It may be getting chilly, but all the more reason to make plans to head to sunny Phoenix from February 26–28 for GreenBiz19. Join more than 1,000 of the world’s brightest thinkers and most influential sustainability leaders for the chance to examine pressing challenges, emerging trends and the biggest opportunities in sustainable business today. As a regular attendee put it, “GreenBiz is such a great platform for sustainability. Our team attends every year, because it’s a fantastic source of inspiration and an opportunity for problem solving.” Who can say no to that? The “best” rate is good until November 14 and the “fall” rate expires December 14. Don’t wait too long to make your plans!
Have you encountered a CEO or employee who totally believes in the value of sustainable efforts, but also thinks it’s basically someone else’s problem? Unfortunately you aren’t alone. A recent feature in the Harvard Business Review noted that while many organizations these days are happy to talk about sustainable changes, they aren’t really committed to implementing those efforts.
Example? While carbon emissions continue to grow, only 1/3 of the 600 largest US Companies have taken steps to put systematic sustainability oversight in place at the board level. So how can we motivate companies to take that next step and actually walk the walk when it comes to making sustainable changes?
After interviewing more than 100 people ranging from CEOs to shop floor workers, CB Bhattacharya found that most companies fail to help the members of their team — at all levels — take ownership over these changes. In order to successfully implement sustainable solutions everyone has to believe that this is OUR problem, not someone else’s. So Bhattacharya developed a 3-step model that will help companies move away from just talking and into action.
In this first phase requires examining your company’s goals and determining how your business impacts the world. In this step, businesses often gain perspective on ways they could make sustainable changes through action, but typically need further help to move their plan into place.
During phase two, the sustainability plan must be presented to stakeholders which helps set the element of ownership into motion. You need to determine what will be the strongest selling point for your team to get committed — focusing on financial benefits or the positive feelings of making a difference. Most likely you will need a bit of both to encourage the feeling that these efforts are for the long-term betterment of your company and the community.
Helping members of the team see that their efforts have a real impact can make a huge difference to their willingness to commit to changes.
Once people have really gotten on board with the plan and sustainable changes are in place, they will (hopefully) become routine. Making sure to measure the impact of your changes so you can report back will make it clear to everyone what a difference is being made. Being able to really see the changes — say water use reduction — can be highly motivating, instilling pride in the good work and inspiring people to want to do more.
In Leveraging Corporate Responsibility: The Stakeholder Route to Maximizing Business and Social Value, Bhattacharya and fellow authors Sankar Sen and Daniel Korschun note that the social and environmental responsibility movement doesn’t seem to show any signs of fading away. As more and more companies commit to making real changes, there are also indirect effects of the efforts — employee retention, customer loyalty, and investor reaction and support.
If you can get your team to go all in with you, we know the benefits will be worth the effort.
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 October.
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Looking for some inspiration that will help you set bold sustainability goals? Check out this webinar on Greenbiz.com. It focuses on how going big when it comes to sustainability goals can be a smart business strategy as well as good stewardship. The panel is composed of sustainability professionals from big businesses — General Mills, Kering, McDonald’s and Quantis — and discusses topics like science-driven goal setting, the Science-Based Targets initiative, planetary boundaries, Sustainable Development Goals and more. The talk also provides concrete business cases from diverse organizations so you can see how they're working through this transition.
Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.
Everyone talks about mentoring, some with an eye roll and some with awed reverence of that one person who changed me forever. If you’re a sustainability consultant, you should be looking for mentors in places you may not have thought to look.
The obvious places we look for sustainability mentors: other consultants, professors, sustainability leaders.
But running a consultancy is more about sustainability, it’s about business skills. And, therefore, looking for mentors across the spectrum to help you build the support skills to run a business is crucial. And, even more interesting, you don’t even have to know your mentor to learn from her.
Look to people outside of sustainability and use best-practice from other fields to improve your own business as a sustainability consultant.
You’ll need much more than sustainability knowledge for your consultancy to succeed as a viable, profitable business. You’ll need to know how to sell, manage employees, manage clients, work with media, and keep up-to-date on everything from small-business taxes to major moves in sustainability reporting and policy.
It’s a big job, and you’re going to need all the help you can get!
Do you have a great “virtual mentor”? Tell us who it is in the comments.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.