Month <span class=January 2015" src="/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/cropped-office-building-secondary-1.jpg">

Month January 2015

Featured B Corp of the Month: UpSpring and How They Are Bringing Sustainability to Their Clients

The SSC Team January 29, 2015 Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

We’re big supporters of the principles behind the B Corp movement, but we want to do more than just "spread the love" about it, we want to share the sustainability success stories from other B Corps!  Each month we’ll be publishing an interview with a sustainability champion of a B Corp – and this month we are featuring UpSpring!

UpSpring is a boutique management-consulting firm, based in Santa Fe, NM supporting the design, growth and measurement of mission-driven, market leveraging, and values-based ventures throughout the U.S. and around the world.  They are a certified HubZone small business and a "B Corporation," the first one in New Mexico. Upspring's values-driven expertise generates ‘triple bottom line’ returns, enhancing people, profit, and place. UpSpring brings a circle of seasoned experts across sectors to affordably solve the problems faced by the next generation of leaders building effective businesses and organizations.

What made your company decide that sustainability was a priority?

Sustainability has been a part of our company since its founding in 2007. This has been core to our products/services – consulting to leverage the power of the marketplace for good (see upspringassociates.com for more).

It is also central to our corporate practices. For example, we donate 1% of our gross revenue to charities working to make the world a better place; we maximize recycling and composting in our office; and we go out of our way to source supplies from local vendors – even if it costs a bit more.

Sustainability was the reason to start this firm instead of staying with other consulting practices, to ensure that we really were ‘doing well by doing good’ and that our efforts led to a better tomorrow for financial, social/community, and environment improvements.

What is your company's greatest sustainability accomplishment to date?

We are very proud of our B Corporation score of 124 (bcorporation.net) for which we have been recognized twice as a Best for the World Small Business. In 2012, we were a Sustainable Business of the Year Honoree.  

One of the most comprehensive things we did (which took a year) is to change our corporate charter to include sustainability elements ‘baked’ into the DNA of the company, and not just talked about.  Now, we have things important to us that is explicit in the governance of the company, including (among other things): treatment of our employees, engagement with our clients, sourcing supplies, green transportation, and giving back to the community.

What is the biggest sustainability challenge facing your industry today?

There are some really unsexy challenges we see time and again: managers and leaders just not taking enough time to see good ideas through. Everyone is working hard and there isn’t enough time. People will say sustainability is important, but you have to dedicate staff time to put things in place.

So, we use some simple tools like planned vs. actual tracking to make sure folks follow through. This can be through a corporate tool like balanced scorecard, but it can also just be 1 page of paper with what you are going to do this quarter. It doesn’t have to be complicated. But, it has to be thoughtful and intentional.

How important is sustainability to your customers, and how do you tell them your sustainability story?

Many of our customers don’t have the industry jargon around SRI, ESG, TBL, etc. I see terms thrown around and mis-used. We start with basics –

What is the purpose of your organization?

What problem are you trying to solve?

What makes your solution different from what is out there now? (special sauce – value proposition)

We tell folks we exist to help entrepreneurs and their organizations put their ideas into practice for a better tomorrow. We feel this is a universal need. With engagement and dialogue, we can educate customers with more options for themselves. 

We have written a few of our case studies and learnings, available for free online, Find out more under ‘Resources’ at upspringassociates.com.

Who or what inspires your company in its sustainability journey?

Our clients. The entrepreneurs that lead these social, community, cultural, and environmental change organizations and their businesses with world changing products. 

About Drew Tulchin:

Drew Tulchin has 16 years experience building start-ups and growing organizations. Specialization is in business planning, raising capital, implementing good ideas, and measuring impact for 'triple bottom line' returns - market driven business success that generates social, community, and environmental value. Consulting experience includes throughout the U.S., with Native American Tribes, and in 40+ countries from A (Afghanistan) to Z (Zambia). 

Be sure to check out some of our other featured B Corp of the Month interviews here!

How Chipotle Is Giving Consumers Exactly What They Want: Authenticity

The SSC Team January 27, 2015 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

By: Alexandra Kueller

Honesty is the best policy, right? According to customers, the answer is yes. Public relations and communications firm Cohn & Wolfe conducted a study on authentic brands by company to see consumers are demanding. In fact, the top three qualities or behaviors that people want to see from big companies are communicating honestly about products and services, not letting customers down, and acting with integrity all times.

Fast Company then asked people in the United States and 11 other major markets what they wish to see from brands, and do you know what was on the bottom of the list? Innovation, great products, and having a popular brand.

