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Solutions for Replacing Spreadsheets in Your Sustainability Reporting Practices

The SSC Team April 26, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

The old saying goes “If it is important, you must manage it; if you want to manage it, you must measure it,” but too many companies today use spreadsheets to track their environmental impacts.

Would you use a spreadsheet to track your corporate finances?  To monitor your inventory?  To log all of your personnel data?  Using a spreadsheet may seem like the simplest way to track your sustainability reporting, but in reality using this as part of your process is risky.

Don’t get us wrong, we love Excel as much as the next person, but for sustainability tracking, a spreadsheet is cumbersome and prone to errors. Whether you make a data entry mistake while flipping back and forth between screens or you simply have incorrect data to start, once you get it wrong in a spreadsheet, it is difficult to figure out where exactly you went astray. After all of that work, why risk losing all that information, inaccurate information, or user confusion?

Fortunately, an entire industry of software providers has cropped up to combat the problem of spreadsheet-based sustainability reporting, each promising to streamline the data collection, validation, and reporting of all things sustainability-related for you. These programs come in all shapes, sizes, specifications and styles. Some of these software platforms are fabulous; some, not so much. While many of the systems are more appropriate for big companies, some of them will be just right for you. Here are some questions you might want to start asking yourself in your hunt for a provider:

Do you know what you will be measuring and reporting on with this software? Your intent may range from being able to perform life cycle analysis (LCA) for your product supply chain to fulfilling a need to report on your carbon emissions to a customer such as Walmart onward to one of various international reporting protocols. Maybe you are being audited by an NGO or other stakeholder group. Knowing the reason for making your purchase will be essential to making the right decision as every package provides some or all of these functions to varying degrees. Plus, if you have a specific use in mind, you may be able to more easily narrow your list of vendors to review.

What are your customers, suppliers, competitors, friends and neighbors using? It’s unlikely that your business is operating in a complete bubble isolated from any other enterprise carbon accounting software users. Assuming that you are on good terms with at least some of these folks, it probably makes sense to reach out to them and see what direction they’ve chosen. For your customers and suppliers, it may make sense to select an option that aligns more easily with their own selections. With regards to your industry, you may be able to pick something that gives you a competitive advantage – at least in the near term – until the competition buys the same software. In any case, take advantage of what other smart people know and use that knowledge to your advantage.

What business processes will you need to adapt to your software? What business processes will your software need to fit? Understanding both the flexibility of you and your company in terms of implementing a new system is critical. Unless you are developing your own custom sustainability software solution that exactly fits your business process, you will most likely need to be able to change your process or customize the software somewhat. Understanding the ease and cost of going in either direction is important to your final decision. At the end of the day the cost of purchasing this system must be outweighed by some combination of cost savings and other benefits if you are to pull out the corporate credit card and make a purchase.

Looking for more guidance?  To help you find the right solution, we’ve combed through a myriad of different sustainability software options and took a look at best practices in software selection. Our white paper “Choosing Sustainability Management Software for Your Business” provides a process for determining what type of sustainability software provider can meet your needs. To help you find a program that is the perfect fit for your business, download this complimentary white paper here to get started and find out more!

Solutions for Replacing Spreadsheets in Your Sustainability Reporting Practices

The SSC Team April 26, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

The old saying goes “If it is important, you must manage it; if you want to manage it, you must measure it,” but too many companies today use spreadsheets to track their environmental impacts.

Would you use a spreadsheet to track your corporate finances?  To monitor your inventory?  To log all of your personnel data?  Using a spreadsheet may seem like the simplest way to track your sustainability reporting, but in reality using this as part of your process is risky.

Don’t get us wrong, we love Excel as much as the next person, but for sustainability tracking, a spreadsheet is cumbersome and prone to errors. Whether you make a data entry mistake while flipping back and forth between screens or you simply have incorrect data to start, once you get it wrong in a spreadsheet, it is difficult to figure out where exactly you went astray. After all of that work, why risk losing all that information, inaccurate information, or user confusion?

