On this page

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

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

In 2020 we worked on over 4,000 projects in 42 countries. By providing sustainable solutions through these projects, Witteveen+Bos is able to create societal value and contribute to the United Nations’ SDGs. Our seven Sustainable Design Principles (SDPs) are an important means of achieving this.

Sustainable Design Principles

With our seven Sustainable Design Principles (SDPs), we can increase our contribution to the SDGs in projects. We determine, for each project, which SDPs can play a role and to what extent. The SDPs are a component of our quality system. Even if a client does not request a sustainable approach, we always try to incorporate our SDPs into what we do.

An internal survey showed a slight increase in SDP awareness among our employees. At the beginning of 2021, 84.5 % of respondents said they were familiar with the SDPs; of these, 45 % had actually considered them in a project context (78.9 % and 42 % respectively in 2019). The limited application of SDPs in projects remains a point of attention and we will continue working to improve this.

Measuring societal impact

For projects in developing countries, we measure our societal impact with the SDG Impact Tool. In 2020 we developed a tool for non-developing countries based on a similar methodology: the Societal Value Tool. Last year we used this tool to assess a limited number of projects, following their completion, as part of a pilot. Our ambition is to ultimately offer insight into the societal value and SDG contribution of our entire project portfolio. In 2021 we want to score more projects and introduce both tools right across Witteveen+Bos, so that project managers have a better idea – both afterwards and beforehand – of their projects’ societal impact, allowing them to use that insight to increase the societal contribution of our 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.

2020 Focal point: Participatory design

In 2020 we further developed our approach to participatory design. This is important in connection with the forthcoming Environment and Planning Act. Together with our project organisations and clients we audited the application of participatory design in our projects. We learned that this design principle in particular requires close coordination with a client’s environmental management. For this reason, we have developed a three-step plan that facilitates the introduction of participatory design and improves the quality of projects in their 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).