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How to interpret eco labels

The SSC Team March 9, 2017 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

 

SSC President, Jennifer Woofter, was quoted in an article in Recyclebank about how to better understand eco labels on products in order to make wiser product choices.  This is what Jennifer had to say:

“There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace about which certifications are credible and which are fluff. Shoppers who do want to choose environmentally friendly products are throwing their hands up and saying ‘How do I choose?’”

A major cause for confusion is the broad scope of the labels. Jennifer adds, "...labels are applied in roughly three ranges: by product, by company, and by facility. When we see a label on a product, we understandably assume that the label says something about the product, but that’s not always the case. For example, a pint of ice cream might have a B Corps seal, but that doesn’t mean that specific pint of ice cream is sustainable. That’s because a B Corps certification applies to the entire company, not its products. A certified B Corps company has met the threshold for responsible business as defined by B Lab, the 501(c)3 nonprofit that developed and assesses B Corps standards."

Read the entire article in Recyclebank here.

Interested in sustainability strategies in product packaging?  Read our white paper, Cut the Wrap! Packaging Waste and Strategies for Mitigation and Reduction.

 

The Clean Power Plan: A Terrible Economic Idea or a Terrific One?

The SSC Team March 2, 2017 Tags: Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

As predicted, the forecasts of the economic impact of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the EPA’s regulation that limited CO2 emission from power plants, have fallen strongly on partisan lines. The current administration has claimed that EPA regulations are causing economic harm and are planning to roll them back, while others have asserted positive economic impact that will result from the plan.

The World Resources Institute recently reviewed four of the major studies of the CPP to determine which perspective has the most merit.

WRI’s results are clarifying, and not surprisingly they conclude that the CPP likely would not have a negative economic impact through an increased cost of electricity, but the bigger issue is in that the four studies themselves came up with widely different conclusions based from the same data.

How did this happen?

Essentially, the authors of each study were not impartial. Research assumptions were made using foundational data that largely supported a conclusion that would benefit the sponsors of the study.

The lesson: Not all research is created equal.

As the next phase of this work, WRI plans to conduct its own modeling with the primary objective to provide impartial and transparent information on the impact of the CPP – and of all future regulations.

Climate change isn’t partisan. Neither is science. Neither is economics. We need more organizations like WRI, the EPA, governments, universities, and foundations to fund important, unbiased, and peer reviewed work to guide policy work moving forward.

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from February 2017

The SSC Team February 28, 2017 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

We try to post a new blog at least once a week, just to share our insights into the world of sustainability strategy and what it takes to be a sustainability consultant or professional today. Here are our most-read posts from February.

  1. The Business Case for Sustainability
  2. How to Calculate Your Company’s Carbon Footprint
  3. Interview Skills: How to Land Your Dream Job in Sustainability
  4. What “Sustainability Consulting” Is and Isn’t
  5. What Does Gender Equality Have to Do With Climate Change?

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.

 

 

Webinar of the Month: How to Eliminate the Redundancies and Inefficiencies of Independent EHS Systems

The SSC Team February 23, 2017 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Webinars are great for catching up on general topics, or delving into a specific thread. For our EHS professionals, this webinar is a great one for helping you look critically at your EHS systems and consider how integrating them will save the company time and money, as well as improve performance on environmental, safety, and health metrics.

Using sustainability to avoid risk

The SSC Team February 21, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

The evidence that sustainability can be good for business is overwhelming. Most of the case studies, examples, and analysis that has been done show positive links between a sustainable approach to environmental and social issues, and corporate profits, Thus far, the research has been primarily focused on direct operational efficiencies (like retrofitting your office lighting to save money and reduce your carbon footprint), innovation (using biomimicry to drive new product development), and productivity (ie. more engaged employees take less sick leave).

Over the past few years, there has been an increasing amount of discussion about the nexus between sustainability and risk management. And for corporations operating in complex supply chains in a globally-connected economy -- well -- effective risk management can be the difference between success and failure. Below, we take a look at three articles that shed light on why companies still struggle to incorporate sustainability into their risk management practices (and vice versa).

