Sustainability consultant and illustrator Alexandre Magnin has combined his skills to put together a series of animated shorts highlighting sustainable tips. Check out this great 6 minute video from Sustainability Illustrated which explores the 4 sustainability principles that define success and have been peer reviewed and continuously refined over the last 20 years. Magnin is inspired by the work of Dr. Karl-Henrik Robèrt and The Natural Step.
It seems like everything is online these days. And sure, you may be thinking “I am a sustainability consultant, what do I know about data management?” The answer is: probably not enough.
While a lot of good comes from “the cloud,” there are a number of factors we need to address as business consultants. You have a responsibility to protect your client’s data, your own materials, and also the best way to advise your clients to take their social responsibility to protect their business, employees and customers, too.
Most of us are working with a content management program to help manage workflow. It’s easy! Everyone on the team can get into the same projects! As the number of platforms expands, so too does our need to protect the information that we store in those platforms.
Questions to consider about data management:
· Do you always know where your content and data are?
· Do you know where data is being stored processed?
· Is it secure/encrypted in-flight?
· Who handles it?
· Is it copied, shared, stored, archived?
· Are your chosen third-party services available locally?
· Do you have contract terms about data location?
It’s time we revisit our cloud practices, making sure we know where our content and data are going and where everything is being processed.
If you aren’t thinking about these issues and how they impact your business and your client’s data, you aren’t alone.
But you can take steps to improve the issues.
Platform ecosystems are ever evolving and if this area seems outside your realm of expertise, perhaps you should look to another consultant who can help you get a better handle being able to answer these questions for your own business, and help clients develop sustainable data-management policies.
You aren’t alone in this complex world, but don’t wait until your data — or your client’s data — is compromised before you get a handle on it.
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It's a common problem in sustainability consulting: how do you get employees to pay attention to sustainability and integrate social and environmental considerations throughout their job responsibilities and daily behavior? New research in psychology has some insight, and we're diving in for a closer look at how focus on values and virtues can help drive organizational success.
In 5 Reasons You Need to Instill Values in Your Organization, Jessica Amortegui outlines the connection between good intentions and effective transformation in the workplace. "It is an old truism: employees do not turn to written statements on the company intranet for clues about how to behave--they look to each other," Amortegui writes. "If your goal is to intentionally shape the actions and interactions of employees, you know the importance of creating a 'values-based' culture. However, you also know how difficult it is to implement one."
She further adds: "For companies to truly close the chasm between their stated and lived values, they must enter the human psyche to extract excellence from the inside-out, not dictate it from outside-in. This requires organizations to pivot their approach: rather than get people to live the values, they should focus on the values that live in the people. This taps into the innate qualities that exist across mankind: human virtues."
There a lot more great information in the article (read it in its entirety here) with many helpful links to additional studies and research, but what caught our eye was how Amortegui's thinking could easily be applied to the sustainability work we do with clients. Below, we take excerpts from her list (in italics) and add our own commentary on how it applies to sustainability-oriented change management.
1. Virtues Are a Workplace Game Changer
Amortegui: Employees who feel welcome to express their authentic selves at work exhibit higher levels of organizational commitment, individual performance, and propensity to help others.
Just as Walmart found with their Personal Sustainability Projects, allowing employees to identify a sustainability-related behavior that was personally relevant and valuable was instrumental in creating corporate-wide momentum. Consider how you engage employees -- are you making it clear how "green" opportunities and expectations in the office allow them to bring their most authentic selves to the job?
2. Virtues Lead To Growth Of The Whole Person
Amortegui: The ideal company makes its best employees even better--and the least of them better than they ever thought they could be. Employees are not just looking for the best places to work. They want to join the best places to grow.
Find ways to tie sustainability goals into personal growth opportunities. Whether it's allowing employees to practice a hands-on skill (how to build a rain barrel or the basics of composting), develop speaking skills (hosting brown-bag workshops on green topics), or engaging with senior managers (participating on the Green Team), make sure that you cultivate a clear link between the initiative itself and the opportunity it provides for participants.
3. Virtues Lead to Greater Onboarding Success
Amortegui: When companies emphasize newcomers' authentic best selves, versus an organizational identity, it contributes to greater customer satisfaction and employee retention after six months.
Start talking about the opportunities for employees to exhibit their personal values by contributing to the company's sustainability efforts from day one. Include an overview of your sustainability goals and strategy in new employee orientations. Find out how their personal interests and virtues align with the organization and invite them to participate accordingly.
4. Virtues Improve Engagement
Amortegui: Two of the most important predictors of employee retention and satisfaction are reporting to use your top strengths at work and reporting that your manager recognizes your top strengths.
The more that mid-level managers understand and communicate sustainability goals and priorities to their staff, the easier it will be for employees to "get" how their individual job responsibilities play into the larger picture of organizational sustainability. Provide the training and leadership needed to get managers to 1) understand, 2) communicate, and 3) recognize sustainability potential in their departments.
