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3 Questions to Make Sustainable Decisions

The SSC Team May 15, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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This month we picked Alexandre Magnin’s 3 Strategic Questions to help make the best sustainable decisions. As a sustainability consultant, you know that your clients may find socio-ecological sustainability issues complex and daunting. Thankfully even though there are a lot of factors to consider, there are also tools and frameworks that can be very helpful in firming up with a plan. 

Data or Your Gut? Understanding Your True ROI

The SSC Team May 8, 2018 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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When it comes to business there will probably never be an end to the discussion of return on investment talk. But it’s important to remember that while financial returns may be easier to document and demonstrate, there is a lot of "data" that's simply subjective, part of the institutional knowledge, or coming from the expert you've hired that you clearly expect to trust. When all these issues are floating around the world of statistics, here’s why going with your "gut" isn't wrong.

 

In the world of sustainability measuring your ROI cannot be based on stats alone. Sure, if you reduce your energy and water usage it’s great to watch your bill go down. However the bigger savings is the enormous — and less immediately clear — impact that these efforts are having on the environment. What’s more important? Saving $50 or reducing your carbon footprint? Hopefully it’s the second one.

 

Paul Marushka adds to the narrative by examining how a “prove it” mentality challenges the value that environmental health and safety bring to the workforce. Despite our obsession with being able to use data to prove the worth of an initiative, sometimes we simply know the intrinsic value in something. Even if there aren’t stats to back it up. Marushka uses the former CEO of Alcoa as an example of what significant results can be achieved without having data to support the efforts: After he challenged the company to become the world’s safest, Alcoa saw an increase in earnings of 600 percent with sales growing by 15 percent per year during a 5-year period. Seems pretty clear that you can prove to leadership the value of investing in environmental health and safety — even if you don’t have software to examine everything and back you up.

 

Because when it comes to sustainability you have to look past the simple dollar value of your business efforts. There may be other ways to measure ROI. Although these efforts may be less tangible immediately, as a business owner you should start trusting your instincts. In a piece for Inc., Peter Kozodoy brought up a unique concept: how trusting your instincts over hard data could help you make better business decisions. And science is supporting the notion that your intuition is there to help you.

 

In a report published in Psychological Science Joel Pearson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales, and his research team found evidence that people can use their intuition to make better, faster, more accurate and more confident decisions. Considering how much we tend to cling to data in the business world, this may seen like an unreliable option, however Pearson’s study showed that surrounding ourselves with more positive, subliminal inputs not only helps us make better choices, but it helps us to trust those choices. Engaging in this concept of picking up on other’s subconscious messages could explain why some folks get "luckier" than others — they always have the uncanny ability to spot exceptional business ideas, or seem to find the best people to work with. Individuals who are more in tune with their intuition over what statistic might tell them may be coming out ahead.

 

As you continue forward in your sustainability efforts, remember that your decisions shouldn’t be based on stats alone. There are a little of elements to consider and numbers don’t always tell the full story. 

Sustainability Strategy Isn’t a Checklist

The SSC Team May 3, 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 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

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

The SSC Team May 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 April.

 

Guests, Properties Need to Coordinate in Minimizing Food Waste

 

5 Ways You can Promote Sustainability by Instilling Values In Your Organization

 

Listen Up: Companies Should Not Be Afraid to Get Political

 

Becoming a Better Sustainability Consultant: Understanding Your Client’s Industry

 

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5 Ways You can Promote Sustainability by Instilling Values In Your Organization

The SSC Team April 12, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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!

Becoming a Better Sustainability Consultant: Understanding Your Client’s Industry

The SSC Team April 5, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Do you often wonder how you could become a better sustainability consultant? Check out Strategic Sustainability Consulting President Jennifer Woofter’s monthly tip to help you gain knowledge that will better help you serve your clients. After listening to this month’s tip about focusing on the unique industry of each client, we invite you to share your questions in the comments below.

https://youtu.be/YfA9C7455FU

 

There is Room to Grow for Suppliers Tackling Sustainability

The SSC Team March 27, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Let’s start with the positive news. When it comes to implementing more sustainable sourcing practices, a recently published Stanford University study, which focused on large global suppliers, found that more than 50% of the companies reviewed have been implementing these practices. Not surprisingly companies with valuable brands (and therefore a more vocal customer base) were the most likely to be utilizing sustainable practices.

