Strategic Sustainability Consulting

Strategic Sustainability Consulting

ED Talk Arthur Potts-Dawson: A Vision for Sustainable Restaurants

The SSC Team October 18, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:

If you have ever been into a restaurant kitchen, you've likely seen how much food, water and energy are wasted on a daily basis. In his talk, Chef Arthur Potts-Dawson shared his vision to drastically reduce restaurant and supermarket waste. His plan involves creating recycling, composting, and sustainable stations that will benefit the environment and allow for the creation of great food!

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

What’s Next for the Recycling Industry?

The SSC Team October 16, 2018 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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The recycling industry has changed significantly since China banned the import of U.S. plastics, mixed paper, and other materials in 2017. So what happens as the demand for recyclables declines and policy continues to fluctuate? It’s time to examine the trends in the recycling industry in response to recent changes.

 

If you think the change isn’t significant, take the San Diego recycling program as an example. In 2016, it brought in $4 million in revenue. Fast forward a year, and it is expected to cost over $1 million dollars! This is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Sure, the recycling crisis is part and parcel of the recent trade disputes between the U.S. and China, but there is more to the story. According to Environmental Leader, “Even before the Chinese government’s announcement in August, bales of paper and plastic started piling up in the United States due to China’s environmental restrictions on imports.”

 

Essentially, recycled materials coming out of the United States are simply too dirty.

 

The New York Times recently published an opinion piece discussing how we can navigate the recycling crisis. David Bornstein interviewed Recycle Across America founder, Mitch Hedlund, to see what he believes is next.

 

According to Hedlund, “The crisis stems from people throwing garbage in recycling bins, which contaminates the recyclables,” a problem that China has been warning the U.S. for over 10 years.

 

The root cause is related to how recycling has been presented to the public. According to Hedlund, instructions on bins are confusing making people skeptical and, eventually, apathetic. Without clear, consistent labeling, millions of tons of garbage are thrown into recycling bins.

 

What can be done? Having a standardized system for labeling recycling bins can almost completely eliminate the problem, according to Hedlund. But there are competing interests that get in the way.

 

The primary barrier is that many of the most dominant recycling companies are owned by landfills. When recycling doesn’t work out, landfills reap the benefits of receiving the contaminated recyclables.

 

Of course, this advice from Hedlund really focuses on the larger problem. What can individuals do? Hedlund’s message is a clear one that is not new: “Reduce, reuse and Keep recycling!” Just be sure you know your local guidelines.

 

There has also been an increased focus on decreasing contamination as it was a primary factor in creating the current crisis. But how has the industry adapted to an ever-changing landscape?

 

There are numerous companies capitalizing on the recycling crisis. With many major brands focusing on 100 percent recycling and reusing in the next several decades, companies like Ecologic are beginning to find a niche.  

 

Ecologic is “a sustainable packaging company that creates bottles for the personal care, cleaning and food industries.” President and founder, Julie Corbett acknowledged it was challenging to create the product, but it has a “much lighter environmental impact” when compared to others.

 

We can take heart that not everyone has had to drastically adapt. Take Stanford University, an institution that for several decades has been leading the sustainability movement. “In 2017, only 8,190 tons of waste went to landfills (a 62 percent diversion rate), down from 14,000 tons in 1998.” Stanford is striving for zero waste by 2030.

 

While the recycling crisis is certainly less than ideal, it has created a renaissance when it comes to awareness. We can all acknowledge that, while many of us in the sustainability world have been doing our part, this is a wakeup call.

 

It is clear that recycling is in a state of flux, but with committed people like Hedlund and innovative companies like Ecologic, we can continue to be optimistic about fighting for sustainability.

Is Climate Change Human Made? (Vostock research)

The SSC Team October 11, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Through easy to understand illustrations, Alexandre Magnin explains why global atmospheric temperature increases are due to increased concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane (aka human made). He based this on the Vostok ice core research, published in 1999, as well as more recent research published by the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that was published in 2013. Check it out!

https://sustainabilityillustrated.com/en/portfolio/is-climate-change-human-made-vostok-ice-core/

How to Earn Respect as a Sustainability Leader

The SSC Team October 9, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

When trying to lead a sustainability program from the inside, you may find that getting internal buy-in from your peers, managers and executives is the toughest part of the job. This is especially true when sustainability and CSR don’t get a lot of respect as a corporate priority.

