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The Obstacles with Sustainability Strategy

The SSC Team January 4, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

After you set up a sustainability strategy for a client, does it feel like they end up standing in their own way? Here you have a business that asked you to create a plan, but when it is presented they are hesitant to take the necessary steps to implement one or all of your ideas?


Talk about frustrating! Recently the Harvard Business Review talked about the challenges of navigating the politics of innovation and honestly the same concepts can be applied to sustainability strategy. So how can we leap over those hurdles that are getting in the way of a positive end result?


Here are the tips Brian Uzzi shared:


1. Anticipate Resistance
While the client may be clamoring to “be innovative” or incorporate “creative, new ideas” they may also not actually have the resources necessary to implement them in the long run. While the need for funds or time (or both) may cause resistance initially, you can present how your idea(s) is new, creative and won’t be stealing resources from an on-going project. This should help encourage clients to be more willing to implement your plan.


2. Unmask Political Motives

While it may seem clear to you that some kind of internal, political factors are getting in the way of sustainable changes, often the real reasons may not come to the forefront. The clients may present issues —cost, time, complexity — that are publically acceptable but are just covers for underlying factors. Maybe the client sees that the change may impact them in a way they don’t find positive. Or they feel like there isn’t enough data to support making adjustments. To move past issues that may not even be made clear to you, might require expanding your network and bringing more people on board to gain support to move forward.


3. Find the right champion

That’s where tip three comes into play. You may need another player within the organization — perhaps someone very senior — who will buy into the sustainable efforts you plan to implement. With them on board, it will likely be less challenging to convince others that there is merit to what you are proposing. However, you may need more than management support to seal the deal.


4. Secure social proof

So people wanted to make their office more sustainable, but they haven’t seen hard data that supports it will be effective. But since that evidence won’t be available until they implement the plan what are you going to do? Here’s where social impact can come into play. At the end of the day if enough people believe something, it doesn’t really matter how many facts we have, that social pressure is likely to be enough. If you can inspire some support within the larger team it is likely to lead to more support and implementation of your plan from the higher ups. If people in the office want to reduce waste and lessen their footprint, their desire is likely to impact others in the office.


Implementing your strategy may end up taking as much (or more!) work than creating it. But if you can approach the challenge with awareness, hopefully each project can be accomplished without a lot of added stressors. 

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

The SSC Team January 2, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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 December.


What is augmented reality and why is it important to integrate it into sustainability advocacy and strategy? 


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


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


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What is Augmented Reality and Why is it Important to Integrate it into Sustainability Advocacy and Strategy?

The SSC Team December 26, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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While the technology for augmented reality is still in its infancy, the capabilities are proving that AR could be key to helping bridge the gap between data and understanding data.

While reality is three-dimensional, the incredible amount of data we now have available to us to help inform our decisions and actions remains trapped on two-dimensional pages and screens. This gulf between the real and digital worlds limits the ability of many to fully take advantage of the incredible depth of information provided by billions of smart, connected products (SCPs) worldwide.

In “Why Every Organization Needs an Augmented Reality Strategy” Michael E. Porter and James E. Heppelmann examine what AR really is along with it’s evolving technology, how companies should deploy AR, and the critical choices that they will face when it comes to integrating AR into strategy and operations.

So what is augmented reality? It is a set of technologies that superimposes digital data and images on the physical world in a way that can release untapped and uniquely human capabilities. More broadly, AR enables a new information-delivery system, that could profoundly impact the way data is structured, managed, and delivered online. While the internet has dramatically impacted the way that information is collected, transmitted, and accessed, its model for data storage and delivery—pages on flat screens—does have limits: It requires people to mentally translate 2-D information for use in a 3-D world.

This is not always an easy task — think about that Ikea direction sheet you had to work with the last time you put together a dresser and you understand the challenges.  But by superimposing digital information directly on real objects or environments, AR can provide people with the opportunity to process the physical and digital simultaneously, eliminating the need to mentally bridge the two, improving the ability to rapidly and accurately absorb information, make decisions, and execute required tasks quickly and efficiently.

AR is poised to enter the mainstream with one estimate putting spending on AR technology at $60 billion in 2020. AR will affect companies in every industry and many other types of organizations, from universities to social enterprises. In the coming months and years, it will transform how we learn, make decisions, and interact with the physical world. It will also impact how enterprises can assist their customers, train employees, design and create products, and manage their value chains, and, ultimately, how they compete. While challenges in deploying AR remain, pioneering organizations including Amazon, Facebook, General Electric, Mayo Clinic, and the U.S. Navy, are already implementing AR and seeing a major impact on quality and productivity.

So you get the basic concept, but might still be uncertain as to why AR will be necessary? Take this example from The Guardian about climate change and how people have a very difficult time making long-term decisions (or even accepting it’s reality) because they do not see it happening right in front of them and therefore don’t see a reason to worry. Scientist and artists have already come up with some super creative ways of using augmented reality to help people see and feel the future if we don't do something today. Including the app After Ice which helps may help those who don’t understand the dangers of climate change experience the impact from wherever they are standing making it “real” for them in a way that reading or diagrams hasn’t been able to do.

Other interesting uses of AR include White Noise, an installation that pits realtime data on consumption against conservation — consumption almost always wins. Or artist and designer Catherine Sarah Young collaboration with scientists from Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Northwestern Switzerland, last year to develop the exhibition The Apocalypse Project: House of Futures which speculated about the future of our environment through a the lens of high fashion. The interactive projects allowed visitors to discuss their ideas about what makes a sustainable planet and a desirable future.

While AR won’t be a part of every business tomorrow now is a good time to get ahead of the game and start to think about how this incredible technology could help your business better tell its story of serve it’s customers or employees. It may seem like the future, but it is going to be a part of our every day life before long. 

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

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

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

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).

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?

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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.


  • 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.


  • 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".


  • 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!