Strategic Sustainability Consulting

Strategic Sustainability Consulting

TEDTalk 3 Thoughtful Ways to Conserve Water

The SSC Team February 22, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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.

The Four Big Social Media Mistakes Your Company Is Probably Making

The SSC Team February 20, 2018 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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

Microsoft aims AI at Earth’s sustainability sphere

The SSC Team February 15, 2018 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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

February is B Corp Month

The SSC Team February 13, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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.

Sustainability Strategy Isn’t a Checklist

The SSC Team February 8, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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

How to Improve Client Outreach

The SSC Team February 6, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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You may think that your work in the world of sustainability puts you in a totally unique industry. But think again! You may not like the idea of equating your work with work in sales, however a lot of the elements of a sales role overlap sustainability.

 

Just think — if you need to convince an internal audience that it is worth investing in sustainable efforts, aren’t you selling them on it? Or, as a consultant, you’re constantly selling your expertise? With that in mind, here are some tips from sales pros — and some things you definitely want to avoid when you are trying to engage a new client.

 

Focus on trust. Out of the gate you can’t just throw tons of new (and possibly expensive) ideas right out of the gate. First you need to establish a relationship, which will allow you to build trust. Then when you present a strategic plan the listener will be more likely to be confident in your agenda.

 

How can you create this trust? Jeff Haden offered three great suggestions in his recent post on Inc. about taking this step. First you need to learn about your contact and their business or organizational obstacles. If you don’t understand their unique challenges and values, how can you create a strategy that will make sense to them?

 

Find common ground. The best way to connect with a potential client is through a mutual connection. Research has shown that a buyer is five times more likely to engage with a sales person if they connected through a mutual acquaintance. Five times more likely! You can easily translate that from sales to your sustainability business — always look for a common professional connection.

 

And for in-house common ground? Look for opportunities to collaborate on their projects before pushing hard for someone to immediately jump on board your project. The old adage, “make it their idea” works well when selling to co-workers across departments.

 

The last tip seems like a no brainer — demonstrate expertise and knowledge in your industry. You may get in the door, but your potential client is probably not going to sign onto any strategy you create unless they believe you really know what you are talking about. Be confident and show that you are tuned into their business and the best ways to make sustainable adjustments in their industry.

 

As an internal sustainability manager or advocate, it might be helpful to bring in an expert for a workshop to better explain what sustainability is from a position of experience. This may answer a lot of questions for everyone on the team, and give you some insight on what next steps you need to take as well.

 

With those guidelines in mind, let’s take a look at some of behaviors you want to avoid while selling:  

 

Do not blame others if your performance declines. Your plans aren’t being accepted? You aren’t growing your client base? Before you start casting the blame on someone else, take a real look at what former clients, supervisors, or colleagues are saying about your work. Have things changed?

 

As a consultant, even if you’ve found one super, amazing client, don’t neglect your other work. Remember do not put all your eggs in one basket. Client needs change, relationships change, and you can’t focus all your attention on only one company or you could end up with nothing.

 

You probably don’t want to get too political. If you take a stance make sure it is in line with your brand as a consultant or in line with the corporate values. Try to keep your personal feelings in check, and think about the brand you’re selling before make politically motivated statements. 

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

The SSC Team February 1, 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 November.

 

The Obstacles with Sustainability Strategy

 

Creating Partnerships Can Be Useful for Your Company

 

Is Vanpooling a Good Choice for Your Company?

 

 

 

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.

Where Sustainability and Boards of Directors Intersect

The SSC Team January 25, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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With consumers and Wall Street continuing to put pressure on companies to be open about their sustainable practices, boards of directors are feeling the pinch. Investors certainly expect that board members understand and help prepare for challenges. Investing in sustainability is increasingly seen as a risk mitigation strategy, particularly now that it is clear that there is a connection between sustainable efforts and how companies perform.

There are a number of sustainability issues — climate change, water scarcity, labor inequality, product safety — that impact the bottom line. By understanding the impact of these risks on their companies and incorporating that information into the decision making process, boards can meet the demands of a growing number of investors around the world — and unlock real business opportunities.

This Greenbiz.com article, How to Build a Board that’s Competent for Sustainability, was an excellent round up of how to manage boards effectively when it comes to sustainability issues.

 

When an environmental or social issue impacts production and more, board members must respond. And it’s the job of the corporate staff, from investor relations to corporate secretaries to sustainability officers, to help the board become fluent in these sustainability risks — so that directors can understand why it matters to their business and what they can do about it. While some would say you could simple add a member or two to the board who is well versed in sustainable issues, a report recently release by Ceres suggest you should build a sustainably competent board.

