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White Paper Worth Reading: Choosing the Correct Emission Control Technology

The SSC Team September 15, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Clean air standards and GHG reduction pressure are driving manufacturers to reduce energy use, and sometimes look to install emission control technologies.  

As the air-pollution control landscape changes, manufacturers are rushing to keep up with emission reduction trends, but many questions remain.

Check out this white paper to learn about pairing industrial processes with appropriate emissions control devices, determining the cost-benefit of the various devices, and whether new or established technologies are a better fit for meeting GHG emissions standards.

Choosing the Correct Emission Control Technology

Four Ways to Stay Focused as a Sustainability Consultant

The SSC Team September 13, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

As independent consultants, time management is imperative to juggle multiple clients and meet deadlines. Whether you’re just starting out or 10-years in, it’s always a good idea to assess your daily work habits to ensure you’re getting the most out of your most valuable asset – your time.

1)    Eliminate distractions

As a sole proprietor or small team, it’s easy to get caught up in the detail-oriented work of managing the business (answering phones, replying to emails), marketing (social media, website updates), and learning (reading blogs and white papers). Although these activities are important, if they’re not scheduled appropriately, they are just distractions. Turn off your phone during focus time, close all of those other browser windows, and start a timer. Using an app like Harvest to track time helps you stay “on the clock” and may motivate you to stick to the task at hand. In between tasks, use that time for a 5-minute “check in” on email, text, and social – if that is your regular daily priority in between project work.

2)    Organize tasks

What’s the best way to eliminate distractions? Organize tasks, and if you have the resources, outsource some of them. Using a software platform, like Asana or Basecamp, or a CRM platform, you can quickly prioritize, budget time, and follow steps by priority, not just chronologically. And you don’t always need to hire a new employee to get extra relief from the daily distractions and grind of running a business. Get a part-time virtual assistant to return calls and emails, budget in money for your expert consultants to write blogs for your website, and look for creative ways to automate, eliminate, or streamline tasks.

3)    Practice mindfulness

This isn’t something we would have immediately thought of, but a recent article in Harvard Business Review made the case for mindfulness practice. Start the day in a calm, mindful way, and then “go to work,” following your prioritized, organized task plan and blocking out distractions. Don’t get up and check email and jump in to work that you haven’t assessed against your other competing interests.

4)    Shorten, shrink, and schedule meetings

Clients love meetings, calls, and check-ins, but you need to gently push back, training your clients to schedule a time-limited meeting with a clear objective tied to a deliverable – and only inviting the people directly involved with that step. Write out a short meeting agenda – for yourself, even if you don’t need to share it with the client – and make sure you jot down the action items that should result from the meeting. Keep it brief – 15 minute meetings are our favorite – and spend a few (scheduled) minutes each week assessing how the meeting flow went, what you can replicate for future clients, and where you can improve. Eventually, you’ll have a good handle on the type of meeting, the length of meeting, and the important persons to include for different types of projects.

Use tools to help manage you and keep you focused on and track, but also be sure to schedule in some buffer time – a lunch, a workout, an office tidying session – to help your mind process and avoid burnout.

What techniques do you use to stay focused? Let us know in the comments.


How Coursera is Changing Sustainability Education

The SSC Team September 8, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Updated post from the SSC Archives. 

Over the last 10 years, dozens (hundreds?) of colleges and universities have added courses related to environmental and social sustainability. While we love many of them (and have contributed to more than a couple), one of the biggest game-changers has been the launch of Coursera.

We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.

Here are four great Coursera classes on sustainability topics that have caught our eye. Check them out, and go search Coursera for hundreds of other courses in business, economics, sustainability, and so much more. 


Does Your Organization Really Care About Climate Change?

The SSC Team September 6, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Here’s the cold, hard truth – maybe you, your shareholders, your CEO, and your customers don’t really care much about climate change when viewed through the “quarterly earnings” lens of business operations. 

Well, they’re probably not alone.

According to the Yale Project on Climate Communications, there are six different belief subsets held by the public, ranging from “skeptic” to “activist.”

A recent article in Green Biz took those subsets and applied them to a simplified model discussing how business decision-makers may fall into categories regarding the business’ role in climate change.

Knowing the “belief subset” a company’s leadership, falls into is important, but as a sustainability professional, advocate, concerned stakeholder or policy maker, it’s more important to understand the subset position in the context of change management. Essentially, identifying the subset will help also pair the appropriate persuasive tactics to shift corporate thinking from subset to subset, pushing towardfrom #1 “skeptic” into #2 “acknowledgement,” and ideally, all of the way to #6 “thought leader/activist.”

The business community and its beliefs are as varied as the general public’s views on climate change, so be deliberate in understanding your audience when advocating for progress, reporting, action, or funding for a sustainability initiative.

Many of our best clients started out in the middle of this climate change subset scale – feeling pressure from stakeholders to “do something,” but not understanding or having the in-house expertise to make any progress on the issue. Through sustainability reporting and materiality assessments, among other services, many of our clients have been able to move from feeling pressured to actively embracing CSR initiatives – while earning new business, remaining competitive, and saving money in the process.