Chipotle is taking note of all of these points: the Mexican-food chain recently announced that they will stop serving pork at hundreds of their locations when one of their suppliers violated Chipotle’s standards. So how exactly is Chipotle giving their customers authenticity? They are becoming a great model for big brands in the 21st century:

Embrace Authenticity

Companies often have a set of standards and values they hold themselves (and their suppliers) to, but how are consumers to know if a company follows these values? Brands need to be honest and show they are acting with integrity. With Chipotle announcing that they are cutting one of their main protein toppings from some of their stores, they indicated they are not afraid to show that they uphold their standards.

Transparency for the Modern World

Ever since the economic crash, more people are cynical about corporations’ behavior and motives - only 3% of Americans think big businesses are honest and transparent! Companies can no longer afford to hide behind the curtain with more and more people calling for transparency, and Chipotle knows this and is being honest about their product.

Digital Everything

We live in a digital world. People are always connected, which makes it easier for information to be seen by the masses, and it means that both good and bad information about a company can quickly spread. A company cannot wait and hope a bad piece of information will never go public, but instead they need to embrace the digital side and come forward with the information. While Chipotle’s announcement about no longer serving pork might not be “bad” information, it does indicate that the company is embracing the digital world and is not letting anyone beat them to the punch.

Should more companies follow in Chipotle’s footsteps of providing more transparency and authenticity? Let us know in the comments below and join the conversation on twitter!

BOMI Courses – AGPOM Members Save 10%, Enroll Now!

Tara Hughes January 23, 2015 BOMI International No comments

CarouselSliderThumbnail_Bomi_282x130BOMI International – the Independent Institute for Property and Facility Management Education offers AGPOM Members a 10% savings.

BOMI International, a nonprofit educational organization founded in 1970, provides critical education and expertise to industry personnel with property, facility, building systems management, and sustainability responsibilities. More than 27,000 industry professionals hold one or more BOMI International designations, and over 90,000 property and facility management professionals have turned to BOMI International for their continuing education, professional development, and staff training needs.

 

More Risk Management News: Special Offer from Stephen Bushnell + Associates

Tara Hughes January 23, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , Stephen Bushnell + Associates No comments
News

Green Risk Newsletter from Stephen Bushnell + Associates

AGPOM has partnered with Stephen Bushnell + Associates as an industry partner and contributing writer for our blog and Risk Management + Sustainability articles on our Resources page.  For even more relevant and current information on green and sustainable enterprise risk management consider becoming a subscriber to the Stephen Bushnell+ Associates monthly or semi-monthly green risk newsletter.

Each edition includes an enterprise risk management commentary on some of the most critical risk based issues being managed by green and sustainable organizations. In addition you will find links to the latest information customized from our extensive survey of relevant publications. We do the research and you reap the benefits.

The newsletter is divided into areas of interest to public entities, manufacturers, real estate owners and managers, insurance professionals, the healthcare industry and more all at a reasonable cost, just $500 per year for the monthly edition and $1000 for the semi-monthly.

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Contact info@stephenbushnell.com for more information.

 

 

Risk Management and Sustainability, Together Again

Tara Hughes January 23, 2015 Tags: , , , , Stephen Bushnell + Associates No comments

by Stephen Bushnell, Stephen Bushnell + Associates

Karl Bodmer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Karl Bodmer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine a Plains Indian, on horseback, surrounded by tens of thousands of stampeding, 2000 pound beasts. The horse and bison are moving at literally breakneck speeds. He hunts with only a crude bow and arrow and has very little protective equipment. The brave fully understands the risks and through long years of training and shared tribal wisdom has mitigated them. He is an expert risk manager. He has to be if he wants to see the sun rise tomorrow.

The Plains Indians were also experts on sustainability. They only hunted when they needed food. When they killed a buffalo, they used every part of it, wasting nothing. They made tepee coverings, bedding, clothes, moccasins, and robes from the hide. The hair was used for rope and halters, the hoofs for rattles. The horns were used to make dishes and spoons and ladles. They made glues, toys, drums, belts, shields, boats, needles, thread and more from the carcass. And they ate very, very well.

Over the years this connection between risk management and sustainability faded. Each evolved differently, risk management gaining in importance as mankind entered the industrial and technological eras. Sustainability de-emphasized as we believed in the seemingly endless bounty of nature.

Today we face hard realities about the availability and cost of capital, natural, human and financial. Citizens, business people and governments have to make very hard decisions about how to run their lives and operations, design and construct the built environment and plan for the future. Sustainability has come back into style to help shape the economic, human and environmental decisions that must be made. Risk management has evolved into “Enterprise Risk Management” as it now considers managing risk but also maximizing opportunity.

