2.4.1 Spectro

Course subject(s) Module 2. Foundation for RRI


Spectro is a Dutch manufacturer of cleaning agents for professional use. The strategy of the company is aimed at developing high-quality innovative cleaning solutions that increase sustainability and lower the costs of cleaning. It is a family-owned company with about fifty employees. The company won the Family Fundament Award for the Best Dutch Family Business in 2014.

The company has an active Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy, with a focus in particular on sustainability. The mission of the company is ‘to decrease the total environmental impact of its products as well as decrease the cost of cleaning’. The company has the ambition to become a European player in the area of sustainable cleaning agents.

A main technological development for Spectro is the Internet of Things (IoT). This will allow making cleaning devices connected and the collection and exchange of data. Such applications will allow better maintenance and servicing (e.g. refilling in time). They also allow the collection of data about cleaning which can contribute to better or more efficient cleaning. One of the potential markets that was explored for new clever dosing systems using IoT is that of cleaning in hospitals. This market is interesting for Spectro because the company is still a smaller player in that market but would like to expand. Healthcare-associated infections (HAI) are a main concern in hospitals. It is estimated that in the EU, four million people acquire an HAI annually, and approximately 37,000 premature deaths occur due to HAI. In additional 110,000 cases, HAI contributed to the death of patients.

Three routes are important for preventing HAI:

    1. patient-to-patient contamination
    2. contaminated hands of healthcare personnel
    3. environmental contamination.

Spectro could contribute to reducing HAI by developing new products that offer a clear added social value. This project can also be a potentially interesting business case for the company. However, getting the different stakeholders aligned is a major challenge. One particular problem is that the departments (or external companies) doing the actual cleaning do not seem to conceive the current situation as problematic nor do they seem to see any potential for the use of IoT in cleaning.

Another more general obstacle is that cleaning contracts are often the result of tendering and that in such procedures the emphasis is often currently primarily on the costs of cleaning (rather than the resulting hygiene). A first step in overcoming such barriers might be to set up a pilot with one hospital; but even that might require efforts that extend the capabilities of a small company and could probably be better initiated at the branch level.

It was further found that responsibly developing such a new cleaning technology requires attention to a range of values in addition to the values of sustainability, quality and innovativeness that are already central in Spectro operations. These values are: public hygiene, privacy, security, transparency (of data collection), autonomy (of cleaning personnel), and reliability and trust. These values were further explored by developing a number of value scenarios. These are short hypothetical stories about (unexpected) use that help to reveal relevant values and potential value conflicts.

In the next video, Laurens Metternich (CEO Spectro) will discuss the CSR-policies  of the company and some moral dilemmas they face. 

Case study Spectro

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Responsible Innovation: Building Tomorrow’s Responsible Firms by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/responsible-innovation-building-tomorrows-responsible-firms/.
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