Consider the situation from nay-sayers perspectives, though, and you can begin to see why sustainability (and you) aren’t favorites at work:

  • The CFO may be thinking: why was sustainability “forced” on my, and why does it always seem to be spending more money than it saves?

  • The COO may be thinking: have CSR programs really delivered anything meaningful to the company, or is it just a feel-good initiative that’s taking people away from their “real” jobs?

  • Department heads may be thinking: Do sustainability people do anything except for harp about recycling all the time?

  • The Director of Communications may be thinking: I just want to tell a good story. Why do the sustainability managers always want to bring up our weaknesses?

The industry, the corporate culture, the history of the company’s performance, the physical location, and many other factors may contribute to how your co-workers, subordinates, and leadership view the role of the sustainability leader.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat, a security software company, gives some solid advice about earning respect inside a corporate culture.

Sustainability leaders may want to pay special attention to Whitehurst’s advice.

  • Show passion for the purpose of your organization and constantly drive interest in it. Even though you may have a TON of ideas on how your company can quickly change and make significant environmental gains, you should frame those ideas and the positive change they can create in language that speaks to the purpose of the organization itself. If internal stakeholders see sustainability programs as strengthening the business as a whole, and not just some ancillary reporting department, they will begin to respect sustainability’s role in the organization.

  • Demonstrate confidence. You may be asking employees who are not under your direct supervision to make changes to purchasing habits, reporting protocols, and behavior. You need to ask them with respect and confidence. Conveying confidence for a program that is supported up the chain-of-command will help establish you – and the programs you are implementing – will encourage others to follow your lead.

  • Engage your people. One of the biggest complaints about sustainability may stem from the top-down approach to change. Of course, you’re gathering the data, interpreting the reports, and making recommendations – but those who have to change because of a recommendation may come to see your role as an arbitrary rule imposer. As you look at programs and policies that affect department function or employee behavior, ask for input, ideas, and thoughts about how to implement change. You may get some great ideas from unexpected places.

  • Don’t be a know-it-all. You may know a bit about sustainability, but you probably don’t know a lot about the detailed work of the different functional areas in your company. By showing passion for shared company goals and values, being confident in your own role, and engaging people in different areas of the company, you will begin to build a positive reputation. But, you may also misstep. By “owning up” as Whitehurst says, you should frankly address when something doesn’t go as planned and help the team build a work-around together.

Managing sustainability is a difficult role in many corporate systems as sustainability is not a supervisory, but more of an advisory, department. This makes it even more important to earn respect with internal stakeholders. By doing so, you will really see the full effects of sustainability programs and help integrate sustainability into the fabric of the company’s culture.

Working on a tough sustainability project where internal stakeholders are pushing back? Let us know in the comments.

Anyone can become a “trash talker” and help reduce waste. Are you next?

The SSC Team October 4, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Let’s talk about trash. We all make it, some of us more than others. So naturally, there are people all over (including us) working to make the whole world, including waste, more sustainable.

 

Meet Kelsey Hallowell. Hallowell’s job is to help reduce waste for a company called Reduction in Motion, based in Baltimore, MD.

 

Hallowell works with a variety of clients, but in a recent interview she focused on changes being made by the Maryland Stadium Authority. The MSA owns both Camden Yard, home to the MLB’s Baltimore Orioles and M&T Bank Stadium, home to the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.

 

It may seem like professional sports venues aren’t concerned about their waste, but it turns out they do care and for good reason. Many businesses are not aware of how much waste they create, where it goes, or how much it costs to dispose of it among other things. When operating a business as large as a stadium, those costs cannot go unnoticed for long.

 

This problem inspired Bill Griffin to start Reduction in Motion in 2002. It all started with Griffin noticing the amount of inappropriate waste that went into bags designated for regulated medical waste. Griffin’s objective was to help these businesses understand all aspects of waste and, in turn, help them deal with it more efficiently and save money.

 

Although they had their start in the medical industry, Reduction in Motion has expanded. While sports venues do not generate the constant waste a hospital does, they see a significant amount of waste over a short period of time which can create unique challenges.

