Strategic Sustainability Consulting

Strategic Sustainability Consulting

5 Ways to Promote Sustainability Through Strong Values

The SSC Team December 20, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

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 Architects Hurting Manufacturers’ Sustainability Progress? Sustainability Lessons from ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX)

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

Last month, we headed out to ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX) to get the pulse on sustainability from the perspective of architects, engineers, builders, contractors, manufacturers, and other AEC professionals. We spoke to dozens of representatives from the more than 400 exhibitors about sustainability programs, sustainability strategy, and what they think of it all.

Our conversations resulted in two really great questions:

  • Are Architects Hurting Manufacturers’ Sustainability Progress? and
  • Future of the FSC: What Happens When Manufacturers Reject Certification? (Check back on Dec. 22 for our thoughts!)

Additionally, we took extra time and conducted a survey specifically targeted at companies that manufacture products (as opposed to service providers and distributors) used in the AEC field to delve deeper into what types of companies are doing what types of sustainability programs and why. We'll post our survey results in early January. 

So, are architects hurting manufacturers’ sustainability progress?

Talking to small-to-mid sized manufacturing companies, the most common strategic sustainability headache cited is being asked either directly or through the RFP process by an architecture firm, project management team, and/or developer whether or not they “have” or “can get” a specific certification, accreditation, or report to be competitive on the bid.

Some pressure is good

For example, most mid-sized companies (15-50 employees) we spoke with are aware of and able to offer LEED credits, at a bare minimum. And some have done and EPD or HPD reports. And others track specific sustainability metrics.

But nearly all of the smaller companies (1-15 employees) and start-ups told us that they wanted to figure out how to be able to offer LEED credits (and most hadn’t even heard of an HPD or EPD or LCA), but the certification process was unclear at the time – especially considering they are generally running a small, lean firm. To the folks we talked to, chasing certifications that don’t really mean much to them at this phase of their business wasn’t a smart financial choice right now, but they have it on the list.

This is where the pressure can be good. Even small companies are looking ahead to some of the industry’s most recognizable program – LEED – which, we believe, will eventually push them to open their eyes to why LEED exists, what consumer and regulatory pressures are driving “green” buildings, and to ask themselves “what’s next?” in terms of sustainability strategy and certifications.

After LEED, it gets hard

With all of the mid-sized companies offering LEED credits, we asked them “what else are you doing in sustainability? Some said nothing. Some said tracking waste or water or something relevant to their own corporate mission.

But most of them essentially ended with: We try to do what the client, usually the developer or architect wants, in terms of certifications or data submissions with regard to our environmental and social impact, but almost every time, each architect and each developer want different things.

Essentially, a single mid-sized manufacturing firm supplying coatings or interior glass to multiple clients on multiple projects all at different times faces being asked for multiple things, and often not presented in the same format.

One mid-sized interior finishings company representative said (and I paraphrase), “After awhile, as a mid-sized manufacturer, we can’t keep going around spending money and time on a dozen different certifications to meet the needs of a dozen different clients all wanting a different type of certification from us. The architecture industry needs to really figure out what it wants to know about the sustainability efforts of the companies they use to supply goods and services, and standardize that better.”

The overall feeling, was that an industry association – whether it is architects or developers, or both together – needs to take a leadership role and start developing an industry-wide reporting tool that works for the AEC industry, tailored to the process of design-build-maintain. Similar to what the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is doing for clothing.

Buildings and the built space are unique in so many ways, so having their own sustainability reporting program that actually tells us what the total environmental and social impact of a given building is needs to be the future of the industry.

So, who will step up?

In the meantime, we are here to help companies figure out the certifications or reports or data sets that will serve their own business operations best as clients and customers increase their demand for sustainability information. If you’re just getting started, we can help you understand the smartest path forward to keep you one step ahead.

 

6 Ways to Get Executive Buy In for Sustainability

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

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

What do executives have in common with school kids? They both can be pretty picky. So when we read 6 Quick Lessons from the School Lunch Line for Pleasing Picky Customers, we realized that the tips applied equally well when trying to convince company executives to green-light a sustainability project. We've taken the article's six lessons which are listed below, and added our own commentary.

1. INVOLVE THEM INTO THE PROCESS.

It's easier to get approval for something when the person you are trying to convince feels ownership of it -- so ask for input and solicit feedback as you begin to plan and refine your proposal. Find out what makes your executives tick (cost savings, innovation, beating a competitor, etc.) and work that aspect into your pitch.

2. GIVE A NOD TO WHAT THEY KNOW.

If you can build on an existing program or process that is well-tested and well-loved, all the better. Anything you can do to reduce the risk (or perceived risk) of a new sustainability venture will make it more palatable for executives to swallow.

3. FREE SAMPLES NEVER HURT.

Can you give executives a taste of what's to come? Whether it's the results of a small pilot study ("Look, in just a week we saved $568- Imagine what we could do by rolling out this program company wide!") or a tangible thing to hold (a prototype of a new product), giving people a "bite" to try before committing to the whole meal can lower their resistance to something new. 