Has sustainability become a risky business? This GreenBiz article by John Davies reviews a report by Ernst & Young. The key takeaway: While more companies are concerned about increased risk and the proximity of natural resource shortages, corporate risk response appears to be inadequate to address the scope and scale of some of these challenges. The free report looks at six corporate sustainability trends with a strong focus on the internal influencers of corporate performance (CEOs and boards), as well as external forces ranging from governments to shareholders and investors.

Playing It Safe Is Riskier than You Think by Bill Taylor in the Harvard Business Review makes the case that "difficult and uncertain times are often the best times for organizations to separate themselves from the pack, so long as their leaders are prepared not to stand pat." While not directly about sustainability, this article certainly supports the notion that economic turmoil is no reason not to be ambitious about tackling big sustainability challenges.

Research: Why Companies Keep Getting Blind-Sided by Risk by Mary Driscoll in the Harvard Business Review presents fascinating insight into why companies (and their executives) are not succeeding at identifying and mitigating risk. Survey findings indicate that most organizations’ leaders did indeed express concern about the impact of political turmoil, natural disasters, or extreme weather. But the findings also show that the people at the front lines of the business were hamstrung by a lack of visibility into risk. Nearly half said they lacked the resources needed to adequately assess business continuity programs at supplier sites. Many relied on the suppliers filling out perfunctory, unreliable checklists. There are some big lessons here for sustainability practitioners! 

We are focused on helping companies use a "lens of sustainability" to spot risk earlier, broaden risk response options, and more effectively mitigate risk within their operations and all along their supply chain. If this work strikes a chord with you, please get in touch with us. We'd love to hear from you!

 

How to Set Carbon Reduction Goals

The SSC Team February 16, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

Based on a presentation by the EPA, we picked up some great nuggets of advice for companies seeking to establish credible and meaningful carbon reduction goals.

KEY COMPONENTS OF A CREDIBLE GHG REDUCTION STRATEGY:

  • Begin with a corporate-wide GHG inventory (base year) of Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with Scope 3 emissions included if relevant to the goal. Annual tracking and reporting of progress is a must!
  • Build an emissions inventory plan, which institutionalizes progress and ensures high quality data. Make sure you know where the data is coming from, who is responsible for managing it, and where (and why) assumptions are being made.
  • Determine a GHG reduction goal, based on a complete and verified inventory. While independent, 3rd party-verification is best, it can be expensive. Consider beginning with an internal auditing and assurance process.

WHAT MAKES A STRONG CARBON REDUCTION GOAL?

  • Absolute reductions are important--don't just rely on efficiency improvements to lower carbon-per-product, carbon-per-revenue, or carbon-per employee trends.
  • Consider your company's goals against projected GHG performance in your sector--are you aligned with industry expectations? (And if you are wildly different from your peers, do you have a good reason as to why you are different?)
  • Goals should be achievable within 10-12 years--ambitious enough to need a decade to execute, but not so lofty as to lose touch with reality.
  • Public commitment from a company's executive leadership adds credibility and gravitas to the goal!
  • Make it specific to your company's operations, and beyond "business as usual".

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS WHEN SETTING CARBON REDUCTION GOALS:

  • Align your goals with what science tells us is necessary for climate-balance. For example, the IPCC recommends reductions of 20-30% by 2020, and 80% by 2050 (from 1990 levels).
  • Frequently review your emissions inventory for completeness, accuracy, and relevance. Determining your carbon footprint boundaries and data sources isn't a one-time process. It should evolve as your company evolves.

Want more information? Check out our carbon footprinting and CDP Reporting services, and download our white paper on the impact of employee commuting on your company's carbon footprint!

TEDTalks Sustainability: To Solve Old Problems, Study New Species

The SSC Team February 14, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk, and here is one of our favorites. Enjoy!

Developmental and regeneration biologist Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado delivers a talk about how the limited number of species involved in today's medical and scientific research studies are harming innovation. Advocating for the use of nature's wonderfully abundant, diverse and mysterious features to explore new solutions to old problems, Alvarado hopes to see biological breakthroughs.

