Strategic Sustainability Consulting

Strategic Sustainability Consulting

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.

 

 

A Deeper Look at Sustainable Supply Chain Challenges

The SSC Team November 8, 2016 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

Much of our work with clients is focused on tackling complex supply chain issues, so we're always on the lookout for articles that provide a fresh perspective, challenge a deeply-held belief, or shed light on an emerging topic. Today, we're highlighting three recent articles that really caught our attention. Enjoy!

Why aren't more tech companies tracking conflict minerals? "It may sound easy at first: Simply ensure that the metals within your brand's electronics are conflict-free. In other words, make sure that none of your gold, tantalum, tin or tungsten is sourced from mines that fund armed conflict in or around the Democratic Republic of Congo." So why aren't more companies ready to comply with the May 31 reporting deadline? This article provides superb insight into the challenges.

4 ways to make your supply chain more dynamic, resilient. "How do companies create 'dynamic operations'? Four capabilities underpin this practice, giving companies the speed, responsiveness and possibility to gain a competitive advantage when they face volatility in their markets." Sustainability planning is all about mitigating uncertainty, and the four tips presented here provide much food for thought.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Supply Chains. "The modern supply chain is much larger than suppliers and customers; it also includes suppliers’ suppliers and customers’ customers. All told, it encompasses a seemingly infinite set of variables and exposures, as any single failure anywhere in the supply chain can bring operations and profits to a standstill." A great primer on how sustainability-related uncertainty can ripple through a supply chain.

Want to gain more insight into some of the challenges facing suppliers?  Read our 2-part interview with Nate Sullivan of Efficiency Exchange (EEx), a provider of sustainability software and services to Chinese factories.Part 1 and Part 2.

 

Lobbying Isn’t (Always) a Dirty Word: Climate Change is a Very Special Interest

The SSC Team November 3, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

The public discourse, especially in the current political climate, tends to take extreme positions on practically every issue. Of course climate change and climate change regulation is already quite a hot-button, but the act of lobbying itself – approaching elected officials to influence public policy – is often considered dirty politics.

In truth, those of us committed to smart regulations and international cooperation to help reduce the effects of climate change, can benefit from pressing our elected officials to take this issue seriously. U.S. voters head to the polls next week – make sure you know what your candidates’ views are on climate change – and organizations small and large should consider taking a stronger position and using their resources to help create a smart regulatory environment.

The deck isn’t stacked against the green companies

According to a recent study, more than $3.1 billion was spent lobbying on environmental issues between 2009 and 2014, and nearly half of that money was spent by firms lobbying for climate-protecting regulation.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) “openly supported a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, and even left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the organization’s vociferous opposition to carbon regulation,” and was the second highest spender lobbying on climate change in 2008.

Too few are using the government to help

The study also found that mostly the activist companies – very low emitters with a competitive advantage from increasing regulation – and the worst greenhouse gas emitters (gas, oil, coal, and the like) are primarily the ones taking the fight to state and national legislators. This means that there are hundreds of thousands of organizations that aren’t speaking up at all, allowing the major players to dictate the terms.

Integrate lobbying into your sustainability strategy

As companies develop sustainability strategies, be sure to include lobbying – at the local, regional, or national level –  in that strategy. Set the pace as a leader on the issues so you’re not caught playing catch up when legislation is enacted.

Is your organization integrating lobbying and outreach efforts into its sustainability strategy? Let us know where you've seen gains.

Webcast to Watch: Closing the Gap Between Risk and Sustainability

The SSC Team November 1, 2016 Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Check out this webcast opportunity from GreenBiz, featuring speakers from Starbucks and March and McLennan, as they discuss the intersections of financial, operational, strategic and sustainability risk management.

"This one-hour webcast will provide insight into how companies can effectively identify, assess, respond to and manage the strategic and operational risks and opportunities presented by sustainability-related issues in a changing business environment."

 

Closing the Gap Between Risk and Sustainability

November 8 @ 1pm Eastern

Best of the Blog for October 2016

The SSC Team October 27, 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. A 6-Minute Guide to Better Sustainability Decisions
  2. TED Talks Sustainability: Alex Steffen Sees a Sustainable Future
  3. What Does an Average Sustainability Consulting Project Cost?
  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.