No matter where your organization is on the spectrum, the momentum toward taking meaningful action on climate change issues is going to reach you eventually. Get ahead of the curve. We can help.


TED Talks Sustainability: Bernie Krause: The voice of the natural world

The SSC Team September 1, 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: Bernie Krause is a musician. With a resume that features Stevie Wonder and The Byrds, Krause found music in and began making history by recording the sounds of nature. Listening to the wind, the rain, the insects, the grunts and groans of animals, Krause uses natural soundscapes to analyze critical questions about how humans interact with and are altering fragile ecosystems.

About the talk: Krause discusses his 45-year journey of capturing the sounds of nature, and discovering how humans are radically alteringthe fragile ecosystems that make our planet complete. By opening our ears to “nature’s symphonies,” Krause believes humans will better connect with and fight to protect the nature around us.


Best of the Blog for August 2016

The SSC Team August 30, 2016 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. The Most Important Skill for Sustainability Professionals
  2. The Importance of a Personal Sustainability Project
  3. TED Talks Sustainability: How Trees Talk to Each Other
  4. Turning a Profit on Sustainability: Are Target, Ikea, and Nike just Greenwashing 2.0?
  5. Jennifer Woofter Answers: Does it Matter Where Your Sustainability Firm is Located? 

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.

Is Vanpooling a Good Choice for Your Business?

The SSC Team August 25, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

We’ve found that vanpooling is a great option for companies located in rural areas when employees live in many directions. It’s particularly valuable for companies with a growing headcount, because it’s relatively easy to add a new van (while adding a new bus route is a significant commitment in terms of time and money).

There's lots of good evidence that vanpooling is good for employees and good for companies. According to Enterprise RideShare:

Vanpooling drastically reduces commuting and maintenance costs by up to $800 a month* (based on AAA mileage). Also, employees who vanpool are eligible for tax incentives  (IRS Tax Code 132(f)) and local government subsidies... People who share a ride aren't subject to the daily traffic grind, which means they arrive at work happier, more relaxed and, in turn, are more productive. Also, vanpoolers are found to be more punctual than those that drive alone. So employees who vanpool are more likely to arrive to work on time.

Check out these resources for more information.

Vanpooling: A Handbook to Help You Set Up a Program at Your Company - a PDF guide from the US Department of Transportation. While the handbook is a bit old, it is a great roadmap for setting up and managing a vanpooling program.

Vanpool Benefits: Implementing Commuter Benefits - a PDF guide from the US Environmental Protection Agency's "Best Workplace for Commuters" program. While written with an American audience in mind, all companies will find it useful for considering the financial costs and benefits of a vanpooling program.

Curious about how different commuting patterns affect your company's carbon footprint? Download our free white paper, Reducing Your Organization's Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions.  

G4 Guidelines, Meet GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards

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

The Global Reporting Initiative expects to soon unveil the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards, improving how the G4 Guidelines, adopted in 2013, are reported.

The G4 Guidelines were an improvement on the previous reporting guidelines, helping provide more context around sustainability and push toward an integrated form of reporting on financial, social, and environmental metrics.

However, over the past three years, the G4 guidelines proved complicated, daunting, and included a number of elements that were “too often misinterpreted or inconsistently applied.”

Eric Hespenheide, interim chief executive the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and chair of Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) for GRI, recently discussed how the G4 Guidelines aren’t going away, but how the new GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards will help reduce complexity and increase standardization.

“GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards is the latest step in the evolution of the guidelines, aimed at enhancing the credibility and adoption of the standards around the world. The new modular structure will allow the standards to be kept more up-to-date and aligned with international instruments in the future. To keep pace with developments in reporting practices or regulation, the new structure will enable additional sustainability topics to be added, with greater ease,” Hespenheide said.

The G4 Guidelines – including the data required to create a GRI report – aren’t changing (“This isn’t G5,” Hespenheide said.), but the modular formatting will help companies more clearly and accurately report on material topics in a way that is comparable across industries, and will allow flexibility when adding or changing specific reporting areas as the field evolves.

Ideally, by continually improving the standards AND making the reporting tool and methodology modular and more accessible, more and more organizations will begin producing GRI reports, pushing companies more toward credible, standardized sustainability reporting.

Contact us to talk about how your company can join leading organizations in producing a sustainability report following the G4 Guidelines. o

The Importance of a Personal Sustainability Project

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

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives. 

The business world is an ever-changing entity that is constantly being fueled by new ideas and initiatives. One of the latest initiatives is no longer just “going green,” but becoming sustainable. This means that simple recycling efforts aren’t going to be enough. Individual employees at any business can take action to work toward sustainability.