Because research focuses generally on just seven species, including rats, chickens, fruit flies and humans, scientists end up studying an astonishingly narrow sliver of life. By expanding our view, Alvarado hopes  it'll be enough to solve the oldest, most challenging problems in science, like cancer. In this visually captivating talk, Alvarado calls on us to interrogate the unknown and shows us the remarkable discoveries that surface when we do.

What are you watching? Share with us in the comments. 

 

 

 

 

Developmental and regeneration biologist

4 Tips for Getting Closer to Zero Waste

The SSC Team February 9, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

Zero waste is a lofty goal, but it generally pays off because most of the time less is actually more in sustainability planning. Here are a few helpful hints about waste and recycling to push your waste strategy to zero.

1. Choose “single stream.” By allowing employees to sort recyclable material into a single receptacle, you can expect to see an increase in recycling of up to 50%. Make it easy for employees, and they’re more likely to participate!

2. When crafting a zero-landfill strategy, don’t just focus on recycling. Be sure to include options like: closed loop solutions (reuse), composting, and supply chain management.  Remaining materials that can’t be recycled or reused can be converted to energy through conversion technologies: waste to energy, plasma gasification, and anaerobic digestion.

3. Think about waste conveyance design during new construction. Make sure you consider the following:

  • Internal areas for collection, storage, and separation of materials
  • External space for multiple container sizes and service areas
  • Design for ease of use

4. Cover all of the bases when reviewing recycling, sorting, composting or other waste stream management programs

  • Signage
  • Bin size
  • Bin type
  • Tenant education, key component to gain buy-in maybe have a kick-off meeting and continuous reminders with metrics and goals
  • Space constraints
  • Service area

If your organization wants to get a better handle on its waste, a great first step is conducting a waste audit. We’ve developed a toolkit (webinar, guidance, and templates) all around How to Conduct a Waste Audit. If you find that your team doesn’t have the gumption to sort through all that trash, contact us to arrange a waste audit done by sustainability professionals!

 

Interview Skills: Landing Your Dream Job in Sustainability

The SSC Team February 7, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Many people confuse sustainability consulting with green marketing – beautifully branded, sleek consumer products designed with unbleached, post-consumer recycled paper products and lots of leafy logos – or with strategic sustainability communications – guiding employees or green teams toward more sustainable behavioral changes through values training and green workplace programs and policies.  

Sustainability consulting includes both of those elements at times, but most of the heavy lifting in sustainability consulting entails using complicated datasets to analyze and quantify activities, policies, programs, and processes that contribute to the environmental and social impacts of a product or organization.

Essentially, a lot of math. A lot of data. And a lot of analysis. And then a lot of strategic communications.

If you’re still with us, and you still think you’re stoked about a career in sustainability, how are you going to land the dream job?

  1. Get experience in sustainability through internships or fellowships
  2. Ensure you understand the work through finding and working with a mentor in the field
  3. Provide work samples
  4. Knock the interview out of the park

The interview is critical

Taking your interview skills to the next level means demonstrating your ability to learn while doing.

By using the 1956 research of Benjamin Bloom to highlight your higher cognitive thinking. This article helps explain how its done, but essentially – whether looking for a new client or a new job – going beyond storytelling and detailing your experiences based on your abilities to analyze, synthesize, evaluation and adjust course is going to put you ahead of the pack. 

TEDTalks Sustainability: Why Earth May Someday Look Like Mars

The SSC Team February 2, 2017 Tags: Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

We love a good TED Talk. Here's one of our favorites. 

Astrophysicist Anjali Tripath explains how the 400 pounds of hydrogen and almost 7 pounds of helium escape from Earth's atmosphere into outer space every minute may be transforming our planet into the next Martian enclave.

Tripathi studies the atmospheric escape and she considers how this process might one day (a few billion years from now) turn our blue planet red.

Tripathi arned degrees in physics and astronomy from M.I.T., the University of Cambridge and Harvard University. She is recognized as a promising American leader with a commitment to public service and was a 2016-17 White House Fellow.