Fortunately, an entire industry of software providers has cropped up to combat the problem of spreadsheet-based sustainability reporting, each promising to streamline the data collection, validation, and reporting of all things sustainability-related for you. These programs come in all shapes, sizes, specifications and styles. Some of these software platforms are fabulous; some, not so much. While many of the systems are more appropriate for big companies, some of them will be just right for you. Here are some questions you might want to start asking yourself in your hunt for a provider:

Do you know what you will be measuring and reporting on with this software? Your intent may range from being able to perform life cycle analysis (LCA) for your product supply chain to fulfilling a need to report on your carbon emissions to a customer such as Walmart onward to one of various international reporting protocols. Maybe you are being audited by an NGO or other stakeholder group. Knowing the reason for making your purchase will be essential to making the right decision as every package provides some or all of these functions to varying degrees. Plus, if you have a specific use in mind, you may be able to more easily narrow your list of vendors to review.

What are your customers, suppliers, competitors, friends and neighbors using? It’s unlikely that your business is operating in a complete bubble isolated from any other enterprise carbon accounting software users. Assuming that you are on good terms with at least some of these folks, it probably makes sense to reach out to them and see what direction they’ve chosen. For your customers and suppliers, it may make sense to select an option that aligns more easily with their own selections. With regards to your industry, you may be able to pick something that gives you a competitive advantage – at least in the near term – until the competition buys the same software. In any case, take advantage of what other smart people know and use that knowledge to your advantage.

What business processes will you need to adapt to your software? What business processes will your software need to fit? Understanding both the flexibility of you and your company in terms of implementing a new system is critical. Unless you are developing your own custom sustainability software solution that exactly fits your business process, you will most likely need to be able to change your process or customize the software somewhat. Understanding the ease and cost of going in either direction is important to your final decision. At the end of the day the cost of purchasing this system must be outweighed by some combination of cost savings and other benefits if you are to pull out the corporate credit card and make a purchase.

Looking for more guidance?  To help you find the right solution, we’ve combed through a myriad of different sustainability software options and took a look at best practices in software selection. Our white paper “Choosing Sustainability Management Software for Your Business” provides a process for determining what type of sustainability software provider can meet your needs. To help you find a program that is the perfect fit for your business, download this complimentary white paper here to get started and find out more!

Find Sustainability Mentors to Help Guide You

The SSC Team March 22, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Everyone talks about mentoring, some with an eye roll and some with awed reverence of that one person who changed me forever. If you’re a sustainability consultant, you should be looking for mentors in places you may not have thought to look.

The obvious places we look for sustainability mentors: other consultants, professors, sustainability leaders.

But running a consultancy is more about sustainability, it’s about business skills. And, therefore, looking for mentors across the spectrum to help you build the support skills to run a business is crucial. And, even more interesting, you don’t even have to know your mentor to learn from her.

Look to people outside of sustainability and use best-practice from other fields to improve your own business as a sustainability consultant.

You’ll need much more than sustainability knowledge for your consultancy to succeed as a viable, profitable business. You’ll need to know how to sell, manage employees, manage clients, work with media, and keep up-to-date on everything from small-business taxes to major moves in sustainability reporting and policy.

It’s a big job, and you’re going to need all the help you can get!

Do you have a great “virtual mentor”? Tell us who it is in the comments.

 

 

Find Sustainability Mentors to Help Guide You

The SSC Team March 22, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Everyone talks about mentoring, some with an eye roll and some with awed reverence of that one person who changed me forever. If you’re a sustainability consultant, you should be looking for mentors in places you may not have thought to look.

The obvious places we look for sustainability mentors: other consultants, professors, sustainability leaders.

But running a consultancy is more about sustainability, it’s about business skills. And, therefore, looking for mentors across the spectrum to help you build the support skills to run a business is crucial. And, even more interesting, you don’t even have to know your mentor to learn from her.

Look to people outside of sustainability and use best-practice from other fields to improve your own business as a sustainability consultant.