 

Among the challenges, seen both in hospitals and sports venues, are compliance. While many fans and employees do care about complying with waste guidelines, many do not. Hallowell suggested that it is really about developing a plan and continuing to engage with all parties involved, including fans.

 

“The truth is it’s easier to do the right thing if we make it easy,” Hallowell said when discussing how to ensure these programs are successful. Part of her job is not only to create and implement the programs but to sustain them. This is the more challenging part.

 

And it is also the reason why jobs like Hallowell’s should exist in every industry so sustainability experts can work to have an impact whether it be sporting events, hospitals, or hotels among others.

 

When it comes to travel, the amount of food waste in the hospitality industry is overwhelming and definitely can stand to be overhauled.

 

Many of us are guilty of being a little bit more wasteful when we are traveling or taking in a game than we are at home. But, as Hallowell noted, if it is easier to make the right decision, we are all more likely to do so.

 

We are more than prepared to help you take the next steps when it comes to sustainability. Among our services are waste audits, similar to those Hollowell conducts with Reduction in Motion, focusing on understanding what you’re throwing away, how to reduce costs associated with waste, and reduce waste, overall.

 

We also offer a variety of services to help you become a sustainability expert. Again, we believe it is essential for waste reduction and sustainability to be a priority in every industry. Take the next step today by investing in sustainability.

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from September 2018

The SSC Team October 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 September.

 

How Sustainability Experts Should Give Feedback

 

Social Sustainability Satisfying Human Needs

 

How to Hire a Successful Sustainability Manger

 

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How Sustainability Practitioners Should Give Feedback

The SSC Team September 27, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

In the same way that hungry rats learn to navigate the blind alleys of a maze in their search for food, coaches, consultants, and other change agents learn that punishment most often follows their constructive criticism. Conversely, when they stroke the egos of clients, rewards come raining down. Managers fall victim to the same temptation: it’s much more fun (and in the short term, rewarding) to praise your direct reports than to deliver negative feedback. The bad news is that if you’re a consultant or coach, folks will tire of having smoke blown at them and, sooner or later, react negatively. They’re paying for reasoned critiques, and chronic evasiveness eventually gets on their nerves. And if you’re a manager, you can’t only rely on praise. 

Steven Berglas, Harvard Business Review

As consultants, it's our job to deliver feedback to our clients throughout the sustainability consulting engagement--and we've gotten pretty good at identifying, refining, and delivering news (both good and bad) about a company's "state of sustainability" and roadmap for action. But when we read the article, Don’t Sugarcoat Negative Feedback, in Harvard Business Review, we realized that the art of providing feedback has a much broader application to companies pursuing sustainability initiatives. Here are some of our takeaways:

Use Facts in Your Feedback

Berglas: Deliver constructive feedback rapidly in its raw form. This doesn’t mean harshly; there’s a way to soften blows without delaying them if you strive to be empathic. Just never make it seem like you’re avoiding hard cold facts. All that does is make the facts seem worse than they are.

Focusing our feedback on facts is a great way to create some space between participants, so that no one feels blamed, guilty, or shamed. It also allows everyone to (more) objectively assess the situation--including whether the feedback being provided is correct, how a solution should be constructed, and how responsibility and accountability for change should be allocated.

Wrong: [After 20 minutes of praise and exultation about everyone's awesome sustainability work.] "Look, even though we're all doing our best, it's not enough. We're falling behind on our performance data, and that's shown up in some recent press. We can't let our industry leave us in the dust. Come on, guys, we've got to improve!"

Right: "Our three-year carbon emissions are up 4.3%, while Competitor A is holding steady and Competitor B actually decreased its emissions by 1.1%. A report, which is getting press coverage this week in the New York Times and a number of "green blogs", calls us out for poor energy and climate performance in our industry. Let's talk about what that means in light of last month's board meeting where there was consensus about aiming for the top 25% of our industry across all sustainability issues."

Don't Predict the Outcome

Berglas: Resist the urge to prophesy. The absolute worst thing a CEO, coach, or consultant can do when offering constructive criticism to someone is to provide a timetable for the process that a person who must change should be expected to conform to.

