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

Month October 2015

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog for October

The SSC Team October 29, 2015 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Each month, we highlight some of our more popular content on the SSC blog!

In case you missed them, here's a round-up of our most popular blog posts from this past month. These are the articles that received the most attention from our online audience. Check them out!

  1. Puma, Adidas, Under Armour - Who Has the Best Sustainability 
  2. Companies with GREAT Sustainability Websites
  3. Using Risk as a Lens for Sustainability Decision-Making
  4. Life Cycle Analysis Can Help You Write a Better ‘Continuity Plan’
  5. 5 Ways to Benchmark Your Sustainability Performance

If you like an article, please consider sharing it online via your favorite social media platform. Helping us grow our audience is the #1 way you can show your support for the work that we do.

What you know AND who you know are important for aspiring sustainability consultants

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

If you’ve been on our website and really want to become part of our consultant network, you know that there is one thing you should never, ever say. Ever.

Don’t know what it is?

Then you haven’t done your homework.

Sustainability consulting is a small world

If you’re trying to break into the world of sustainability consulting, then you need to truly strategize about how to engage with industry leaders, consultants, and firms who are hiring.

A recent article in Entrepreneur gives a round-up of the 10 strategies for making friends with important people in your networking plan.

The first five steps are all about research, reading, and making an effort to truly understand your potential contact’s business strategy and hot buttons. Next, activate your network, stay in touch, and add value to your potential contact’s day-to-day through meaningful communication.

Have the skills (or grow them)

While you’re “working the room” to build your professional network, make sure you fully understand what it takes to be a sustainability consultant. Know your own skill set and be able to describe how those skills will apply in a sustainability consulting roles.

Know your strengths, and your shortcomings

Don’t oversell yourself to a high-profile potential contact, or you might ruin your reputation before you gain a foothold. Be honest about where you are in your career, what your areas of interest are, and make efforts to improve your skills through practice and education.

Learn more about specific sustainability consulting training courses we offer, and opportunities to work with us

More evidence that you should wait to act on sustainability

The SSC Team October 22, 2015 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the blog archives. 

We wrote, “Why You Should Wait to Act On Sustainability” for Environmental Leader. The comments were...interesting, and showed that there was a lot of disagreement about the premise to move more slowly and thoughtfully on corporate sustainability initiatives. But we're sticking to our guns- and we’re very pleased to see more evidence that supports our position.

In the Inc. article, “How to Make Better Decisions: Slow Down”, author Jessica Stillman provides a great round-up of some of the best thinking and ideas regarding fast vs. slow decision-making. Here are some of the highlights:

In their new book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, brothers and academics Chip (of Stanford Graduate School of Business) and Dan Heath (of Duke) explore how to eliminate biases and improve the quality of our decisions. One of the biggest decision-making mistakes they tackle is our tendency not to waffle but to decide too quickly. Stanford's Re:Think newsletter explains that the authors devote a considerable portion of the book to the idea of widening your options, advice that may seem at odds with the very definition of decision making. 

This is huge insight for sustainability practitioners, who should remember that one of the best ways to widen your options is to engage with stakeholders along the value chain. Don't just ask your green team to come up with great ideas -- ask your suppliers, your customers, your contractors, and your investors. 

The goal, in other words, isn't to go fast and eliminate options. It's to slow down and add them. So how do you accomplish this? The key, the authors say, is taking the time to gather information and alternatives. Using devil’s advocates, asking people who have solved similar problems, gathering relevant statistics, and soliciting the advice of friends and family members can all help.

While you're gathering all of this information, it can be helpful to have a structured process in order to capture insights for later review. After all, it's easy to lose track of who said what, emerging themes and where they are coming from, and ideas worth following up on. So take some time BEFORE you begin your decision-making process to think about how you will engage, and how you'll manage the inflow of information.

You might object that today's market moves too fast for such lollygagging. But Heath replies that considering less information rarely actually saves time, either because we make bad decisions (and then stick with the path we've chosen long after we should abandon it) or because we waste time anyway waffling over limited data and alternatives.

Yes! Based upon our sustainability consulting experience, we have found that taking the time to gather lots of options has allowed our clients to make confident decisions and execute them fully -- rather than make half-cocked initiatives that get only partial support or just lip service.

The Heath brothers aren't the only people warning leaders not to be seduced by quick decision making, of course. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman wrote a whole best-selling book on the limitations of quick thinking called, appropriately, Thinking, Fast and Slow. If you haven't picked it up yet, it's well worth a read in full and is packed with examples of how our knee-jerk decision-making machinery can lead us astray, as well as techniques to short-circuit bias. But for the quick-and-dirty summary, look to Harvard Business Review, which offers this article on one technique, the premortem, and another article by Kahneman himself outlining the basics of why quick decision making is often bad decision making

So what do you think? Leave a comment here, or join the conversation on Twitter 

Life Cycle Analysis can help you write a better ‘business continuity plan’

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

Emergency planning is critical for a business to survive a natural disaster, political disaster, loss or incapacity of a key leader, or other catastrophe. However, it’s not an issue that most businesses want to talk about.