Viewpoint: As African economies grow, regulators, investors, and corporations need to put sustainability first

The SSC Team October 25, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

A recent analysis in the Harvard Business Review paints a fairly rosy picture for economic growth up and across the African continent. When controlling for the drop in revenue from oil-rich African countries and disruption from the Arab Spring movement, other economic sectors maintained a 4%+ growth rate over the past five years.

Growth coupled with a rapid urbanization rate, increasing workforce size, accelerating technology access, and abundant resources all mean that the “continent still offers promising opportunities for global investors and businesses.”

The article asserts that, “to unlock growth, companies should look for opportunities in six sectors that we find have ‘white space’— wholesale and retail, food and agri-processing, health care, financial services, light manufacturing, and construction. All these sectors are characterized by high growth, high profitability, and low consolidation.”

To continue, the authors do make note that political and economic stability play major roles in how the continent will move forward. But there is no mention of how global, national, regional, and governments should also pay close attention to – and set policy and precedent for – how a 4%+ economic growth rate, booming population, and tens of millions of households entering the consumer class should be regulated in terms of mitigating the effects on the environment.

Yes, to unlock growth, companies should be looking at Africa – specifically these six sectors – and governments should be paying close attention to prevent exploitation of the new working and consumer classes. Yet, everyone should also be committed to making sure this new African future is sustainable as well.  

Tackling sustainability, and adding sustainability in as a factor for African development in assessments like the one published, pressing global multinational companies to ensure all African initiatives have robust sustainability elements, designing programs to help African-based companies gain immediate and relevant access to sustainability strategic planning tools and best practices, including African leaders in important conversations and protocols as global climate accords are developed, and essentially not reinventing the wheel.

As we see Asian countries struggling to reduce emissions generated by decades of providing a cheap-labor market driven by coal power, the international business community and government leaders need to ensure sustainability is directly integrated into Africa’s path for industrial development – helping build a green Africa starting today.

Is your sustainability story too complicated?

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

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

You can't be all things to all people, and neither can an effective sustainability strategy. Companies that try to do everything (such as go carbon neutral, hire local, move to 100% telecommuting, redesign products to be zero waste, offer vegan lunch options in the cafeteria, install a rooftop garden, and retrofit the building) lack the focus to make truly meaningful change.

Instead, companies having the most effective sustainability plans are usually laser sharp in their sustainability strategy -- identifying just a couple of key leverage points to guide all subsequent sustainability decisions. That's what we recommend to clients (cover your bases, but choose to excel in one area at a time). 

But even with a straightforward and strategic sustainability plan, sometimes the message to stakeholders gets muddled. So how do you know if you are telling a simple and compelling sustainability story? In a recent article in Fast Company, The 10 Questions Every Brand Should Ask To Ensure It's Simple Enough, author Margaret Molloy gave some great insight. (While she is talking about branding, we think it applies equally well to sustainability communications.) 

Below, we've amended the 10 questions that Molloy poses in order to present them in a sustainability context.

•  Is senior leadership committed to providing a simpler sustainability story?

•  Do I know what our brand’s sustainability purpose is, and is it articulated in a simple, memorable, and inspiring way?

•  Do we have the tools in place to get everyone to consistently deliver on our sustainability purpose?

•  Have we made it as simple as possible to innovate at our company?

•  Is our brand deeply focused on what drives sustainability preference within the market?

•  Are our sustainability messages in sync with the customer experience?

•  Do customers share our view of who we are and what we want to be?

•  Are the sustainability aspects of our products and services clear and easy to navigate?

•  Do we know the sustainability issues where simplicity would be most appreciated and inspire greater loyalty?

•  Do we have a simple road map for the customer journey?

We recommend you read Molloy's entire article for additional insight. It really got us thinking...and we bet it will spark a discussion around your office's water cooler, too.

Thanks to 2degrees for publishing the article on their website!

Need more information on creating a good sustainability strategy?  Read our white paper, Sustainability Change Management:  We've Had the Green Audit, Now What?