While goals and targets are critical elements of effective sustainability planning, changing people (and institutions) is an uncertain process. When you need to address employee engagement and organizational culture issues, don't make promises that you can't keep. Yes, you can get a new Code of Ethics in place by the end of the year, but can you put a clear time line on when your emerging-market suppliers are going to really *get* the concepts of anti-bribery and corruption? You can provide a clear road-map, but putting calendar dates down for personal and organizational change is a dangerous proposition.

Be Honest about the Effort Required to Change

Berglas: Don’t minimize the challenge. When you critique someone with a history of success you have to assume that the flaws you see in them are (a) entrenched, and, (b) something they have long grappled with to suppress or get past. Saying, “No big deal” to that sort of issue can scare the socks off someone who knows that what you’re targeting for change is an issue they have battled unsuccessfully for years.

Sustainability is probably the biggest, most complex challenge that the world has ever faced -- and individual organizations trying to navigate a highly interconnected system in which it has limited leverage and resources is not an easy task. (Hah, understatement!) So don't portray the journey as all rainbows and kittens. It's going to be hard, and there are going to be really tough decisions. People need to understand that the road is going to be long, and the challenges are going to be scary--but that all great, epic adventures start with a seemingly insurmountable mountain to climb.

If you liked this article, you'll want to download SSC's free white paper on Sustainable Change Management. And if you're looking for a sustainability coach, check out our coaching and mentoring services. Or, join the conversation on Twitter, where SSC President Jennifer Woofter tweets at @jenniferwoofter. Did we get it right, or would you add something to our takeaways?

Social Sustainability: Satisfying Human Needs

The SSC Team September 25, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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This month’s video about social sustainability from Alexandre Magnin, examines what is behind the fundamental human needs we must to satisfy in order to make sustainable decisions and to design sustainability products and services.

This is focused on the theory of human needs developed by Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef and can be used for social sustainability because being sustainable is about meeting needs within our ecological constraints. Max-Neef’s concept explores finding ways to satisfy human needs by using fewer resources and provides a new lens that helps us look at the system we are trying to change. This is a crucial component to stimulating innovation and avoiding superficial solutions.

https://sustainabilityillustrated.com/en/portfolio/social-sustainability-satisfying-human-needs/

What “Sustainability Consulting” Is (and Isn’t)

The SSC Team September 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

In today’s marketplace, sustainability consulting is a catch-all term, used to describe multiple professions. It is important for readers to pay careful attention when an author predicts the growth of the “sustainability consulting industry” since it can be defined in so many ways.

We believe that many of the firms that claim to offer sustainability consulting services are, in fact, offering something quite different. Sometimes it is a narrower subset of services (like energy auditing); in other cases it is simply traditional services (like public relations) focused on sustainability initiatives. 

So how do we define sustainability consulting?

In general, organizations purporting to offer sustainability consulting services fall into the following broad categories.

Sustainability Strategy: these consulting firms provide planning and strategy services—usually for an entire organization or division. Sustainability strategy firms help businesses use sustainability as a lens through which to make good business decisions. Their goal is to help clients innovate, gain competitive advantage, satisfy stakeholders (especially customers), and empower employees to integrate sustainability into their day-to-day jobs. This type of firm usually has staff with extensive training in management, business administration, organizational development, and/or change management. Example: Strategic Sustainability Consulting.

Technical Support: these firms focus on one or more technical aspects of sustainability, such as green building design and construction, renewable energy and energy efficiency, waste diversion and recycling, and water and wastewater services. Rather than help the company integrate sustainability into its overall business decision-making processes, these firms tend to tackle discrete projects within a facility or division. Their staff generally has engineering or other technical degrees. Example: ERM.

Testing, Auditing and Verification: these firms provide third-party review of sustainability data—either on a corporate/facility level or a product level—and may provide assurance, auditing, or verification services. A firm in this category may exclusively cater to sustainability data (e.g. third-party assurance of a sustainability report), but will often provide non-sustainability services as well (e.g. third-party assurance of annual reports). Example: UL Environment.

Visioning and Facilitation: these firms focus on the “big picture” of sustainability, working with clients to brainstorm and create new mental models for companies, communities, and societies. These firms tend to be smaller and more radical, since the market for their services is smaller and their goal is to push the boundary of “business as usual.” The principals of these firms come from a variety of backgrounds, but often have training in facilitation techniques like Open Space, World Café, and the Art of Hosting. Example: The Natural Step.

