Month <span class=February 2016" src="/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/cropped-office-building-secondary-1.jpg">

Month February 2016

Sustainability Round Up: Best of the blog for February 2016

The SSC Team February 25, 2016 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. Eco-Friendly De-Icing Alternatives to Salt
  3. 5 Tips for Staying Motivated as a Sustainability Professional When Making a Difference Seems Overwhelming
  4. Welcome to the New Normal: Sustainability as a Requirement
  5. Sustainability Strategy Isn't a Checklist

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.

Use a “Pitch Deck” Format for Your Sustainability Project

The SSC Team February 23, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Investors and C-suite leaders are used to seeing pitch decks. They’re used to getting high-level information that is well presented, organized, and clear, and quickly analyzing it to ask the right questions.

If you bog your ideas or proposals down in data, as we sustainability professionals do love the data, you risk losing the attention of the decision makers and not winning the work or getting the green-light on your big idea.

Instead, consider crafting a pitch deck style presentation to get your idea off the ground. Entrepreneur published a 14-point checklist for investors, and we think it’s easily molded for any project-pitching presentation. Not all 14 are relevant here, but we pulled out the best ones!

1. Cover page.

If you are an outside consultant pitching a project, include personal contact information, logo, and business name to establish your identity. And even if you’re an internal employee, put your name and title on the front page (just in case someone in the board room spaces on your name. Save everyone the embarrassment).

2. Elevator pitch.

Briefly summarize the scope of the project, the goals, and the impact on the company, specifically in terms of this project’s alignment with the company’s strategy (or lack of strategy) in sustainability. Keep this part short.

3. Describe the problem.

Outline why you’re proposing this particular sustainability effort for the company in the first place, using peer benchmarking, risk profiles, and/or stakeholder pressure to demonstrate how this project is a “worthy investment.” For example, if you’re going for a life-cycle assessment for a small manufacturing firm or supplier to a major retailer, talk about supplier scorecards and stakeholder pressure.

4. Propose a solution.

Explain why this sustainability effort is the best next (or first) step toward a marked solution to the problem. Be realistic and don’t over-promise.

5. Competition.

Bring up other case studies from companies similar to the one you’re pitching and demonstrate how a project of this type has been successful to others.

12. Critical risks and challenges.

In a traditional pitch deck, you would want to “address every obstacle and stumbling block you can foresee,” but in this case use this area to demonstrate that the scope of work might grow or change based on discoveries along the way.

6. Market opportunity.

If you’re a consultant, be sure to point out what makes you different from the competition, whether it’s your extensive industry knowledge, your data collection gurus, or your long performance record.

11. Press mentions and accolades (and case studies or references).

Keep this short, but provide references or a case study that demonstrates your expertise.

9. Team (and budget).

Outline how many of the company’s employees will need to set aside time to support this project (or just the budget if you’re pitching as a consultant).

A solid presentation that is well organized and clear will get your point across quickly and give you more time to answer specific questions if the need arises.

We like to provide clear proposals to our clients to clarify and demystify the processes, benefits, application, and cost of services like life-cycle assessments and sustainability reporting. Although every company is unique, we have more than 10 years of experience delivering valuable results for a modest investment. 

Three Ways to Engage Middle Managers in Sustainability

The SSC Team February 18, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

Without the support of middle management there's little hope of implementing a successful corporate sustainability strategy. So what can you do to get them engaged?

A lack of knowledge around sustainability initiatives and goals amongst your staff can usually be traced back to middle management.

Your executive team recently developed a beautiful sustainability strategy. It’s ambitious, relevant, timely, and aligned with the company's overarching business goals. It is responsive to stakeholder concerns, and is built on a strong business case that will deliver financial and social returns in the short- and long-term. You are feeling great about the work that's been done, and you eagerly anticipate seeing the sustainability plan put into action.

But there's a problem. When you walk around and talk to employees - in the warehouse, behind the front desk, in the assembly line, and near the water cooler - they don't seem to be aware of the amazing sustainability work that's been accomplished to date. They can't identify the company's top-line sustainability goals, or explain how sustainability fits into their everyday job responsibilities.

What's gone wrong? The problem can usually be traced back to middle management. Without a swath of mid-level managers ready to take the lead on sustainability goals and empower their employees to do the same, there is little hope of implementing a successful corporate sustainability strategy.

