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TED Talk Katharine Hayhoe | The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Fight Climate Change: Talk About it

The SSC Team March 1, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:

Even feel backed into a corner trying to talk to someone about climate change who doesn’t believe in it? Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe says the way to approach those who don’t think this is a pressing issue isn’t by rehashing data and facts. In fact, Hayhoe believes the key to engaging in an actual discussion is making real connections through shared values like family, community and religion. Then you can prompt people to realize that they actually DO care about our changing climate. “We can't give in to despair,” she says. “We have to go out and look for the hope we need to inspire us to act — and that hope begins with a conversation, today.”

Are Green Bonds Really Making an Impact?

The SSC Team February 26, 2019 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Corporate green bonds, which are issued to fund climate-friendly projects, have grown incredibly since their inception in 2013. That year investors purchased $3 billion green bonds, but in 2017 that amount had sky rocketed to  $49 billion. A wide-range of companies issue these bonds including Apple, Unilever, and Bank of America and it doesn’t look like the trend will end.

 

But what are green bonds? And do they really contribute to creating positive results for the environment? A review analyzing the 217 corporate green bonds issued by public companies globally from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2017, demonstrated that they are not only getting a positive reaction from the stock market, but also leading to improvements in financial and environmental performance, increased green innovations, and an increase in stock ownership by long-term and green investors.

The growth in the environmental performance of these companies as well as their increased green innovation is certainly encouraging.

Several measures suggest that after issuing green bonds, companies improved their environmental performance. When it came to the Thomson Reuters’ ASSET4 scale (based on more than 250 performance indicators like CO2 emissions, hazardous waste, and recycling), these green bond businesses environmental score rose by 6.1 percentage points. They also reduced their emissions by 17 tons of CO2 per $1 million of assets and increased their green innovations―measured by the ratio of the number of “green” patents filed to the total number of patents they filed in a given year― by 2.1 percentage points

All these positive response to such a relatively new innovation in impact investing shows that there is significant promise when it comes to fighting against climate change on a global scale. Big businesses are willing to step up and take the lead when it comes to making changes even if the government is not.

Six Ways to Improve Communication About Corporate Sustainability Efforts

The SSC Team February 19, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Looking for ways to improve the relationship between your nonprofit organization, or NGO, and businesses in order to grow your corporate sustainability efforts? We found these six insights from GreenBiz pretty inspirational.

 1. Don’t just talk, listen!
While you likely have an agenda in mind when you arrive at a meeting, it’s super helpful to keep it to yourself initially and LISTEN to your corporate counterpart to see what they want and need. Then you can carefully tailor your suggestions to help them meet the goals they are most interested in. They are likely going to be more willing to commit if they feel heard.

2. Don’t judge the corporation
It isn’t hard for someone to see if an NGO is judging the company through condescending statements within minutes of a call or meeting. And this is going to start everything off on a bad foot. Instead, if you come to the table assuming that this company wants to make changes, everyone will be in a better place. With an optimistic attitude you are far more likely to make a solid connection that will help the process move forward.

3. Really be an expert
If you want companies to take you seriously, you need to really make your expertise known. This means that you not only have a working knowledge of the science behind the changes you suggest but have real life experience helping businesses make these changes. Get in there, be hands on when you can so that you understand how everything works on the ground.

4. Be willing to work with companies no matter their size
While CEO buy in right away is really amazing, it isn’t always the way things work. To make this process happen, you must be open to working with big, medium and small companies that need to work toward a more sustainable end game. No matter what the size of the business is, you need to approach your project with the three Ps Bob Langert, former VP of Sustainability, McDonald's, touts: passion, patience and persistence. Sustainability efforts impact cannot be felt or seen overnight, so you need to be committed for the long haul.

5. Demonstrate Your Independence and Knowledge
Companies that are looking for sustainability assistance need it to come from an NGO with excellent credibility. So don’t hide your success, make sure businesses know about them!

Langert believes that when companies are hiring a team to improve their sustainable efforts, they should, “Evaluate partnership choices on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning very corporate friendly and 10 meaning very radical.” He notes that the most successful partnerships are likely to come when working with NGOs in the 5 to 7 range as they are often fiercely independent; willing to collaborate and are knowledgeable about business and market forces; and tend to be more practical.

6. Apply smart pressure
While being positive and professional typically sets you up for the best chance to succeed, there are times when exerting some pressure can also be a good tool, particularly when you have a very smart solution in mind.

So chose your battles wisely after your client has had a chance to see your work in action. The company will have seen your positive track record and will be much more inclined to buy in, even if it is going to take more effort on their behalf.

Three Goals to Get Your Sustainability Program Off and Running

The SSC Team February 14, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

Your company recently formed a green team, but it doesn't seem to be accomplishing much. Or maybe you've just been designated as your organization's green champion, but can't seem to get anything done. Sound familiar? 

You may be suffering from "start-up" syndrome. Back in June, Inc. Magazine published an article by Peter Cohan called 3 Simple Goals You Must Set to Succeed, which discussed the importance of setting goals for start-up enterprises. We found it intriguing that his suggestions so closely mirror the questions we ask newly formed green teams during consulting engagements.