Sustainability Marketing: these firms help clients tell their sustainability story. They range from public relations firms to graphic designers, and have varying involvement in the crafting of the story versus the delivery of the message. Staff at these firms usually has marketing, advertising, design and communications degrees. Many smaller firms in this category will focus exclusively on sustainability marketing, but larger companies will often have only one division devoted to sustainability and focus most of its effort on other communication areas. Example: J. Ottman Consulting.

Sustainability Software: one of the fastest growing areas of the sustainability marketplace is the development and sales of sustainability software—including carbon accounting, EHS management, and sustainability reporting platforms. Many of these companies offer some kind of consulting support, but it is generally related to the set-up and implementation of the sustainability software. While there is some overlap between this category and the Technical Support category, we distinguish the two because the Technical Support companies generally provide a service (e.g. an energy audit) while Sustainability Software companies generally sell a distinct product. Example: Credit360.

Check out our past blog “State of the Sustainability Consulting Industry” to learn more on the background for these findings.

8 Steps to Designing an Incident Management System That Works

The SSC Team September 18, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Incident management focuses on handling unplanned issues effectively while minimizing damage to your organization. So, whether it is IT, PR, or sustainability, being as prepared as possible for the unplanned is essential to success.

 

Everbridge offers these 8 Best Practices for IT Incident Management, a process that can be applied generally for managing all sorts of incidents.

 

1.     Manage an incident through the entire lifecycle

This one is pretty straightforward. When an incident occurs be sure to see it all the way to the end. That means when it is resolved for everyone involved. In sustainability, its tempting to address the legal ramifications of an incident, such as determining fault in a wastewater spill, and ignoring other stakeholders. Be sure your organization protects itself, but also that messages are as transparent as possible. If you make a huge error, then try owning up for a collaborative, effective resolution.

2.     Standardize for efficiency

Sure, not all incidents will be the same; but by ensuring there is a process in place the response for each incident can more efficient. Processes can include how to document the incident, who is responsible for what, and when the incident begins and ends. Checklists can help ensure there is a concrete standardization of the process.

3.     Classify and Prioritize incidents

By determining the urgency of certain categories of incidents, managers are better able to determine how to move forward with coinciding issues. This is an additional form of standardization that allows for a quick decision to be made based on the importance of each incident. This helps to resolve urgent incidences rapidly while placing low priority incidents further back in the queue. Thinking about incidents involving the supply chain – environmentally or human factors - and incidents that seem “superficial,” like an executive being caught out in a personal scandal, as different priorities, but under the same planning structure, will help keep everyone on the same page.  

4.     Automate spread of messaging

Communication is key to resolving incidents and ensuring customers are still satisfied. Categorization helps to ensure communication is done in conjunction with priority level. Low priority issues will require a little less touch while high priority incidents require immediate action and more direct stakeholder engagement.

5.     Effective communication

The importance of real-time communication cannot be overstated. Automation helps to keep all relevant stakeholders updated as to the status of each incident. Ensuring communication is in real-time keeps impacted users updated to changes and satisfy customers’ questions about incident status.

6.     Optimize access to allow users to track status

Placing ourselves in the user’s shoes helps us to understand the importance of knowing the incident status. Usually, no news is bad news for a company. When an incident arises, let stakeholders know exactly what phase of response the company is in. Even if the statements seem repetitive, stakeholders will appreciate the attentiveness.

7.     Integrate with other processes and systems

Incidents are often not isolated to one process or system. So don’t overlook the role that these variables might have on the incident. Consider ticketing systems, monitoring systems, knowledge base, and situational intelligence. In terms of sustainability, things like a product recall may be seen by the manufacturing division as an engineering issue, but the ripple effects across the supply chain need to be addressed as well. Be sure in the planning phases that all stakeholders are accounted for and all areas of operations.

8.     Continue improving

The work doesn’t stop once a system is in place. Continuously review performance and strive for process improvement. Listen to those using the system, too, for opportunities to improve. Create opportunities to hold yourselves accountable by monitoring and reporting out on how successful your incident management process is and how you intend to improve.

 

At the end of the day, incident management is about the mitigating the impact of each incident.

 

By creating a standardized process that focuses on communication and continuous improvement you will eventually find a process that works for your company.