On this page

  • Sustainable design principles
  • Measuring societal impact
  • 2020 Focal point: Participatory design
  • Prizes and nominations
  • 2020 KPIs

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

In 2020, we worked on over 4,000 projects in 42 countries worldwide. By offering sustainable solutions in our projects, Witteveen+Bos can create social value and contribute to the United Nations’ SDGs. Our seven sustainable development principles (SDPs) are a key tool in that regard.

Sustainable Design Principles

With our seven sustainable design principle (SDPs) we increase our contribution to the SDGs in our projects. In each project, we study which SDPs could play a role and to what extent. As our SDPs are part of our quality system, we try to include the SDPs in our activities even if a client does not ask for these.

An internal survey showed a slight increase in familiarity among our employees. In early 2021, 85% of respondents said that they were familiar with our SDPs and of these 45% also actually considered the principles in projects (respectively 79% and 42% in 2019 and 80% and 40% in 2017). The limited application of the SDPs in projects is still a focus point and is something we need to really work on.

Measuring social impact

We measure our social impact using the SDG Impact Tool for projects in developing countries. In 2020, we used a comparable methodology to develop a tool for non-developing countries: the Social Value Tool. We used this tool in a pilot in 2020 to assess a small number of projects retrospectively. The eventual aim is to provide insight into our entire project portfolio’s social value and contribution to the SDGs. We want to assess more projects on impact in 2021 and introduce the two tools throughout Witteveen+Bos so that project managers have a better idea of their projects’ social impact, both retrospectively and in advance. We can then use this insight to increase our contribution in projects.

Read more about how W+B measures impact


Potential contracts regularly present us with dilemmas. These raise questions such as ‘Do we want to be involved in all possible areas of work, even if they cause societal unrest?’. We want to ensure that dilemmas are examined and properly weighed up. In 2020 an employee handbook was created to assist in ethical dilemmas regarding whether or not to apply for a project. In 2021 we aim to share experiences and communicate about dilemmas more often within our organisation, in order to raise awareness.

A dilemma is a conflict of values. It presents a choice that cannot be made solely on a rational-objective basis and is therefore a personal one. With our compliance programme, we are working towards a culture that encourages people proactively to speak about concerns, questions and dilemmas. In 2020 the Ethics and Compliance Officer received several requests each week for advice, especially in relation to possible conflicts of interest and accepting gifts.


Construction is one of the least safe industries to work in and each year an unacceptably high number of accidents occur – thirteen of which were fatal in 2020. As consultants and engineers, we can make the construction industry safer. During the preparation and design phases we can begin taking into account the health and safety issues of the construction, management and maintenance phases. Witteveen+Bos has signed the Construction Safety Governance Code and participates in the code’s leading group. In the coming years we will be contributing to the code’s ambition: structural improvement of safety in the construction industry.

In 2020 an inventory was made of how health and safety is currently organised. During this stocktaking exercise we discovered issues that will be further refined in 2021, such as the process for handling internal reports. We have also begun developing a new structure for organising health and safety globally: the Health & Safety Framework. Following an audit in March 2021, Witteveen+Bos R.I. B.V. was granted full certification at step 3 (out of 5) on the safety ladder. Some front-running PMCs were certified at step 4.


At the end of 2020, the new edition of our Plus+ Innovation Programme began. No fewer than 90 ideas were submitted on the topics of smart cities, smart company, smart cycles, smart deltas and smart infrastructure and mobility, of which 16 were developed into new products and services in a dynamic, accelerated process. ’De Watertekenaar’ was chosen as the winner while the people’s choice prize went to +Reuse Quick Scan. In 2020 our Digital Acceleration and Support centre contributed to the (further) development and scale-up of these and existing successful innovations. We are offering our customers increasingly more innovative, digital solutions. Examples include our participation platform InBeeld, the +Circular Design Tool, the FietsMonitor and the Heat Stress Map.

Focal point 2020: participatory design

We further developed our approach to participatory design in 2020. This is important in the context of the forthcoming Environment and Planning Act. Together with our project organisations and clients, we audited the use of participatory design in our projects and learned that this design principle actually requires close coordination with the client’s engagement and stakeholder management. Specifically, we developed a three-step plan to facilitate the introduction of participatory design and improve the quality of projects in their local environment.

(Digital) participatory design

Prizes and nominations

2020 KPI

  • 100 % of employees are familiar with the sustainable design principles.
  • 100 % of employees considered or applied the sustainable design principles in projects.


  • 84.5 % of employees are familiar with the sustainable design principles (measured via a global survey of all employees).
  • 45 % of employees applied the sustainable design principles in projects (measured via a global survey of all employees).