Clearly, just like the Plains Indians, we need to integrate risk management and sustainability as we face our challenges. From living healthy lives to running a profitable business to responding to finite natural resources and dangerous climate change we face risks and opportunities that are best addressed in a framework that combines risk management and sustainable practices.

The sustainable risk management process has several distinct steps:

  • Identify exposures to loss and opportunities. Ideally done in a charrette format, engage your experts and key stakeholders in an ongoing identification of the risks you face and the opportunities you strive for. Consider your physical and financial realities, your history, culture and operating environment. Brainstorm, reminisce about the future (more on this in a future blog) and construct scenarios. You’ll compile a “risk register” and an “opportunity manifest”, point in time summaries of risks and the opportunities. As you analyze the frequency and severity of the risks and the criticality and difficulty of the opportunities to identify those ones with the biggest impacts.
  • Consider the techniques to manage risk and maximize opportunity. There are several classic risk management techniques; avoidance, mitigation, adaptation, transfer (usually contractually or to an insurance company) and retention. Each has financial implications, advantages and drawbacks which you should map. Achieving opportunities begins with identifying and removing barriers. A SWOT (Strength/Weakness/Opportunity/Threat) analysis is helpful. You might also consider a variety of ways to finance the activities needed to realize the opportunity.
  • Select the best combination of techniques based on effectiveness and cost. Rarely does a single technique do the job. For risk you will often mitigate some aspects of the risk and then insure it. You may also retain part of the risk if your insurance policy has a deductible. The mitigation plan you select could generate new opportunities. Think about how energy efficient buildings mitigate financial risks of operating costs. As you remove barriers to opportunities you may be creating new risks that must be managed. If you perform green renovations to your building you create a financial risk that can affect the anticipate payback. Risk and opportunity are really two sides of the same coin.
  • Monitor progress and make mid course corrections. Pretty basic management practices.

Risk and sustainability have always been intertwined. When humans deemphasized sustainability in times of perceived abundance we unwittingly increased the risks we face today and tomorrow. As the environment degrades, natural capital is stressed and the climate becomes unfriendly we will find the answers and actions we must take through the sustainable risk management process. Like the Plains Indians we will act to manage risk and become more sustainable to improve the quality of our lives and those of future generations.

About the author: Stephen Bushnell is a highly experienced insurance and risk management professional with more than 40 years of leadership experience at various property & casualty insurers. Steve is widely recognized as a risk-focused expert on green buildings, sustainable manufacturing and operations, and the broader business, economic and risk management implications of climate, energy and other sustainability challenges.

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Stephen Bushnell + Associates advises property owners and managers, public entities, manufacturers and other enterprises on the enterprise risk management best practices to enhance green buildings and sustainable operations.

 

Introducing the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark

The SSC Team January 22, 2015 Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

By: Alexandra Kueller

Is it possible to have a human rights benchmarking and ranking system for companies? According to a group of investors, an NGO, a think tank, and a research agency, the answer is yes. How soon could this system be a reality? Well, right now!

Last December, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) was officially launched at the 3rd Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights. A total of 500 companies from four key sectors (agriculture, ITC, apparel, and extractives) will be the first to be researched and ranked, and by developing a transparent, publicly available, and credible benchmark, the aim is that the CHRB will help drive the markets to deliver better human rights performance.

The Benchmark is hoping to create a “race to the top” such as other industry-specific initiatives have done. Some examples are Oxfam’s Behind the Brands, which is a competition between food and beverage companies to eliminate land grabs, enhance the status of women in their supply chains, and reduce carbon emissions, and the Access to Medicine Index, which publicly recognizes companies for the raising awareness of relevant issues within the pharmaceutical industry, their investments in access to medicine, etc.

With the ranking system underway, here are what people are saying about the CHRB:

  • Phil Bloomer, Business and Human Rights Resource Center: “The ranking will be a tool for campaigners, trade unions, investors and governments to encourage and press companies to deliver respect, dignity and essential freedoms to their workers, neighbouring communities, and the societies in which they invest.”
  • Bennett Freeman, Calvert Investments: “As investors become increasingly aware of human rights-related risk across sectors and asset classes, this framework will be a critical due diligence tool for evaluating how companies are managing those risks.”
  • John Morrison, Institute for Human Rights and Business: “[The CHRB] will seek to assess the reality behind companies’ public commitments, including what they do to address negative impacts when things go wrong, and what kinds of collaborations they undertake to scale their resources.”
  • Steve Waygood, Aviva Investors: “Our Benchmark will introduce a positive competitive environment as companies try to race to the top of the annual ranking. It will also shine a light on those where performance needs to improve.”

