Objective 1: Social value in projects and contribution to the SDGs

In 2021, we worked on over 4,500 projects in 47 countries. By using these projects to provide sustainable solutions, Witteveen+Bos creates social value and contributes to the United Nations’ SDGs. Our seven Sustainable Design Principles (SDPs) are an important means of achieving this.

2021 focal point: Biodiversity and Designing with Nature

Biodiversity is seen as an important topic by our employees and clients, and as an area where Witteveen+Bos could and should do more. This was revealed by last year’s materiality analysis. With our designs and advice, we are in a position to significantly influence biodiversity in both rural and urban areas for the better. This focal point marked the start of a process of integrating biodiversity into all our advice and designs. What we did in 2021:

  • Integrated biodiversity into our ‘Designing with Nature’ sustainable design principle, which involves the use of natural processes to strengthen designs;
  • Experimented and learned within projects by working with clients to add biodiversity ambitions to various types of projects, from purely infrastructural to purely natural.

Innovation and digitalisation

Both in our business lines and within our departments, keeping an eye out for opportunities to innovate is simply how we work and think. As a result of this approach, we work in a more data-driven way, with smarter tools, and we combine knowledge of both technology and human behaviour. As well as this, a few specific activities are undertaken to enhance innovation in a useful and fun way that also promotes integrated collaboration. At the end of 2020, the third edition of the global Plus+ Innovation Programme began. 91 ideas were submitted on the topics of smart cities, smart companies, smart cycles, smart deltas and smart infrastructure and mobility, of which sixteen were developed into new products and services in an accelerated process. During the 2021 spring TKB, the jury and people’s choice winners were announced: the Watertekenaar and the +Reuse Quickscan, respectively. These can be found online in our overview of digital services.

Integral approach to emerging substances and substances of high concern

Many industries are being forced to deal with emerging substances and substance of very high concern which impact on our living environment and its development. This is especially so when soil (e.g. food production, earth moving, housing construction) or the water system (e.g. drinking water production, recreational water, waste water treatment) are involved. Witteveen+Bos develops both products and knowledge in order to be able to deal with emerging substances and substances of very high concern in a socially appropriate way. We also apply this knowledge in projects. Click on the categories to find out more.

Prizes and nominations

By developing both talent and knowledge within our organisation, we can provide maximum added value through our projects and optimal client value. A corollary of this are the awards won by Witteveen+Bos and its employees.


Potential contracts regularly present us with dilemmas. These raise questions, such as whether we want to be involved in all possible areas of work, even if they cause social unrest. We have also experienced that it can be a challenge finding the most sustainable solutions together in the chain. This can be due to a lack of time, knowledge, regulations, prioritisation or budget. Starting a discussion about this in the chain, therefore, is also necessary.

Our aim is to encourage our people to speak proactively about concerns, questions and dilemmas. We do this through various initiatives to promote solidarity and exchange, a strong focus on internal communication, and a compliance programme. In 2021, the whole of Witteveen+Bos, worldwide, completed an updated e-learning module on ethics and compliance. The Ethics and Compliance Officer received several requests each week for advice, especially in relation to possible conflicts of interest and accepting gifts.

We continued in 2021 to devote time and attention, in a broad sense, to having the ‘right’ conversations in a diverse and inclusive work environment, allowing (potential) dilemmas to be addressed even more effectively and methods of working to be adjusted. We can also identify whether we need to make or review policy or strategy on certain topics.

As an employer, it is sometimes difficult to make the right choice – for example, on the working from home policy in 2021. Hybrid work presents various opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, we want to maintain the coming together of and exchange between our employees; on the other, we consider it important to consider flexibility and work-life balance. That is why, in 2021, we began experimenting with various sorts of hybrid systems in our offices. In 2022, finding the right balance remains an important topic for discussion.

Measuring social value

Over the past few years, we have developed tools to measure our social value in projects. Following an experimental phase, in 2021 we introduced the SDG Impact Tool more broadly across Witteveen+Bos. Project managers now have a better idea – both beforehand and afterwards – of their projects’ social impact, allowing them to use that insight to increase the social contribution of our projects. Our ambition, ultimately, is to offer insight into the social value and SDG contribution of our project portfolio.

Read more about the SDG Impact Tool