 

But Cassandra Sweet notes in There’s Room for Progress on Tackling Sustainability Through the Supply Chain, that while this is great news, the study also found that companies lower down the supply chain — where changes to their social and environmental practices would be more beneficial — have been less likely to implement sustainable practices.

 

To complete their research, 449 publicly traded companies from a variety of sectors were examined in order to evaluate the extent to which their efforts were going to impact the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. And from this evaluation, it was clear that progress is being made. This portion of the study was focused on industry giants like L’Oreal and Coca-Cola Co. who, among others, have been making big adjustments. These include training their suppliers to help reduce or reuse plastic packaging, address climate change and promote sustainable production among other areas. Coca-Cola Co. has also been providing training to the farmers who supply them in order to help promote sustainable agriculture, gender equity, and fair working conditions.

 

With this good news, we now need to focus our attention on non-consumer-facing companies who haven’ t been as committed to implementing sustainable practices yet. Unfortunately supply-chain sustainable implementations aren’t as likely to drive change at a global scale unless a lot more companies start to utilize sustainable sourcing practices. Sweet raises the important issue that these practices need to be strong, verifiable, address a broad set of sustainability issues and reach all tiers of global supply chains.

 

Here’s the thing, so many companies are going half in when it comes to making sustainable changes. An example that Sweet highlights is when a company focuses on ensuring that one product ingredient is sustainably sourced, without paying any attention to other ingredients. Or by making sure that the packaging of a product is made from recycled materials, but at the same time the product contained within that packaging is not sustainably sourced.

 

Do you feel like your company is falling into this gray zone and could do better? If so, you will benefit from connecting with a sustainability consultant. You might be struggling to understand the complex world of corporate social responsibility, wondering how you can translate your values into actions, and unsure how to prioritize your social and environmental initiatives, but we can help! At Strategic Sustainability Consulting we can work with you to kick off your sustainability journey and help you understand the strengths, challenges, and best-fit sustainability strategy for your company, in your industry, to meet your stakeholder needs, right now. 

Free Learning Resources for Aspiring Sustainability Professionals

The SSC Team March 22, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Sustainability consulting is about so much more than caring about mitigating the effects of climate change. We often hear about the passion and energy aspiring consultants hope to bring to the field, but what a good consultant really needs is business knowledge, a solid understanding of the sustainability field, consulting skills, and change management skills.

Of course, growing into the role is part of the process of developing into a senior consultant. And growing requires learning.

If you have a solid background in business or consulting, maybe you need to focus on your sustainability knowledge. If you are a science and data expert, maybe you need to brush up on your strategic management and leadership skills.

Whatever your skill gap is, whatever your job status is, whatever your goals are, you should always set aside some time to learn something new.

We came across this ridiculously good article from Inc. featuring 21 awesome places to learn skills online, and we highlighted a few good ones to illustrate how easy it is to brush up on key sustainability and consulting skills for free.

 Go forth and learn.

· MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT has offered courseware, learning resources, and syllabi up online for free for a number of years now. Review lecture notes, find the best textbooks, follow along with lab demos on courses ranging from climate studies, change management, leadership, and sustainability policy.

· Boundless – A company shaping the way textbooks are written and sold, Boundless offers great overview information on dozens of topics to help students quickly understand the basics of any field. From accounting to biology to business, Boundless is a solid place to brush up on a topic you don’t need to know tons of detail about.

· UReddit – Reddit surprises with some really interesting courses on things that you might not be able to find anywhere else online. Think “Advanced training on Microsoft Excel” or “Starting your own business.”

· Future Learn – A private company owned by The Open University offering free coursework from professionals in the UK and partners around the world.

· Free course: Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals. Find out how to integrate a sustainable development strategy into your company with this free online course. University of Bath.

· Supply Chain Innovation: How Technology Can Create a Sustainable Future. University of Twente.

Once you’ve built your foundational knowledge, come back and get certified as a green auditor or connect with our CEO for personal job coaching based on your newly developed skills.

How to Earn Respect as a Sustainability Leader

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

Sustainability leaders may want to pay special attention to Whitehurst’s advice.

  • 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. 

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

The SSC Team March 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 February.

How to Improve Client Outreach

 

The Four Big Social Media Mistakes Your Company Is Probably Making

 

Straight Talk with the CEO to get Better Sustainability Results

 

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.