There's lots of research that shows the critical importance of an engaged middle management. In fact, one study indicated that that approximately 43% of an organization's success resides with mid-managers whose positions are generally two to three levels below the CEO. Think about that: 43% of your company's sustainability success rests with your middle management.

Mid-level managers are responsible for translating corporate mandates (like business goals, financial objectives, and sustainability strategies) into clear and practical directives that can be applied throughout the organization. They are also responsible for coaching and developing employee talent, as well as resolving conflict - both between employees and among competing business initiatives.

When managers can't (or won't) take sustainability seriously, or are unable to effectively translate sustainability into something that is useful and compelling to their staff, momentum is lost and corporate sustainability initiatives flounder.

So how can companies best support their middle managers throughout the sustainability journey? Read about it here.

Do You Need Expensive Software for Environmental Reporting?

The SSC Team February 16, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

According to a recent press release by the Environmental Business Journal (EBJ), the U.S. environmental industry grew 3.9% in 2014. Although the data will take another 10 months to come together for 2015, it’s fairly safe to say the sector saw growth again last year as the economy held steady.

EBJ reports on 14 business segments divided into three categories, all three categories showing upward trends in 2014.

The largest single growth area in 2014 was a double-digit gain in environmental software and information systems.

The industry has seen many environmental, health, safety and sustainability software vendors disappear as quickly as they appear, but every industry sees the tech start-up side get red hot, cool off, and heat up again.

With evolving needs, evolving science, and evolving technology capabilities, it is not at all surprising that many start-ups struggle in this field.

Complicating matters is the fact that many of the customers that a software company in the environmental software and information systems field would need to acquire aren’t fluent in what they actually need to purchase (or how to use it).

Environmental reporting and data management systems are a lot like complicated legal matters or the tax code: companies likely need a specialist, and we haven’t reached a tipping point in the business community where enough companies have specialists.

Companies might buy a software license from a promising start-up with good software, yet not know how to actually collect the appropriate data and end up not using the tool to its potential. By the time they’ve got the team in place and are ready to ramp up, the software tool they’ve purchased needs an expensive upgrade because of changes in the science, regulations, or standards of sustainability reporting. You can see how the CEO might balk on a second wave of investment when the first wasn’t a huge success.

It’s not that start-ups are struggling in a silo, it’s more likely that we just haven’t reached a critical mass of companies with the in-house resources that can gain maximum value from a well-built environmental software tool. Combine that with with a standard of reporting that itself is a moving target, and it is really difficult to gain traction as a environmental software company.

If you know your company is ready to do begin sustainability reporting, but don’t have the in-house team to manage the software tools on the market, contact us. We work with leading software programs for tracking and reporting on environmental data, and help companies determine what might will for them.





TED Talks Sustainability: Jill Farrant – How we can make crops survive without water

The SSC Team February 11, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Nothing inspires us like a good TED talk, and here’s one of our favorites. Enjoy it!

About the speaker: Jill Farrant is a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa. She researches resurrection plants plants that can survive extreme drought, “resurrecting” when moistened or irrigated.

About the talk: Farrant believes that if we can better understand the natural preservation mechanisms of “resurrection plants,” we could better understand and develop more drought-tolerant crops to feed populations in increasingly dry and arid climates around the world. 


Sustainability Strategy Isn’t a Checklist

The SSC Team February 9, 2016 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

There are a lot of business books out there that provide templates for business plans and checklists. And having a plan and a checklist is important for any project or start-up, but developing a business strategy or incorporating sustainability into a business strategy isn’t a series of items to check off of a “to-do list.”

Even if you went through and commissioned and then checked off an annual sustainability report, a carbon footprint, a life-cycle analysis, et cetera, there is no guarantee that your organization would even be close to executing a true sustainability strategy.

Sustainability strategy should be based on an organizational understanding of why you need to invest in assessing and reducing your environmental impact. Without understanding why, you risk wasting time and money on projects that don’t align with the overall business strategy and stakeholder needs.

After determining why sustainability is important to the organization, you should focus on materiality, or what are the most important or impactful steps the organization can make inside of a realistic timeframe or budget or deadline.

Finally, look to experts to develop a proven path forward that speaks to both the materiality and the underlying corporate strategy on this issue.

For example, if your company is a small manufacturing firm held accountable to demanding suppliers or upcoming environmental regulations, but you have no clear idea on your environmental impact, then your why may be “we need to know what we are facing so we can answer questions of our stakeholders with honesty and confidence.”