 

How to build a sustainably competent board

Key suggestions include integrating sustainability issues into board recruitment and educating directors on sustainability issues and why it’s critical for them to engage with external stakeholders, including investors and experts on sustainability issues. The end goal is totally straightforward and by tackling material sustainability risks as a group, the board can ask the right questions, support or challenge management as needed and make knowledgeable decisions on strategy and risk.

 

There are other important elements that can assist in this process such as investor relations. Investors have long paid attention to board composition, including leading the charge calling for more diversity on corporate boards. Now that focus has grown to include climate competency, with major investors including CalPERS, CalSTRS, Blackrock and State Street (PDF) demanding that boards bring on climate-competent directors.

To work on this transition, the sustainability department and investor relations team can pair up to help educate directors when it comes to sustainability issues. They can prepare educational materials and sessions, report on material sustainability issues and discussion to boards and involve boards in materiality assessments, including ongoing updates of the business case for managing sustainability issues. Materiality assessments are particularly important. A growing number of companies are putting in place formal process to assess materiality sustainability issues. Board members should be involved in these processes to provide input, as well as to vet the results.

Finally, corporate staff can help the board engage with investors and other expert stakeholders on the topics important to the company through outreach to stakeholders or by creating advisory councils that have sufficient expertise to engage with directors and help brief and prepare board members for investor engagements on sustainability issues.

If a board wants what is best for the company, it’s clear that establishing a focus on sustainability issues will be good for business. Would you like help making the case to leadership on the power of sustainability, contact us! 

Is Vanpooling a Good Choice for Your Company?

The SSC Team January 23, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

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 Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives

Check out the following question pop up on 2Degrees.com (a platform for sustainability professionals): 

We’re based in rural Wiltshire and fast outgrowing our site. Whilst expansion plans are in the works, our car park is at capacity and we have more new starters joining every week. Whilst most of us car share, we’re still looking for ways to take cars off the road. We’re looking at introducing buses from the major towns and cities for Dyson people to get to work and back home. It would be great to learn about how others have implemented a similar scheme successfully and what things to watch out for including any experiences you can share on linking incentives to use of more sustainable modes of transport.

-- Nicola Warner | Dyson

There were several good comments already in the thread, but of course we wanted to add our own input! Here's what we said:

Have you considered vanpooling as an option?

We’ve found that vanpooling is a great option for companies located in rural areas when employees live in many directions. It’s particularly valuable for companies with a growing headcount, because it’s relatively easy to add a new van (while adding a new bus route is a significant commitment in terms of time and money).

There's lots of good evidence that vanpooling is good for employees and good for companies. According to Enterprise RideShare:

Vanpooling drastically reduces commuting and maintenance costs by up to $800 a month* (based on AAA mileage). Also, employees who vanpool are eligible for tax incentives  (IRS Tax Code 132(f)) and local government subsidies... People who share a ride aren't subject to the daily traffic grind, which means they arrive at work happier, more relaxed and, in turn, are more productive. Also, vanpoolers are found to be more punctual than those that drive alone. So employees who vanpool are more likely to arrive to work on time.

If you'd like to chat more with us about vanpooling and the key lessons (both positive and negative) we've learned over time, please contact us to set up a meeting. Otherwise, check out these resources for more information.

Vanpooling: A Handbook to Help You Set Up a Program at Your Company - a PDF guide from the US Department of Transportation. While the handbook is a bit old (published in the early 1990s), it is a great roadmap for setting up and managing a vanpooling program.

Vanpool Benefits: Implementing Commuter Benefits - a PDF guide from the US Environmental Protection Agency's "Best Workplace for Commuters" program. While written with an American audience in mind, all companies will find it useful for considering the financial costs and benefits of a vanpooling program.

Curious about how different commuting patterns affect your company's carbon footprint? Download our free white paper, Reducing Your Organization's Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions

TEDTalk Fashion has a pollution problem — can biology fix it?

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

Multi-discipline designer Natsai Audrey Chieza is committed to reducing pollution in the fashion industry while creating amazing new things to wear. Working in her lab she noticed that the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor makes a striking red-purple pigment. Now she’s using the bold, color-fast fabric dye and cutting down on water waste and chemical runoff. She isn't alone in using synthetic biology to redefine our material future — imagine "leather" made from mushrooms or super strong yarn made from spider-silk protein. We're not going to build the future with fossil fuels, Chieza says. With a background crossing the boundaries between technology, biology, design and cultural studies, she believes a more sustainable future will be built with biology.