5. Virtues Increase Self-Awareness
Amortegui: Organizations that realize this potent potential for human excellence will transcend their current cultures and create a greenhouse effect: shining brightness on what is best about their people while cultivating the conditions for any organizational value system to live, breathe, and flourish.
There is great knowledge within your workforce about the practical realities of achieving sustainability in the workplace, within your industry, and in your community. Companies that tap into that knowledge on a regular basis will find that they reap a myriad of rewards: enthusiasm, morale, expertise, and engagement. Why not take advantage of it!
Want to read more about employee engagement? Check out another article we wrote on the subject for 2degrees, Three Ways to Engage Non-Wired Employees.
Thanks to 2degrees for publishing a version of this article!
Are you ready to visit the Bay Area for the 2018 Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) Summit? The summit will be held in Oakland from October 14–16, leading up to the GreenBiz Group’s VERGE 18 Conference and Expo. Bringing together 400 renewable energy buyers and solution providers, the three days will provide a chance for networking as well as for individuals to collaborate about the best ways to take on the challenges and embrace the opportunities to continue to emerge in this market.
Over the past two years, it seems like everything is political, from coffee makers to the color red, and as sustainability experts we desperately need to be advocates for climate change policy.
You might think jumping into the world of politics isn’t a good move if you’re not in an advocacy industry, but just “selling good products to good people.” Concerns about alienating some of your clients are real, but here’s the thing: fighting for what your business values likely won’t be offensive to your core clientele.
Here are some tips to help you commit to your goals so you can make a difference in the long term and continue doing important work in your day-to-day life.
A recent piece about how getting political has impacted companies following the Parkland shooting outlined some valid points for any industry or organization that intends to take a stand. The benefits that come with making your opinions known can be greater than sitting on the sidelines.
Time has shown that corporate responsibility can actually have a positive impact on business, including political advocacy and issue alignment.
Understanding the values and motivation of a company can deepen the relationship a business has with its customers, employees, and other stakeholders.
The four elements of sustainability consulting that we center our own work around — transparency, consistency, materiality, and leadership — are the same elements that frame a company’s plan to “go political.”
Relationships between companies and their stakeholders are based on trust — and transparency when it comes to areas that you feel your business should take a stand. If you are forthright with your ideas, clients are likely to accept them long term.
This is where consistency comes in. You can’t change your mind over time. For example, Patagonia has long been a vocal supporter of environmental legislation. When President Trump noted that he would eliminate federal protections for national monuments in Utah, Patagonia’s clear message that they opposed this decision was what customers and other stakeholders expected to hear. In fact, they likely would have been disappointed in Patagonia if the company had not responded in this manner.
Organizational leaders worry that speaking out might damage the bottom line, but consumers actually expect companies to be driven in part by profits —“Rent-seeking is not only tolerated, but admired, so long as a company is transparent, consistent, and shows leadership in its industry.”
And leadership plays a vital role. Stakeholders are more likely to purchase from, work for, and invest in companies that have social and environmental impact where leaders are genuine and firm in taking sides.
While it may seem like avoiding the political spotlight is the best choice, companies that are transparent, consistent, and can make a business case for political positions are sometimes better off standing out in the crowd.
And it’s true, sometimes a company might regret making their values known. But maybe that’s because the company needs to take a hard look at its values.
Do you often wonder how you could become a better sustainability consultant? Check out Strategic Sustainability Consulting President Jennifer Woofter’s monthly tip to help you gain knowledge that will better help you serve your clients. After listening to this month’s tip about focusing on the unique industry of each client, we invite you to share your questions in the comments below.
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 March.
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.
Let’s start with the positive news. When it comes to implementing more sustainable sourcing practices, a recently published Stanford University study, which focused on large global suppliers, found that more than 50% of the companies reviewed have been implementing these practices. Not surprisingly companies with valuable brands (and therefore a more vocal customer base) were the most likely to be utilizing sustainable practices.
But Cassandra Sweet notes in There’s Room for Progress on Tackling Sustainability Through the Supply Chain, that while this is great news, the study also found that companies lower down the supply chain — where changes to their social and environmental practices would be more beneficial — have been less likely to implement sustainable practices.
To complete their research, 449 publicly traded companies from a variety of sectors were examined in order to evaluate the extent to which their efforts were going to impact the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. And from this evaluation, it was clear that progress is being made. This portion of the study was focused on industry giants like L’Oreal and Coca-Cola Co. who, among others, have been making big adjustments. These include training their suppliers to help reduce or reuse plastic packaging, address climate change and promote sustainable production among other areas. Coca-Cola Co. has also been providing training to the farmers who supply them in order to help promote sustainable agriculture, gender equity, and fair working conditions.
With this good news, we now need to focus our attention on non-consumer-facing companies who haven’ t been as committed to implementing sustainable practices yet. Unfortunately supply-chain sustainable implementations aren’t as likely to drive change at a global scale unless a lot more companies start to utilize sustainable sourcing practices. Sweet raises the important issue that these practices need to be strong, verifiable, address a broad set of sustainability issues and reach all tiers of global supply chains.
