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Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from February 2017

The SSC Team February 28, 2017 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

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.

  1. The Business Case for Sustainability
  2. How to Calculate Your Company’s Carbon Footprint
  3. Interview Skills: How to Land Your Dream Job in Sustainability
  4. What “Sustainability Consulting” Is and Isn’t
  5. What Does Gender Equality Have to Do With Climate Change?

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Interview Skills: Landing Your Dream Job in Sustainability

The SSC Team February 7, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Many people confuse sustainability consulting with green marketing – beautifully branded, sleek consumer products designed with unbleached, post-consumer recycled paper products and lots of leafy logos – or with strategic sustainability communications – guiding employees or green teams toward more sustainable behavioral changes through values training and green workplace programs and policies.  

Sustainability consulting includes both of those elements at times, but most of the heavy lifting in sustainability consulting entails using complicated datasets to analyze and quantify activities, policies, programs, and processes that contribute to the environmental and social impacts of a product or organization.

Essentially, a lot of math. A lot of data. And a lot of analysis. And then a lot of strategic communications.

If you’re still with us, and you still think you’re stoked about a career in sustainability, how are you going to land the dream job?

  1. Get experience in sustainability through internships or fellowships
  2. Ensure you understand the work through finding and working with a mentor in the field
  3. Provide work samples
  4. Knock the interview out of the park

The interview is critical

Taking your interview skills to the next level means demonstrating your ability to learn while doing.

By using the 1956 research of Benjamin Bloom to highlight your higher cognitive thinking. This article helps explain how its done, but essentially – whether looking for a new client or a new job – going beyond storytelling and detailing your experiences based on your abilities to analyze, synthesize, evaluation and adjust course is going to put you ahead of the pack. 

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of the Blog for January 2017

The SSC Team January 31, 2017 Tags: , , 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. Incorporating 30 Elements of Consumer Value to Maximize Sustainability Returns
  2.  Integrate Total Cost of Ownership with Your LCA to Make Sustainable Choices
  3.  3 Ways to Engage Suppliers on Sustainability
  4.  Is Your Sustainability Strategy Too Complicated?
  5.  Future of the FSC: What Happens When Manufacturers Reject Certifications

 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.

The Business Case for Sustainability

The SSC Team January 12, 2017 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives. 

Each year we try and start fresh, assuming that our potential clients may be learning about sustainability strategy from a practical implementation standpoint for the very first time.

Even though this post is from our archives, this webinar presented by, SSC President Jennifer Woofter called "The Business Case for Sustainability" presented to the DC chapter of Net Impact a few years back is a great primer on  how to identify, calculate, and prioritize social and environmental benefits to organizations.

We recorded the session, and you can watch it here! 

Some people still think that implementing sustainability might be great for the company's image, but bad for its bottom line. Nothing could be further from the truth, and you will learn how sustainability makes both Sense and Cents. 

Over the course of the webinar we will identify key areas where "going green" can pay off, calculate basic savings opportunities for energy, water, transportation and other issues, and understand basic financial models for calculating return on investment (ROI). We will also discuss how to value a company's reputation, brand image, and stakeholder relationships, as well as how to reduce certain costs borne by the company. We will focus on the following areas and demonstrate with real-life case studies: 

  • Economic: Promoting business excellence and maintaining the highest ethical standards 
  • Social: Engaging with community and exemplifying corporate responsibility 
  • Environmental: Employing green building practices and minimizing carbon emissions

 If you found this webinar helpful, you may also want to check out our white paper, Sustainability Through the Value Chain.  For a complimentary conversation about the topics in the webinar or white paper, please contact us.

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!

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?

 

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?

Improve Your Sustainability Presentation Skills

The SSC Team September 27, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Your sustainability strategy may be off the charts good and your pitch deck summary may connect all of the dots, but whether you’re in front of the decision-makers, on the phone, or delivering a webinar, you should take a look at these 16 ways to improve your presentation skills for maximum effect.

Of course, each presentation may require emphasis on different techniques and elements to connect with your audience, here are four standard ideas you should always embrace:

1.     Provide a takeaway – The audience of each presentation should walk away feeling that the information was designed for them. Pitching to mid-level managers about how to motivate employees will look and feel much different than selling a program to executives. If this means you need to deliver more presentations to smaller audiences, do it. The effect on behavior, and program impact, will be well worth the time.

