Kick off the year with insight into the State of Green Business 2018, published February 1, by GreenBiz in partnership with Trucost, via this insightful summary. It will help you better understand where the United States stands, despite the government staying on the sidelines when it comes to green efforts. The private sector, states, cities and other nations are marching forward in an attempt to minimize climate impact. You can read the report in full here.
We talk a lot about diversity these days, but how can we truly make it a priority in our workplaces? Sustainability is about striving for a better world and a better world is an inclusive one. So whether you are a start up or a Fortune 500 company you need to strive to build a diverse company. Here’s the thing — this is not just good for your team, it’s good for your bottom line.
Harvard Business Review surveyed more than 1,700 companies from eight countries and found that there was a statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes in all countries examined. Also those innovative companies unsurprisingly turned out to be more profitable, too.
In her 2016 piece, The Challenges of Diversity in Sustainability Leadership, Anya Khalamayzer highlighted the need for green-focused businesses and nonprofits to rethink they way they build diversity in leadership positions. As Khalamayzer points out the goal of environmental stewardship is preserving a diversity of ecosystems, cultures and natural resources. So it only makes sense that organizations pledging to protect the planet’s resources should reflect the diversity needed to solve the world’s big, interconnected problems.
“We need diversity to happen at all levels of environmental efforts, starting with the hiring process," said Whitney Tome, executive director of Green 2.0, an organization advancing racial diversity across mainstream environmental foundations and government agencies.
Leela Srinivasan, Chief Marketing Officer at Lever, has six ideas that can help yield results when it comes to fostering diversity in your workplace. First you have to get real about how diverse and inclusive your company is. Look, you can recruit all the diverse talent you want, but if they don’t feel comfortable in the office environment it isn’t going to work out. Make sure you create conditions where employees from all backgrounds can feel empowered to do their best work.
To really get started in this process you need to objectively analyze your current situation — how diverse do you consider the last five individuals promoted in terms of gender, ethnicity and background? Ask the same question of your last five hires. If there haven’t been many recent promotions or new team members added to your organization consider the last raises, bonuses or rewards that were distributed. Then consider the last five people who left your organization — is there any commonality in their background? Any patterns that emerge when you evaluate these questions can provide you with a starting point and areas where you need to prioritize your focus.
Next make sure your team interviews people consistently and objectively. Here’s the thing, even though hiring is really important for success, most companies seem to spend little time, effort or resources to train employees about making objective hiring decisions. And here’s the thing, whether we want to admit it or not, each of us has some bias about the world around us. Implementing some thoughtful guidelines can help to minimize the impact of that bias, or at least make us more aware of it. We all know that you want people to join your team who feel like a good fit, but if you constantly select people “just like us” your workplace could become a monoculture and your creativity and ability to succeed will be stifled. So utilize an application tracking system, a standard questionnaire and/or interview kits to help candidates be evaluated in a consistent way.
Does the world outside of your office understand your commitment to a diverse team? If you have people on your staff who may consider themselves to be in the minority you should ask if they are comfortable being featured in a company blog or to share their positive feelings about working for your company on sites like LinkedIn or Medium. If this isn’t an option yet, demonstrate your commitment to the community — attend local meetings that address diversity issues or arrange volunteer opportunities that will expose your team to a more diverse population. If your website includes people — one your team or clients — make sure that you highlight individuals who represent other groups.
Everyone has to participate. There are different ways you can do this, but your office environment will not be more diverse unless your team is onboard and open. You can engage in company-wide discussions to help foster inclusion and celebrate differences. You can create employee resource groups to provide networking and social opportunities to underrepresented groups, however you have to be careful that the dialogue remains open and doesn’t cause important conversations to be help behind closed doors. The end goal is that the most successful inclusion activities will foster a mutual sense of belonging amongst everyone — whether they are in the majority or minority. And remember, it isn’t just about special activities. You need to make sure that the everyday experience is inclusive. Here is Buffer’s guide to inclusive language for startups and tech companies, take a look and think about the language utilized in your company each day.
Here’s the thing, you may have to be proactive in building your diverse team. If you get 25 applications for a position and every one comes from a white millennial male, you may want to put in a little more work to garner a more diverse slate of potential candidates. However as you start approaching individuals you think may be a good fit, remember you are looking for a diverse AND talented team. Do not approach a potential candidate merely because they would increase the diversity at your company.
Most importantly? Don’t wait! The early you implement these strategies into your hiring process, the more likely you are to garner and maintain a diverse team. This is a commitment for the long term so get to it! There is no time like the present.
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.
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So you want to become a sustainability consultant?
Sustainability consulting is competitive, multi-disciplinary, and continually changing as technology, policy, climate, and the global economy changes. But breaking in to the field is more than possible. It's just a matter of understanding how your own particular skills and interests can be effectively developed and positioned to add value to your future consulting clients - and what you can expect managing your own consulting business.
Our Sustainability Consulting Masterclass is an online, on-demand series of five webinars, each ranging from 60-100 minutes long. It's great place to start to understand the basics of becoming a successful sustainability consultant and assessing the challenges of the business side of consulting.