Here’s the thing, so many companies are going half in when it comes to making sustainable changes. An example that Sweet highlights is when a company focuses on ensuring that one product ingredient is sustainably sourced, without paying any attention to other ingredients. Or by making sure that the packaging of a product is made from recycled materials, but at the same time the product contained within that packaging is not sustainably sourced.
Do you feel like your company is falling into this gray zone and could do better? If so, you will benefit from connecting with a sustainability consultant. You might be struggling to understand the complex world of corporate social responsibility, wondering how you can translate your values into actions, and unsure how to prioritize your social and environmental initiatives, but we can help! At Strategic Sustainability Consulting we can work with you to kick off your sustainability journey and help you understand the strengths, challenges, and best-fit sustainability strategy for your company, in your industry, to meet your stakeholder needs, right now.
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Sustainability consulting is about so much more than caring about mitigating the effects of climate change. We often hear about the passion and energy aspiring consultants hope to bring to the field, but what a good consultant really needs is business knowledge, a solid understanding of the sustainability field, consulting skills, and change management skills.
Of course, growing into the role is part of the process of developing into a senior consultant. And growing requires learning.
If you have a solid background in business or consulting, maybe you need to focus on your sustainability knowledge. If you are a science and data expert, maybe you need to brush up on your strategic management and leadership skills.
Whatever your skill gap is, whatever your job status is, whatever your goals are, you should always set aside some time to learn something new.
We came across this ridiculously good article from Inc. featuring 21 awesome places to learn skills online, and we highlighted a few good ones to illustrate how easy it is to brush up on key sustainability and consulting skills for free.
Go forth and learn.
· MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT has offered courseware, learning resources, and syllabi up online for free for a number of years now. Review lecture notes, find the best textbooks, follow along with lab demos on courses ranging from climate studies, change management, leadership, and sustainability policy.
· Boundless – A company shaping the way textbooks are written and sold, Boundless offers great overview information on dozens of topics to help students quickly understand the basics of any field. From accounting to biology to business, Boundless is a solid place to brush up on a topic you don’t need to know tons of detail about.
· UReddit – Reddit surprises with some really interesting courses on things that you might not be able to find anywhere else online. Think “Advanced training on Microsoft Excel” or “Starting your own business.”
· Future Learn – A private company owned by The Open University offering free coursework from professionals in the UK and partners around the world.
· Free course: Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals. Find out how to integrate a sustainable development strategy into your company with this free online course. University of Bath.
· Supply Chain Innovation: How Technology Can Create a Sustainable Future. University of Twente.
Once you’ve built your foundational knowledge, come back and get certified as a green auditor or connect with our CEO for personal job coaching based on your newly developed skills.
If you work in Human Resources, you may not have spent a lot of time thinking about sustainability. It is someone else’s responsibility, right? Wrong. Ellen Weinreb recently wrote that being an ‘employer of choice’ is synonymous with sustainability. She believes that the HR team plays a critical role in forming “green teams” and encouraging employee engagement on environmental and other sustainability issues.
In his piece on the role that HR plays in sustainability strategy, John McGuire outlines a few starting points for strengthening the relationship between HR and sustainability. For example, McGuire notes that an HR professional must help to embed and operationalize a sustainable strategy into the workplace culture. This can mean a number of things such as providing trainings and development sessions to get team members to understand and invest in green changes; offering incentives and recognition for sustainability achievements; setting policies that encourage employee cooperation and involvement with the company’s environmental objectives — the list goes on. But a stumbling block for some HR employees — and other members of your company — can be a lack of understanding when it comes to the term sustainability.
Steve Wilkins, HR manager for FedEx Express, believes that “sustainability” is an overused and hard to define word, making implementing a sustainability strategy challenging. Wilkins does have some tips to help your HR department get past this hurdle when it comes to getting a sustainability strategy up and running. There are three key areas that he finds vital to the process — communications, education and motivation.
Communications is a huge factor in any office — whether in person or via email. Wilkins suggests connecting with the employees via an internal newsletter that highlights eco-achievements as well as setting up volunteer opportunities and encouraging small green changes like turning off unused lights. By highlighting your company’s commitment to innovative changes, you can show your team that you are focused on creating a positive impact on the workforce.
Clearly no one can be on board with a strategy they don’t understand, so you have to make sure you educate the members of your team about the impact your company has on the environment. And about the ways you want to reduce that impact and how they can be a part of it. A sense of common purpose will help keep your team committed and lead to a productive and empowered staff.
Susan Winterberg wrote earlier this year about how the highest-ranking factor of what makes a corporation just is providing employees with a good job. One of the central factors to making that happen is aligning a company’s values, commitments and actions. An increase in internal collaboration will greatly improve sustainable efforts, staff involvement in the process and commitment from your company to making green changes.
And as McGuire noted motivation is key so providing rewards, recognition and responsibilities to your employees can help them feel even more invested in the sustainability process. Remember, sustainability strategy is not a PR opportunity, but is something that needs to be incorporated into a business's overarching objectives. All organizations should be accountable for their actions and work to integrate environmental practices into everyday business life.