supplier
- Develop program to help end users to maintain quality of bathing water