The series covers topics such as:
- Sustainability 101 - an industry overview
- high-growth areas within sustainability consulting
- clients you can expect to see hiring
- writing proposals and contracts for sustainability consulting engagements
- project management tools, communication strategies, and suggestions for how to approach pricing.
Get a sneak peak at each of the classes, including testimonials from past participants.
And until March 15, 2018, we're knocking $51 off the price of the course.
We hope you enjoy your own continuing education and thank you for choosing SSC to help you in your professional development.
Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.
Sustainability decisions and reports are data-heavy. And not only that, sustainability data may be unfamiliar to many, including your own CEO.
One of the worst things a sustainability executive or sustainability consultant can do is jargon-speak and data-overload when presenting to corporate leadership.
“Too many executives overestimate the CEO’s understanding of, and desire for, detailed functional data. Many of the best CEOs are generalists who lack deep expertise in most functional areas,” writes Joel Trammell for Entrepreneur.
Remember that the CEO, and in many cases other executives, are relying on you – either as an consultant or as the in-house expert – to analyze the functional data and deliver your expert opinion on that data.
Here are Trammell’s three tips for turning down the data noise and turning up the sustainability signal to get better results:
- Keep the big picture in mind. Deliver “concise insight” into how a sustainability program is tracking on goals and how those goals are supporting the company’s overarching goals. Drop the details, and focus on impact.
- Focus on the future. When talking about a new sustainability program or report, focus on how the results of the report are going to affect the company’s future performance. Asking for an expensive LCA? Don’t dwell on the cost of the actual LCA assessment, instead frame the ask around how the LCA will “identify risk.” And, by identifying risk the LCA will give guidance on mitigating it, and the result will be long-term, low-risk operations in a more sustainable marketplace. Win!
- Ask for support when you need it. “Only the CEO can mitigate conflicts between departments and allocate resources where they are most needed,” said Trammell. This is especially important for sustainability executives, as we are trusted with advising and changing how other departments operate. Not everyone likes change. If you are feeling push back from purchasing on the new sustainable purchasing processes, directly provide guidance on how the CEO can proactively remove barriers in purchasing so he or she can see the positive results you promised from the program (Note: Don’t tattle. Keep it professional with clear action steps from the CEO).
By focusing on the big picture, the future, and framing how your role is working with and for other departments, you can keep your communication with the CEO focused and relevant.
Are you looking to pitch to company executives, but need to translate sustainability performance in a language that the C-suite understands? Let us know!
Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:
Lana Mazahreh grew up in Jordan where people have been living with absolute water scarcity since 1973. It was there that she learned to conserve water as soon as she could write her own name. The United Nations say one in three people around the world live facing a water crisis and Mazahreh’s practical talk shares three tips from water-poor countries on how to conserve water and address this global crisis.
While the vast majority of large and mid-sized businesses have been engaging in social media outreach as part of their marketing strategy for at least five years, nearly half are unable to pinpoint any impact this marketing has had on their bottom line.
Recently the Harvard Business Review ran The Basic Social Media Mistakes Companies Still Make, which notes that although 97% of Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn, 84% are on Facebook, and 86% are on Twitter, many brands entered the social media realm without a clear strategy. And without any strategy, you’re going to end up with a lot more mistakes than success. You may not be running at Fortune 500 company, but your sustainability business can certainly learn from their mistakes.
MISTAKE #1: Creating a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account and setting goals for increasing “the numbers of likes, comments and shares.” It may seem promising, but “likes,” comments and shares are probably not worth much to your income. If you don’t connect your social media actions to broader business goals from the beginning, your return on investment (ROI) becomes elusive, and social media becomes an end unto itself.
MISTAKE #2: Limiting brand preference. This means focusing entirely on Facebook or Instagram or whatever social media channel you feel is the most popular instead of implementing a multichannel outreach strategy. Looking back to the Fortune 500 companies, only 66% are using YouTube, 45% are on Instagram, 36% have corporate blogs, and even less are on Pinterest (a mere 33%). If your business choses not engage other platforms, you could miss out on valuable business opportunities.
Research by Millward Brown Digital found that 93% of Pinterest users planned purchases on the platform and 87% actually made a purchase after seeing a product they liked. Utilizing a platform like Snapchat might be the ideal way to reach millennials and Instagram has played an integral role in helping to lift sales for multiple brands. Super important stat: business that have prioritized blogging are 13 times more likely to receive positive ROI.
MISTAKE #3: Only pushing information out. While you need to engage your customers with stories that evoke emotions, solve their problems and help brighten their day, the best — and most underutilized tool — is responding to your customers. Replies to comments — even negative comments — can help bolster the image of your brand. And engaging lets your customers know you are listening.
So how do you make social media work for your business? Let’s start by basing your social strategy on business objectives — not just gaining more followers or “likes” — follow up on that by thinking about who your target market is, what social media platforms will best reach that group, and the tools and metrics that can help you achieve those goals. Focusing on increasing brand awareness for a certain age range during a specific time frame? That is an actual business goal, one you can achieve!