Next, is materiality – are suppliers or regulators more important? Can they be addressed through the same sustainability tool or report?

If you determine through a materiality assessment that your suppliers are the most important stakeholder group to address first, next, consider what information they are demanding, in what format, and by when. In the example case of manufacturing, this may be be collecting LCA data for a supplier scorecard or more pulling together even more thorough data for a third-party environmental or human product declaration (EPD/HPD) report.

Essentially, sustainability strategy should be tailored as carefully as marketing strategy or pricing strategy.

Company leadership should clearly understand why the sustainability efforts are integral to the success of the company, how important they are to the stakeholders who drive that success to help prioritize efforts, and which strategic path forward to take to meet stakeholder needs best.

SSC not only delivers excellent sustainability consulting services, we are focused on ensuring our clients choose the service, and level of service, that will meet their real business goals.


Are You Giving Your Employees Too Many Green Choices?

The SSC Team February 4, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

You might think that it's helpful to provide employees with dozens of tips to help them green their home and work. But some new research about decision-making suggests that offering fewer choices may be the better option. 

In a recent Fast Company article, Your Choice Of Paper Towels Shouldn't Cause An Existential Crisis, author Patrick Kayser recounts his personal story of having too many choices of paper towels at the supermarket. His research has uncovered some interesting findings about how people make decisions:

Barry Schwartz, in his book, The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More, maintains that too much choice can lead to the paralysis of decision making. He cites a study where the more options employees had in choosing their 401k plan, the less likely they were to actually make a choice--often leaving up to $5,000 of free company matching on the table. 

Now apply that thinking to your sustainability program--and specifically to initiatives in which you encourage employee engagement. Is it possible that people are feeling overwhelmed by the options and instead choose to do nothing? What would happen if you narrowed down the sustainability-related programs to the top three company priorities, and asked people to join one? 

Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing, conducted a study featuring free samples of jam in a supermarket. Every few hours, she would switch her offering of jam from 6 samples to 24. 60% of all visitors were drawn to the larger assortment of jams, but they were significantly less likely to actually purchase jam. Iyengar’s study found that only 3% of people who visited the larger assortment of jams bought a bottle--whereas 30% of visitors to the smaller assortment ended up making a purchase. 

We've actually written about this study before, and what it means for green programs at work. Essentially, the more specific you can be in focusing your sustainability priorities, the more likely it is that you'll get employee participation. And by focusing on fewer programs, you'll have more time and resources to take those programs to the next level.

Schwartz goes on to paint an even bleaker picture for marketers. He holds that the abundance of choice causes us to dislike whatever it is we do end up choosing because of the opportunity cost associated with the other options. So, if we can break through the paralysis that too much choice presents us and actually buy something, there is a good chance we won’t like whatever it is we bought because we’ll be dreaming about how great the other options could have been? 

Ack! You don't want employees feeling disappointed with their green decisions, or wondering if they should have chosen something better. (Notice we are carefully avoiding any reference to the grass being "greener" on the other side). Instead, reduce your employee-led sustainability programs and make sure that you do a terrific job at capturing each one's winning stories, awesome metrics, and audacious goals. You'll make it easier to demonstrate the value of each program, and keep employees motivated to do more. 

Did you like this article? Follow SSC President Jennifer Woofter on Twitter (@jenniferwoofter), where she tweets about employee engagement strategies that work for sustainability-minded companies. Want a more meaty bite on the topic? Download our white paper on Engaging Employees in the Company's Sustainability.

SSC Releases Latest Case Study on Health Product Declarations for a Global Commercial Interiors Manufacturer

The SSC Team February 2, 2016 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

SSC is working with Stonhard/Liquid Elements, a global leader in the manufacturing and installation of commercial interior floor, wall and lining systems, to gather data to complete the company's Health Products Declaration (HPD). 

The reporting requirements for manufacturers in the building industry continue to demand more detailed information, as architects, engineers, and builders continue to design structures to meet the high standards of green design and gain LEED, USGBC, and other certifications. 

But many manufacturers do not have the in-house expertise to gather data used in HPD and/or EPD reports, use the industry tools required to submit and report data, and also ensure their proprietary information is protected.

Read our latest case study to see how the SSC team was able to help the client with its HPD and help them navigate the path toward accurate, secure and transparent product reporting. 

Contact us to talk about taking the first step toward navigating your industry-specific reporting requirements.