1. Mission: What is the enduring purpose of the venture?

To answer this, ask yourself what problem matters most to your venture and why you are willing to go years with little pay or sleep to solve it. A start-up’s mission must be deeply meaningful to the founder and be compelling to people that the founder wants to hire. After all, without capital, a hungry start-up’s only currency is denominated in terms that are hard to quantify: the difference between a humdrum existence and work that has deep meaning.

Before you jump into developing new programs and initiatives, get clear on your sustainability goal. Is it to "green your office" or to "green your organization?" That answer will tell you whether you should be focused on replacing styrofoam in the kitchen or developing a comprehensive green supply chain program. It will also tell you who needs to be on the team -- whether is a cadre of mid-level employees, or top executives with budget-wielding power. Setting the enduring vision of your sustainability program will help determine the scope of your ambitions.

2. Long-term goal: What will this company look like in five years?

A long-term goal for your start-up must satisfy the aspirations of the founder, the investors, and the employees. And that forces the entrepreneur to trade-off a desire to maintain control with drawing in capital so investors can get a sizeable return.

Start with the end in mind -- what do you want your organization's sustainability program to look like in 20 years? (While in start-up land, 5 years might be an eternity, we would argue that it's not really "long term.") Where do you want sustainability responsibilities to reside? Who should be managing sustainability? What do you want to have accomplished? Where do you want to stand relative to your peer group? Understanding the long-term goal will help you make smart decisions now about where to focus your efforts.

3. Short-term goal: What frugal experiments must we make to reach our long-term goal?

If the mission and the long-term goal are the 1% of the inspiration needed to build a successful venture, the short-term goals are the 99% perspiration. Create a series of real options. I mean that you should make small, inexpensive bets -- a win means that the venture can go on to the next short-term goal; a loss means a chance to learn what went wrong and do it better the next time.

Sustainability guru Bob Willard says that pilot projects are the surest way to convince management to move forward to bigger sustainability commitments. They are small, they are relatively cheap, they are exciting, and they create a sense of innovation. You may not get a huge budget or a lot of responsibility -- but as the green champion, you may get the leeway to tackle a couple of "frugal experiments." Use these opportunities to show what you can do, and you'll get a bigger bite at the apple next time around.

Circularity19

The SSC Team February 12, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Did you make it to GreenBiz19? If not, 2019 is just beginning and you can join your peers for Circularity19 in Minneapolis from June 18–20. Bringing together more than 500 leaders in the industry, Circularity19 attendees will work to define and accelerate the circular economy through plenary sessions, interactive breakouts, networking event and more. Organized around size program tracks — business and strategy, circular cities, design & materials, logistics and infrastructure, next-gen packaging, and standards and metrics — this event will not only inform it will also inspire. You can register now.

The Complexities of Connecting Executive Bonuses to Sustainable Efforts

The SSC Team February 7, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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https://hbr.org/2018/11/how-to-tie-executive-compensation-to-sustainability

 When it comes to doing the right thing, wouldn’t it be great if everyone jumped all in just because? Unfortunately, we’ve seen that that is certainly not the way green efforts have worked in the past.

 

While a number of large corporations are making good efforts toward greener practices, the way these efforts should be rewarded when it comes to a traditional bonus or increased compensation is hard to define.

 

In an exploration of how to tie executive compensation to sustainability, Seymour Burchman noted that deciding which elements of sustainable practices for that organization have priority is key and those goals could be linked to a pay incentive.

 

Typically compensation committees would start by tying bonuses or other long-term incentives to goals that relate to compliance and risk management. This tactic might be acceptable for some investors, but it may take too much focus off of the company’s core mission.

 

So, where to begin?

 

Burchman suggests that bonuses should depend heavily on executives’ success in engaging the company in the big strategic picture that correlate with sustainability. If they can motivate their team members to go on the offense when it comes to sustainable efforts, that in turn can help pull sustainability from the edges of the business model into the center.

 

Even though it is clear that not every company can tackle major sustainable initiatives right now, the opportunities to pursue them is growing fast. In a survey by the UN and Accenture, 63% of executives said they believe sustainability will cause major changes in their business over the next five years.

 

Taking these changes into consideration requires a company’s board to engage in a different way of thinking about what will make their company increasingly sustainable while also expanding those efforts when it comes to suppliers and customers.

 

As these goals are established and then connected to executive incentives, it’s vital that directors make sure that to avoid any negative consequences that may come with an attempt to meet said goals. It’s also imperative that directors remain focused on creating a reasonable number of sustainability goals that deliver the most value. Value that can, in term, be used to energize executives and provide benefits for other stakeholders and the broader community.

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from January 2019

The SSC Team February 5, 2019 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 January.

 

Exploring Innovative Solutions to Plastic Recycling

 

Ecological Footprint

 

Use the "8 habits" of Creative Genius to Shape Your Sustainability Activities

 

What You Know and Who You Know Are Important for Aspiring Sustainability Consultants

 

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What You Know and Who You Know Are Important for Aspiring Sustainability Consultants

The SSC Team January 31, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

If you’ve been on our website and really want to become part of our consultant network, you know that there is one thing you should never, ever say. Ever.