2.     Don’t wait to answer questions – It’s become standard to say, “We will get to your questions at the end of the presentation,” but don’t do that. Practice skipping around and you’ll be able to quickly address a question and jump right back in. This will make the presentation feel more like a conversation, as well as demonstrate that you know your stuff.

3.     Always provide a solution – If you’re a consultant, you’re actually delivering a sales pitch, right? But don’t let your audience know you’re trying to sell them. Instead, frame your service offerings on how buying into what you have to say will benefit the client’s business. If you’re a sustainability manager, you’re still trying to sell your ideas, but still use that “business first” framework to demonstrate how your program aligns with larger company goals.

4.     Don’t go data heavy – Sustainability is all about data, but presentations that are too heavy on data will kill whatever persuasive elements you’ve got going on. Even if the presentation itself is about the results of the sustainability reporting or LCA reporting process (i.e. a review of data), keep the slides simple, the data relevant and understandable, and provide a written supplement to audience members. By focusing on interpreting the crucial data points, delivering solutions-based or action-based analysis, the data will come to life.

5.     Don’t run long – Really, just don’t. If you’ve scheduled an hour meeting, plan for 40 minutes of presentation time. You never know who is running late, who might have a question, or what discussion may result at the end of your time in the spotlight. Really tighten up the time.

By running short, providing a takeaway, being responsive, offering solutions, and delivering interesting content, your presentations will become one of your best assets for moving the bar forward. 

 

Four Ways to Stay Focused as a Sustainability Consultant

The SSC Team September 13, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

As independent consultants, time management is imperative to juggle multiple clients and meet deadlines. Whether you’re just starting out or 10-years in, it’s always a good idea to assess your daily work habits to ensure you’re getting the most out of your most valuable asset – your time.

1)    Eliminate distractions

As a sole proprietor or small team, it’s easy to get caught up in the detail-oriented work of managing the business (answering phones, replying to emails), marketing (social media, website updates), and learning (reading blogs and white papers). Although these activities are important, if they’re not scheduled appropriately, they are just distractions. Turn off your phone during focus time, close all of those other browser windows, and start a timer. Using an app like Harvest to track time helps you stay “on the clock” and may motivate you to stick to the task at hand. In between tasks, use that time for a 5-minute “check in” on email, text, and social – if that is your regular daily priority in between project work.

2)    Organize tasks

What’s the best way to eliminate distractions? Organize tasks, and if you have the resources, outsource some of them. Using a software platform, like Asana or Basecamp, or a CRM platform, you can quickly prioritize, budget time, and follow steps by priority, not just chronologically. And you don’t always need to hire a new employee to get extra relief from the daily distractions and grind of running a business. Get a part-time virtual assistant to return calls and emails, budget in money for your expert consultants to write blogs for your website, and look for creative ways to automate, eliminate, or streamline tasks.

3)    Practice mindfulness

This isn’t something we would have immediately thought of, but a recent article in Harvard Business Review made the case for mindfulness practice. Start the day in a calm, mindful way, and then “go to work,” following your prioritized, organized task plan and blocking out distractions. Don’t get up and check email and jump in to work that you haven’t assessed against your other competing interests.

4)    Shorten, shrink, and schedule meetings

Clients love meetings, calls, and check-ins, but you need to gently push back, training your clients to schedule a time-limited meeting with a clear objective tied to a deliverable – and only inviting the people directly involved with that step. Write out a short meeting agenda – for yourself, even if you don’t need to share it with the client – and make sure you jot down the action items that should result from the meeting. Keep it brief – 15 minute meetings are our favorite – and spend a few (scheduled) minutes each week assessing how the meeting flow went, what you can replicate for future clients, and where you can improve. Eventually, you’ll have a good handle on the type of meeting, the length of meeting, and the important persons to include for different types of projects.

Use tools to help manage you and keep you focused on and track, but also be sure to schedule in some buffer time – a lunch, a workout, an office tidying session – to help your mind process and avoid burnout.

What techniques do you use to stay focused? Let us know in the comments.

 

Best of the Blog for August 2016

The SSC Team August 30, 2016 Tags: , , 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. The Most Important Skill for Sustainability Professionals
  2. The Importance of a Personal Sustainability Project
  3. TED Talks Sustainability: How Trees Talk to Each Other
  4. Turning a Profit on Sustainability: Are Target, Ikea, and Nike just Greenwashing 2.0?
  5. Jennifer Woofter Answers: Does it Matter Where Your Sustainability Firm is Located? 

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.