“Smart entrepreneurs, however, have a healthy fear of the unknown and regard it as a strong motivator to take action and protect both their businesses and the talented people who help them thrive,” writes Heather Ripley in a recent article from Entrepreneur.

Ripley outlines four key steps to develop a business-continuity plan for small business owners. The first step is identify potential disasters and their solutions.

Identifying disasters – the basics

Pinpointing common crises – car accidents, hurricanes, data loss, supply chain disruptions due to politics or weather events – are the basic first steps in continuity planning.

Going beyond the basics

We believe that performing a full product life cycle assessment will help businesses better identify potential disasters and their solutions.

Once you know where your raw materials come from, how they are harvested, your intermediate suppliers, the countries where those suppliers operate, the politics and climate of those countries, the modes of transportation in your supply chain, the demands and opinions of your customers, and the where and how your products are disposed, you’ll immediately be able to see where your risks are and how to plan to mitigate those in a crisis.

Even better, Life Cycle Assessment will help your business eliminate some risks well before a crisis begins. Maybe you will find value in setting up multiple suppliers in different geographic regions to decrease the effect of a typhoon or hurricane in one place. You could find that phasing out an ingredient in your product now, before that ingredient becomes a target for protest, may add a selling feature to the product, decrease risk, and decrease environmental impact. 

If you want to know more about how Life Cycle Assessments will help you identify and mitigate risks, contact us or check our LCA services page to give you an idea of how they can guide your sustainability-guided continuity planning. 

Views: Basic Psychology Can Empower Energy Efficiency

The SSC Team October 15, 2015 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the blog archives:

Most people are not aware of how much energy they are using (or wasting). Many feel as though they have little control over their monthly utility bills. However, social scientists suggest that if people were made aware of 1. their power usage costs in real time; and 2. how those costs compare to their neighbors and others in similar situations, energy conservation would be enhanced because of people’s desire to outperform.

According to Scientific American, new technology may improve awareness of our energy use and help push peoples desire to conserve energy.

One example of such new technology was employed by Southern California Edison utility which gave its consumers an Ambient Orb - a ball that sits on one’s table and communicates wirelessly with the local power grid. During peak demand hours, the ball glows red. When electricity prices are lower, the ball grows green. After only a few weeks, residents using the Ambient Orb decreased their power consumption during peak periods by 40 percent.

Competition and the ability to compare energy usage with one another may encourage further saving. A study was conducted in a small California town where all residents were notified about their energy consumption in previous weeks as well as the average consumption in their neighborhoods. Included with each month’s utility bill, individual homes were given a smiley face for bellow average consumption and a frown for an above average bill. This simple expression prompted excessive users to cut back and encouraged savers to continue saving.

These examples seem to illustrate a fundamental misconception – that being more energy efficient will somehow make life more difficult or less comfortable. A more reasonable conclusion may be that comfort is relative. Meaning, some people may actually want to do their laundry late in the evening or early in the morning if they can save money.

The article articulates another simple point - knowledge is power. People should be informed about their energy use in more effective ways!

Have you seen other technology that uses positive reinforcement or active awareness to encourage more sustainable behavior? Let us know in the comments!

Dispatch from SSC summer 2009 Intern Paul Turaew

Trying to get a green light on your sustainability project? Become a mind-reader

The SSC Team October 8, 2015 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

We have worked a wide variety of with in-house sustainability teams – from one task leader to full departments. The size of the team, or its location in the org chart, have never been a problem.

As long as the company leadership and company values align with sustainability issues, our combined efforts result in real, meaningful progress on sustainability programs. 

However, when we’re trying to win a new client, or even work with our clients and help them persuade their own company leadership to take the next big step in a sustainability project, mind reading can go a lot farther than spreadsheets and case studies.

Telepathy might be a stretch, but using perception and doing a lot more listening than talking, might be the best ways to advance your cause, according to a recent Fast Company article, “Five ways to read someone’s mind.”

1. Start with generational differences

In most business settings, this refers a lot to communication strategies between, say, a Baby Boomer boss and a Millenial intern, but in sustainability planning, you have to consider how clients, co-workers or superiors view sustainability through the lens of how they were raised to view it.

Remember, the EPA was only formed in 1970. Your boss might remember when this happened, and have an opinion about it.

Try to have conversations about how decision makers view the entire issue of conservation, sustainability, government policy, and social responsibility to hone in on their current views, where they are most likely to take proactive steps, and….

2. What are their hot buttons

Everyone has a hot button. When trying to win support for a sustainability effort, doing all of the conversational research on generationaldifferences will help you identify hot buttons before they blow up.