Do you think this new benchmark could be a success? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Ways to Keep Your Sustainability Strategy on Track

The SSC Team January 20, 2015 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Be sure to check out this previously published blog entry for some inspiration to start off the new year right on track. Enjoy:

There is nothing more frustrating than seeing your company’s hard-fought sustainability strategy slip away as a result of competing priorities, disengaged employees, or an opaque bureaucracy. Don't let your efforts go to waste!  Incorporate as many of these ideas into your sustainability plan as you can to ensure that it continues to evolve and adapt (and even improve) long after the initial enthusiasm is over.

1. Frame sustainability in terms of business process and success.

The more you embed sustainability into the existing systems of your company, the more it will become business-as-usual, and thus harder to forget or ignore. If your company has a standard 3-year payback time for capital investments, then make sure your sustainability expenditures pay for themselves in less than 36 months. If your HR department has a skill categorization used for new hires, then make sure that sustainability aspects are added to the tool used by the HR managers. Make sustainability criteria part of the existing new vendor on-boarding process, rather than a separate questionnaire. And in each of these areas, make sure that you can clearly and concisely explain why sustainability adds business value. If you can't do that, you're going to have major trouble getting others on board.

2. Put sustainability into job descriptions. 

What does your sales team need to know about the company's sustainability goals? What kind of eco-design experience do product developers need? What do facilities managers need to know about LEED? What do customer service reps need to be able to explain to sustainability-minded buyers? In which sustainability reporting standards and green marketing guidelines should the marketing staff demonstrate competence? Go through each category of job descriptions--by both department and seniority level--and identify the hard and soft sustainability skills that are needed to execute and improve the company's sustainability strategy over time.

3. Put sustainability into work orders.

Embed sustainability into the way that your work gets done. Whether you call it work instructions, or a standard operating procedure--make sure that you make it explicitly clear who, where, when, why, and how sustainability should be incorporated into everyday tasks and periodic activities. But make sure that the instructions don't have sustainability jargon written all over them- instead, make it simple and clear so that the discrete components of a larger sustainability activity are broken down and inserted into the relevant business process.

4. Set corporate goals, but require business units to get involved.

Letting each department create its own sustainability strategy is like herding cats—it’s nearly impossible to get everyone headed in the same direction. Forcing business units to conform to a single set of corporate sustainability activities is also a recipe for disaster since it ignores the innate differences that appear across geographies, duties and responsibilities, and workforce demographics. Instead, opt for a hybrid approach: decide what sustainability means for the company as a whole. From there, develop three to five top sustainability goals--like reducing carbon emissions by 15 percent in five years. Then, let the individual business units create action plans to get there--using whatever means are most applicable to their unique situation. When business units take ownership over execution of the plan, they are much more likely to see it through to the end.

5. Institute a semi-annual sustainability presentation to the Board of Directors. 

Nothing creates a sense of accountability like standing before the highest governance body of your organization to report on your sustainability successes and failures. Particularly when you follow the rule #1 above (frame sustainability in terms of business success), your board will be eager to hear about how sustainability is reducing operating cost, mitigating risk, increasing revenue, opening up new markets, and improving staff recruitment and retention. Perhaps more than any other group, the Board will force you to answer the question, "what value does this bring to the company?"

If these aren't enough for you, consider adding these options as well:

  • Publish an annual sustainability report -- it's hard to step backwards once you've put yourself out there in terms of transparency and disclosure. And once you're committed to doing a report, you'll be motivated to keep it full of awesome stories, meaningful metrics, and a sense of momentum.
  • Incentivize sustainability performance -- make sure that your performance-based compensation structure (bonuses, stock awards, other perks) are linked to achieving sustainability goals. Make sure to include both short- and long-term sustainability goals, so that people are encouraged to see the big picture, rather than just the year-end goal posts.
  • Dedicate time and money to bringing in outside experts -- Outside perspective can be invaluable. Whether it's a sustainability consultant, a local government representative, or the leader of a national NGO, hearing from sustainability advocates can test your assumptions, reveal new possibilities, and validate your charted course. Get inspired, get challenged, and get re-committed!

What has your company done to keep the sustainability momentum alive and well? Share your comments below, or tell me on Twitter (@jenniferwoofter). And if you liked this article, please share it on your social media platform of choice!

Thanks to 2degrees for also publishing this article.  Read it here.