4. USE PEER DYNAMICS. PEOPLE ARE NATURALLY COMPETITIVE.

Sometimes you can use C-Suite dynamics to your advantage -- but tread carefully. You may find that certain executives are eager to prove themselves. That may mean that they challenge each other to find better and better sustainability initiatives. (Or it may mean that they undercut each other -- so again, be thoughtful in how you play office politics.) Alternately, consider framing your idea in terms of your company versus your competition. How can your initiative help leapfrog over your industry peers? How can it help you stay competitive? How can it open new markets that others haven't yet spotted?

5. DON’T GIVE UP IMMEDIATELY.

Anyone who has tried to sell their idea at the executive level has probably already learned this lesson, but it's worth repeating. It's unlikely that any significant initiative will get immediate approval -- so think early and often about how to introduce a phased approach, or plan your requests so that executives have plenty of time to consider and decide. 

6. ON THE OTHER HAND, ACCEPT YOUR LIMITATIONS.

Sometimes you just have to let it go. If executives are dead set against your program, move on. The beautiful thing about sustainability is that there is never a shortage of great ideas. So find the next one and start planning. (And don't forget that it's possible that your timing was just off -- keep your rejected idea in a drawer somewhere. It might be just what's needed six months from now!)

Thanks to 2degrees for publishing a version of this article!

If you are interested in reading more on this topic, check out our blog post: Does Your Executive Team Really Understand Your Sustainability Strategy?

 

Incorporating 30 Elements of Consumer Value to Maximize Sustainability Returns

The SSC Team December 1, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Occasionally we run across an article that is so jam packed with information and application to the world of corporate sustainability that we don't want to summarize a single word.

Instead, we recommend you stop what you're doing right now and read every single word of the recent article, The Elements of Value, from the September issue of the Harvard Business Review.

The article's implications for how B2C companies can position their own sustainability activities to generate consumer value are invaluable ways to approach sustainability strategy in product and service design and development. 

Yes. Mind. Blown.

Now that you're really understanding how this can truly transform your business, contact us so we can help get you on the path. The hardest part is usually the first step. We're here to help.

 

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog for November 2016

The SSC Team November 30, 2016 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. Integrate Total Cost of Ownership with Your LCA to Make Sustainable Choices
  2. 3 Ways to Engage Suppliers on Sustainability
  3. TED Talks: Leadership – 5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change
  4. Improve Your Sustainability Presentation Skills
  5. 4 Ways to Stay Focused as a Sustainability Consultant

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.

 

 

Sustainability Resources You Might Have Missed

The SSC Team November 24, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

It seems like every day there is a new sustainability tool on the market. Some are awesome, some are interesting, and some will make you scratch your head in confusion. But don't worry, we've done the heavy lifting and highlighted three sustainability tools below that are worth your time. Enjoy!

World Resources Institute (WRI) Climate Analysis Indicators Tool, or CAIT 2.0 - "The platform offers free online access to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other climate data, enabling researchers, policymakers, media, and others to download, visualize and share data for analysis and communications on climate change."

Value Chain Mapping - "Obtaining a clear picture of the fundamental inputs and outputs of your business provides valuable information for sustainability program development, as well as CSR reporting. CR professionals are developing sustainability-specific value chain maps in order to systematically assess the company's impacts throughout product sourcing, transport, development, use and disposal."

Sustainable Apparel Coalition's Higg Index Web Portal - "The Higg Index is used by the coalition's members to measure metrics such as energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, chemicals policies, waste management and labor practices from factories around the world... Although you must be a coalition member to gain complete access to the index, any invited supplier can submit data about its facilities and business practices. This will turn the Higg Index into a valuable Web resource that will help apparel and footwear companies collect and consider environmental and social information from potential suppliers or production resources."

Want to know more about sustainability reporting?  Check out our white paper, Sustainability Reporting and SMEs:  A Closer Look at the GRI.

 

Don’t “Adapt” to Environmental Trends, Changes and Regulations, Prepare for Them

The SSC Team November 22, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Was Microsoft ready for mobile computing? Nope. But they didn’t need to be because they were busy preparing for cloud computing. Was Google+ the next gen social media powerhouse. Nope. But it didn’t need to be because they were preparing to pretty much become synonymous with “the Internet” through unprecedented search, advertising, subscription, and cloud-based tools (not to mention Google X).  

Business analysis often write snappy articles about how certain giants “failed” to take advantage of market opportunities, but they’re often looking at the short term view. Companies like IBM, Google, Microsoft, Union Pacific, Disney, Wal-Mart and so many others, are already thinking about their next thing, not just “the next big thing.”

“The truth is that once you find yourself in a position where you need to adapt, it’s usually too late,” said business consultant Greg Satell in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.

Build a Better Business

Take the focus of being “agile” and “ready for the next trend,” and start focusing on developing a product, system, or service that is better than anything available – and be absolutely certain to be a leader on sustainability issues today. Don’t wait, or it’s too late.

Lead on Sustainability

Many firms approach sustainability as a checkbox. Don’t. Even if the pressure to develop a policy is coming from clients or regulators, develop a strategic sustainability policy and then just do one extra thing to advance beyond the baseline.