And when you are considering which platforms to utilize, remember more is not always better. If a social media outlet doesn’t seem to vibe with your business objectives, it might be better to post less or even close that account.
MISTAKE #4: Not tracking analytics. There are a number of social media options when it comes to analytics, so take the time to research those options and find what makes the most sense for your business. If you can see where your efforts are working (and where they are not making much impact) it will help you focus your attention in the areas that are improving your bottom line.
Social media and sustainability go hand in hand. Utilizing the right social media channels will give your company the chance to expand engagement, transparency, rethink societal roles, and more.
Looking for an example? Take Toms, the shoe company – Toms has utilized social media to promote initiatives such as One for One. And once a year they have a One Day Without Shoes campaign which last year provided shoes to over 27,000 children.
Establishing a social media strategy that is business oriented may seem overwhelming, but if you take a step back and remember to take your business goals and target market into consideration, it will be much easier to prove you are seeing ROI via your social media activities. Not just a few more thumbs up each day
In January GreenBiz posted a video about Microsoft’s use of Artificial Intelligence to advance sustainability around the world. Last July they launched a $50 million grant called AI for Earth, which has already started several projects including helping farmers produce more utilizing fewer resources. Josh Henretig, senior director of environmental sustainability at Microsoft, said "We hope that anyone will be able to take advantage of these tools.”
You can learn more about this impressive project here.
It’s a new year, which means it’s a new chance to expand your sustainability credentials. B Corp is an organization that Strategic Sustainability Consulting has been a proud member of for seven years.
Through our certification as a B Corp, SSC is part of a global community with more than 2,100 businesses from 50 countries and over 130 industries working together toward one goal — to redefine success in business.
Since February is B Corp Month we thought it would a great time to take a look back and remember why we became a certified member in 2011 and how we still value our membership years later.
If you don’t know what it means to be a certified B Corp here is a brief overview — we are a network or companies that are seeking to form a new sector in our economy, one that meet independent standards for social and environmental accountability. We aim to do so by addressing two major issues:
• corporate law that misaligns incentives between profits, employees, the community, and environmental well-being, and
• the lack of transparent standards differentiating good companies from good marketing, i.e. greenwashers.
You can’t just sign up to become a member, first SSC (and any other interested company) needs to pass the B Impact Rating System, demonstrate that our legal framework integrated our values throughout the company, and do the necessary paperwork. It may sound like an involved process, but the value of certification makes that all worthwhile. Think of it like this: the B Corp certification is what Fair Trade means to coffee. Being a member of B Corp is a symbol to our clients and colleagues that SSC is committed to “walking our talk.” We want to show the world that we are here to help organizations find the business value in being a responsible corporate citizen.
When we joined this community of like-minded businesses we weren’t just thinking ourselves, but also as a way to promote sustainable business practices to our clients. A number of years have passed since we got certified and SSC is still incredibly proud to be able to call ourselves B Corp members. Showing the world that your business is committed to being socially and environmentally accountable continues to be a top priority.
You can check out our profile on the website to see our impact report and if you are interested in becoming certified like SSC you can visit the Become a B Corporation page to learn more about the process.
Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.
There are a lot of business books out there that provide templates for business plans and checklists. And having a plan and a checklist is important for any project or start-up, but developing a business strategy or incorporating sustainability into a business strategy isn’t a series of items to check off of a “to-do list.”
Even if you went through and commissioned and then checked off an annual sustainability report, a carbon footprint, a life-cycle analysis, et cetera, there is no guarantee that your organization would even be close to executing a true sustainability strategy.
Sustainability strategy should be based on an organizational understanding of why you need to invest in assessing and reducing your environmental impact. Without understanding why, you risk wasting time and money on projects that don’t align with the overall business strategy and stakeholder needs.
After determining why sustainability is important to the organization, you should focus on materiality, or what are the most important or impactful steps the organization can make inside of a realistic timeframe or budget or deadline.
Finally, look to experts to develop a proven path forward that speaks to both the materiality and the underlying corporate strategy on this issue.
For example, if your company is a small manufacturing firm held accountable to demanding suppliers or upcoming environmental regulations, but you have no clear idea on your environmental impact, then your why may be “we need to know what we are facing so we can answer questions of our stakeholders with honesty and confidence.”
Next, is materiality – are suppliers or regulators more important? Can they be addressed through the same sustainability tool or report?
If you determine through a materiality assessment that your suppliers are the most important stakeholder group to address first, next, consider what information they are demanding, in what format, and by when. In the example case of manufacturing, this may be collecting LCA data for a supplier scorecard or more pulling together even more thorough data for a third-party environmental or human product declaration (EPD/HPD) report.
Essentially, sustainability strategy should be tailored as carefully as marketing strategy or pricing strategy.
Company leadership should clearly understand why the sustainability efforts are integral to the success of the company, how important they are to the stakeholders who drive that success to help prioritize efforts, and which strategic path forward to take to meet stakeholder needs best.
SSC not only delivers excellent sustainability consulting services, we are focused on ensuring our clients choose the service, and level of service, that will meet their real business goals.