Don’t know what it is?

Then you haven’t done your homework.

Sustainability consulting is a small world
If you’re trying to break into the world of sustainability consulting, then you need to truly strategize about how to engage with industry leaders, consultants, and firms who are hiring.

A recent article in Entrepreneur gives a round-up of the 10 strategies for making friends with important people in your networking plan.

The first five steps are all about research, reading, and making an effort to truly understand your potential contact’s business strategy and hot buttons. Next, activate your network, stay in touch, and add value to your potential contact’s day-to-day through meaningful communication.

Have the skills (or grow them)
While you’re “working the room” to build your professional network, make sure you fully understand what it takes to be a sustainability consultant. Know your own skill set and be able to describe how those skills will apply in a sustainability consulting roles.

Know your strengths, and your shortcomings
Don’t oversell yourself to a high-profile potential contact, or you might ruin your reputation before you gain a foothold. Be honest about where you are in your career, what your areas of interest are, and make efforts to improve your skills through practice and education.

Learn more about specific sustainability consulting training courses we offer, and opportunities to work with us

Use the “8 habits” of Creative Genius to Shape Your Sustainability Activities

The SSC Team January 22, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

Approaching sustainability shouldn't be 100 percent data, data, data driven.

Use these 8 Habits of the creative geniuses in our midst to help your organization build a sustainability team and sustainability programs that can help lead your company on the path to greener operations.

Creative minds:

1. Look for inspiration in unexpected places
If you’re looking to figure out how to take the first steps in sustainability, know that someone has likely gone before you. Most sustainability planners know about looking at industry best practices, but we focus more on peer benchmarking inside and outside of a client’s industry. Just because you work in the mining sector, doesn’t mean you can learn lessons from consumer products.

2. Make slow decisions
There are a million different options for addressing both environmental and social sustainability efforts. For each set of stakeholder groups, there are programs, policies, supply-chain choices, upstream/downstream evaluations, risks, rewards, and more. As a team, and as a company, it’s probably a good idea to take it slow to come up with a really, truly effective program.

3. Find internal motivation
Sustainability professionals often come with buckets of “passion” for doing our kind of work, so this one should be easy. Passion is a motivator, but make sure your sustainability professionals also have the skill set to get the job done.

4. Start from scratch
Ok, so doesn’t this contradict looking for inspiration in unexpected places? Not really. Starting from scratch is more of an exercise. For example, instead of saying, “Let’s use energy efficient lighting and LEED practices in our new headquarters building,” the team should spend time considering, “What is a headquarters?”

A free-flow exercise might generate discussion about work-from-home policies, investing in teleconferencing, and eventually result in a much smaller, more efficient “energy efficient, LEED certified” HQ.

5. Be willing to take risks
“Training employees to be comfortable disagreeing with others and receptive to disagreement will create an atmosphere of innovation.” Creating a corporate value system that includes sustainability as an ingrained part of the culture will give employees the confidence they need to address disagreement or bring new ideas to the table. Lunchroom compost bin, anyone?

6. Always try new things
Because of the constantly changing nature of sustainability, this one isn’t hard. New regulations, scientific findings, and processes are always being published. However, if you’ve been stuck in a rut generating the same old sustainability report and waste audit these past few years, maybe it’s time to step it up. Take that risk and try something to really push your sustainability efforts to new gains.

7. Find connections between experiences
Sustainability is not a stand-alone effort focused on just reporting carbon reduction efforts or mitigating supply-chain risks. Sustainability can be found in all areas of your organization, and the world you operate in. From your built environment to your supply chain to your HR policies and everything in between, it is all connected, and the sustainability team should be seeking ways to become the system, not stand outside and report on it.

8. Be open to magic
But magic is about being open to new ideas. At SSC, this generally translates to “reading, a lot.” Wehave a suite of tools help our clients, but if we’re stuck thinking that our products and services “are what they are” then we won’t grow.

Your sustainability efforts should be the same. Read our blog, read business blogs, sustainability articles, research papers, case studies. You’ll start to see the connections and maybe The Great Idea Fairy will visit you!

Has your organization come up with an insanely creative way to be more sustainable? Let us know in the comments! 

State of the Profession 2018

The SSC Team December 11, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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This year marks the 5th Annual GreenBiz Group’s State of the Profession report, which examines the evolution of the role of the sustainability leader in today’s business world. Each year, GreenBiz conducts an in-depth survey to find out how much sustainability leaders earned, where they worked and what their job entails. A few highlights from this year’s report are a look at whether sustainability programs are sustainable, the rise of the specialists, the implementation of external talent and the gender pay parity.

 

One of our favorite takeaways from this year’s report?

 

That the most important factor impacting whether or not an organization would push their sustainability efforts to the next level was customer pressure. Not top investors or C-Suite demands, but instead the value that people have put into taking care of our planet.

 

For insight into this and so much more, check out the 2018 State of the Profession Report.