Maybe that one extra thing is writing in a lobbying effort toward an environmental regulation that will help give your firm a competitive advantage because you’re already doing so well in that area. Maybe that one extra thing is, not just reporting on emissions, but taking a small step in reducing them – lighting retrofits, solar panels, telecommuting programs. Maybe that one extra thing is engaging in a peer benchmarking study to see how far your organization needs to reach to get to the front of the pack.

As climate change effects become more acute and the global community begins to coalesce around ways to work together to make progress on combating it, don’t get caught playing catch up.

“Business that focus on solving big problems and are willing to invest in them for years —or even decades — can get a lot of other things wrong,” said Satell.

Climate change is a “big problem,” so get to solving it. It will be profitable for your firm and the planet itself. 

Integrate Total Cost of Ownership with Your LCA to Make Sustainable Choices

The SSC Team November 17, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Sustainability professionals speak the language of quantifying carbon emissions. Most other business professionals, however, speak the language of currency. Budgets. Market fluctuations. Stock price. Cost of materials or labor.

For most procurement professionals, pricing out goods and services generally means looking at the bottom line cost per unit over time. For example, a restaurant chain looking at cloth versus paper napkins is factoring in the annual cost of purchasing and disposing of paper napkins versus the prorated annual cost of purchasing, laundering, and replacing cloth napkins over their useful life. It’s dollars and cents.

Where natural capital accounting is a way to present the balance sheet of an organization by factoring in environmental impact, total cost of ownership, or TCO, helps firms better integrate sustainability information into the procurement process.

By taking the LCA data and drilling into each stage in the life cycle and calculating an environmental “cost,” a firm can create a TCO framework for a product or service. Or, better yet, can create better procurement guidelines based on optimal TCO variables that balance environmental and financial choices.

A Big Leap

TCO work is not easy. It requires firms to “dive deep into the value chain, and look at factors including manufacturing time, costs of parts, research and development, and environmental sustainability. This includes emissions from suppliers as well as those of consumers using the products and services.”

However, by using TCO purchasing practices firms are finding new business opportunities by meeting the increasing demands of consumers seeking “green” goods and services, decreased overall costs as waste reductions are targeted, and helps firms focus on the long term benefits of spending more up front, for example on energy efficient or renewable energy technology, resulting in a net decrease in operational costs over time.

Just like natural capital accounting, TCO work is difficult, not quite standardized at the level of most carbon emissions calculators, and underutilized. We hope to see more firms take up both practices, further integrating the bottom line dollar with the bottom line for the environment.

 

3 Ways to Engage Suppliers on Sustainability

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

We would like to get more involved in including sustainability initiatives during our procurement process and the selection of supplier process.  We want to work with our procurement team on this. What are some of the methods other organizations and companies have used in engaging with suppliers with their sustainability initiatives?

-- Barry Enix | Buckman

 

 

The question above was posed on the 2Degrees platform for sustainability professionals. It's a great question, and one that we frequently tackle in our work with clients seeking to push sustainability beyond their direct operational boundaries.

Here's what SSC President Jennifer Woofter said:

I find that effective supplier engagement needs three components: a policy element, a program element, and performance element.

The policy element is intended to explain the expectations that you have for suppliers in the area of sustainability. A supplier code of conduct, for example, will outline which sustainability issues (labor, environment, human rights, grievance processes, health and safety, etc.) you expect suppliers to address and comply with. Inserting similar requirements into supplier contracts, RFP/RFQs, etc. will ensure that the policy has "teeth" and can be used in contract decisions.

Supply chain programs including training and capacity building -- for both the suppliers themselves, but also for your procurement staff. Do purchasing managers know what to look for in a "sustainable" supplier? Are sustainability aspects incorporated into new vendor evaluations? What kind of auditing, self-assessments, corrective actions, and negotiation tools are available on each side? Robust programs will ensure that your policy isn't just a document on a wall somewhere, but is an active expectation lived out in day-to-day decision-making.

The final component is effective performance measurement. Sustainability professionals like to say "what gets measured gets managed" and it's essential that any supplier engagement program have effective metrics. You might begin with simple measures like "how many suppliers responded to our survey" or "how many suppliers attended our sustainability training," but generally I advocate moving to more outcome-based metrics such as "how much did serious incidents decrease after suppliers participated in our safety training?" and "how many tons of carbon emissions were suppliers who engaged with us able to reduce (as compared to non-engaging supplier)?" These kind of indicators will give you a much better sense of how effective your engagement efforts are -- and give you insight into what new initiatives are most likely to give you the results you seek.

Want to see what other sustainability practitioners recommended? Read the entire discussion over at 2Degrees.

 

TED Talks: Leadership – 5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change

The SSC Team November 10, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Everyone loves a good TED Talk. Here’s one of our favorites.

Organizational change expert Jim Hemerling outlines strategies for making change management a positive experience instead of a tumultuous one. He argues that a business in today's constantly-evolving world can be invigorating instead of exhausting. Watch this awesome TED talk where Hemerling outlines five strategies, centered around putting people first, for turning company reorganization into an empowering, energizing task for all.