Have conversations about where they believe the company is going and what risks it might face in the future, and then frame sustainability efforts as solutions to the risks the company might face. Then, listen, and listen some more.

3. Consider personalities

Once you’ve figured out a decision maker’s view on the issue, and how to best discuss it to avoid hot buttons, consider the individual’s personality.

How does he or she like to receive information? Lengthy reports? Case studies? Quick meetings? With a strategic plan? On a spreadsheet? During a casual lunch date?

The more you know your client, co-worker, or superior as a person the more you can persuade them of the value of your project in a format that you know is the most persuasive to them.

4. Look for nonverbal communication

You finally get time to present your case for creating a sustainability report for your company or client, but you see that the decision maker is distracted, checking their texts, or looking away. Stop wasting your time.

Instead, toss out the presentation and go back to Step 1.

Leaning in, eye contact, and bringing their own ideas to your presentation are a good sign that you’re going to get a “yes.”

5. Be a good listener

If you’ve prepared a great report on the positive impact of how performing a carbon footprint will help your company’s bottom line, but your CEO keeps interrupting you to ask about supply chain issues, pay attention.

Maybe you can win her over by making the case for doing a Life Cycle Analysis to kick off your larger effort of sustainable change.

If the tone of voice changes, an increase of sighs or (yawns!), or the conversation starts to turn emotional, step back.

Do you feel like you’ve hit a dead-end with your client or supervisor? Consider a one-on-one coaching session with our President, Jennifer Woofter, to talk about roadblocks, circling back, and proven ways to get your project back on the priority list.

Making the case for water conservation? Communicate risk in dollars and cents

The SSC Team October 6, 2015 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

With extreme heat, drought conditions and raging wildfires in the headlines around the world, water and water conservation has been top of mind this summer and fall.

We have been talking about water sustainability in terms of corporate sustainability assessment, reporting and risk management for years. But many companies are just now looking at ways to assess their water risk.  

If you’re on the sustainability team, there is no better time than right now to make the case for performing a risk assessment and developing a sustainable water strategy to help mitigate business risk.

One of the best ways to speak the language of company leadership is to present risk in terms of dollars and cents.

Monitize how water scarcity may impact revenue

The Water Risk Monetizer is a tool that enables water-dependent businesses to look at their current and future water risks, with direct-impact insight into how water, or water scarcity, will impact revenue.  This free financial modeling tool will help water-dependent businesses better understand the current and future value of water.

When supply and demand meet water

A basic human need, water is likely the most under-priced natural resources in the global economy. Water costs to business have the potential to dramatically increase, or be made unavailable for business needs, as public opinion and government policy shift to ensure equal access for basic human consumption. 

Businesses can expect the cost and availability of water to increase, and should plan now to incorporate those increased costs, or look for ways to minimize water use, to ensure financial viability in an age of water scarcity.

Understand water risk, plan for water reduction

A monetized water scarcity assessment will help companies identify areas where risk exists today and in the future.

But, performing a cursory risk assessment is just the first step. Next, you’ll need to delve into actionable solutions to mitigate risk before it becomes a revenue loss – supply chain analysis, production technologies, factory siting, R&D strategy, or even product phase-out planning.

Make the case for water conservation, and then push for some real strategic water sustainability strategy.

If you are interested in corporate water management, you'll love our water footprinting tools. Got another water resource to share? Leave a comment, or talk to us on Twitter (@jenniferwoofter).

Using Risk as a Lens for Sustainability Decision-Making

The SSC Team October 1, 2015 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

I often tell clients that sustainability is not a stand-alone concepts, but a lens through which  companies can make good business decisions. It's another set of criteria, another flowchart of questions, that lead to optimal choices.

That said, sustainability is not a perfect lens in and of itself. Sure, there are sustainability concepts and frameworks (like materiality, zero waste, and The Natural Step) that aim to provide guidance on how to think about sustainability, and protocols on how to use sustainability to make decisions. But I find that it's often lackluster -- at the end of the materiality process, or the Natural Step "ABCD process" we often look around the table and say "okay, that seems reasonable, but what does it mean for ACTUAL planning for next quarter? And what does it tell us about changes needed for next year's budget?"

Here is where risk, and it's associated tools, comes in. By marrying traditional risk assessment, mitigation, and adaptation methodologies with sustainability concepts, we can start to answer questions like:

  • How likely is it that climate change is going to have a significant impact on our operations in the next three years?
  • How big of an impact is water scarcity going to be for our supply chain in the next decade?
  • How resilient is our business to labor unrest in Asia?
  • Of all the options for adapting to increasing sustainability regulation, which ones are likely to be the most effective?

There is SO MUCH WORK to be done at the intersection of sustainability and risk. It's really exciting work, and if you've done any reading on the subject lately, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!