Creating a green team is one way you can send a message of your need to improve up the chain-of-command. But reflect on your personal habits that you could change for sustainability. Consider taking on a ‘Personal Sustainability Project’ or PSP that could help you achieve sustainability in your office. Encourage others to do the same! The idea behind a PSP has been explored by Mr. Adam Werbach, former Sierra Club President, in order to engage Walmart workers in sustainability. His hope was “that if we could learn how to help individuals become personally sustainable, then we might also learn how to affect the two hundred million people who shop regularly at Walmart.” While you may not be working on the scale off affecting two hundred million people, your work toward sustainability may convince others in your company to take on a PSP.
Establishing your PSP means taking on a small project that is something you really believe you can do. Do not try to take on a task that seems impossible. Rather, take on something you know may be a little difficult but something that you can make a habit over time: “Instead of overhauling someone’s lifestyle, we started by finding daily or recurring practices that can express an individual’s values … What are the qualities of a PSP? It is repeatable, inspirational, sustainable, and enjoyable (RISE). At its most basic level, it is a healthy habit. People learn to spot PSPs through self-reflection or through a group session where they can talk about their routines and identify changes they would like to make.” In a business case, a PSP should be something you can achieve that not only helps you but can also help your company work on sustainability. A great example would be to ride your bicycle to work instead of driving your car. While this may not seem like a way to help your business, think of all the areas biking to work can have an influence on:
Reducing CO2 emissions (environmental)
Getting a great workout (social)
Potentially cutting health-care costs and health-club fees (economic)

Where can you start on your road to sustainability? Our white paper, “Become a Sustainability Champion: At Any Career Level has a whole section devoted to walking you through this process and outlining a clear path forward to getting started. Examples are given for employees ranging from general office associates, to middle managers, to CEOs.

Find out myriad ways that you can become a sustainability champion! Download this complimentary white paper here.

EPA and Waste Management Webinar Recap: Putting a Price Tag On Emissions Reduction

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

Last Tuesday, GreenBiz hosted the first in a two part webinar series on the emissions impact of recycling and Sustainable Materials Management (SMM).

SMM can be generally described as active management of a product’s life cycle to reach sustainability aims.

The webinar began with an overview of the EPA’s work on SMM/LCA advocacy. Essentially, the EPA sees its role as advancing LCA and SMM as integral business practices. Because LCA and supply-chain work is so crucial to truly moving the bar on reducing emissions, it’s heartening to know that the EPA has made this a priority in their policy, oversight, and research work.

From lifecycle to the trash

After the EPA presentation, the talk shifted from life-cycle studies directly to the end of the life cycle and the work of Waste Management, the American comprehensive waste and environmental services company. Waste Management has undertaken a massive effort calculate the actual dollar cost of reducing emissions waste by method of disposal.

As a side note, the presenters did not do a great job of clearly making this transition from LCA work to emissions reduction cost calculating. But, it seems that the overall point was two-fold:

1.     Most organizations look at their carbon footprint – which is business operations – and what comes up most commonly is that the largest emissions source for most businesses is energy use. So, companies focus on energy reductions initiatives, essentially passing their product emissions - natural resources, product use, and product disposal –  onto suppliers and consumers. This needs to stop. More organization need to look up and down a product’s life cycle to really engineer, source and plan in ways that reduce the overall impact of the entire product to move the bar on sustainability.

2.     As organizations begin to engineer products with a focus on SMM, it would be helpful to know the GHG emissions resulting in end of life (i.e. GHG emissions of landfilling versus single-stream recycling) and the cost in real dollars of each of the processing methods. That’s where Waste Management stepped in.

Waste Management’s work calculating the price of reducing GHGs in the waste management industry delivers a cost per ton of GHG emissions through various waste processing techniques. (The most reduction for the lowest cost goes to – residential and commercial single-stream recycling!)

The Waste Management process, prioritization, and graphical representation on how they calculated cost/benefit is pretty fantastic. Definitely consider downloading the slides.

But questions remain.

How can organizations and policymakers work to reduce the cost of the other types of GHG emissions reduction technologies (e.g. anaerobic digesters)? Is there talk about subsidizing them? How can businesses be incentivized to use materials that can be sent into the low-emissions/low-cost single-stream recycling category and/or eliminate materials that can’t? Is there talk about banning certain materials? Are there waste processing technologies that need research funding that provide low-cost emissions reduction?  

Calculating cost and cost benefit is important from an engineering standpoint, but only if your organization is somehow incentivized or driven to engineer with the life cycle in mind. Without pressure – regulatory or otherwise- companies are still largely driven by the biggest incentive of all: producing products for the lowest actual cost and passing any environmental costs onto the planet, via the consumer.

Listen to the recap here, and log in today at 1pm Eastern for the second webcast, Setting Goals: Have We Reached the Limits of Recycling?, where presenters look at SMM through waste reduction efforts and give guidance on how to set effective waste reduction and recycling goals.

Are you ready to take a more advanced approach to understanding and reducing impact through a product life-cycle assessment? Check out our LCA overview information and contact us for a brief discussion of the benefits and challenges.