You’ll need much more than sustainability knowledge for your consultancy to succeed as a viable, profitable business. You’ll need to know how to sell, manage employees, manage clients, work with media, and keep up-to-date on everything from small-business taxes to major moves in sustainability reporting and policy.

It’s a big job, and you’re going to need all the help you can get!

Do you have a great “virtual mentor”? Tell us who it is in the comments.

 

 

Find Sustainability Mentors to Help Guide You

The SSC Team March 22, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Everyone talks about mentoring, some with an eye roll and some with awed reverence of that one person who changed me forever. If you’re a sustainability consultant, you should be looking for mentors in places you may not have thought to look.

The obvious places we look for sustainability mentors: other consultants, professors, sustainability leaders.

But running a consultancy is more about sustainability, it’s about business skills. And, therefore, looking for mentors across the spectrum to help you build the support skills to run a business is crucial. And, even more interesting, you don’t even have to know your mentor to learn from her.

Look to people outside of sustainability and use best-practice from other fields to improve your own business as a sustainability consultant.

You’ll need much more than sustainability knowledge for your consultancy to succeed as a viable, profitable business. You’ll need to know how to sell, manage employees, manage clients, work with media, and keep up-to-date on everything from small-business taxes to major moves in sustainability reporting and policy.

It’s a big job, and you’re going to need all the help you can get!

Do you have a great “virtual mentor”? Tell us who it is in the comments.

 

 

Scope 3 Emissions: Which Ones Matter?

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

Enjoy this post from the SCC Archives: 

If your company is getting ready to calculate its annual carbon footprint (or is thinking about doing it for the first time), you'll definitely want to pay attention:

In this 6-minute video, SSC President Jennifer Woofter provides an overview of the new Scope 3 emissions guide – developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and published on the Greenhouse Gas Protocol website.  Jennifer explains how different companies may choose to approach the 15 categories of Scope 3 emissions, depending on their industry, operating structure, and internal capacity.

 

If your company would like to talk about carbon footprinting or developing a sustainability report, contact us to set up a 15-minute introductory phone assessment today. 

5 Tips for Staying Motivated as a Sustainability Professional When Making a Difference Seems Overwhelming

The SSC Team January 21, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Global climate science sometimes comes head to head with policymakers and corporations in ways that make us feel like there is no way that we, as sustainability professionals, can really ‘save the world.’

It can be difficult to keep things in perspective. But we must.

If you quit, then you really have no hope of effecting change. And you’re still here, still on this planet, and you likely still need a job. So, find some internal motivation and keep going.

Here is our take on the Six Ways for Staying Motivated When You Really Want to Quit:

1. Practice looking at Things From the Other Side

If you think it’s futile to ‘keep fighting’ when change is so incremental and what is at risk in our world seems so great, look at it from a different perspective. Don’t be afraid to spend a few minutes looking back in time and celebrating some of the that have been accomplished in our world, or in your own career, to feel reenergized.

2. Identify your Intention

Are you going head-to-head with the CEO because you want to win, or because you truly believe what you’re doing will help the company achieve its goals? Look at what you hope to achieve as a sustainability professional, assess whether it lines up with what you’re actually doing, and then realign your action steps so you’re doing what you intend to do. If you have a clear intention, you’re more likely to feel motivated because you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere.

3. Find a Different Way to do Things

If you come up against a hurdle, use some creative genius to work around it. Or just evaluate whether to reprioritize this activity. It may not be the right time to implement a certain policy in your industry, but there may be other areas you can focus on and have equal impact.

4. Lose Your Ego (and your High Horse)

Ego can get in the way of a lot of good ideas. In sustainability, a combination of ego and that sustainability, because of its focus on the lofty ‘world saving’ type goals, can immediately be off-putting.

You are likely a good person and working in sustainability is likely going to make the world a better place, overall, but focusing on that can be so self-centric that you’ll lose your motivation. Instead, go back to the first item on our list, and challenge yourself to get projects going by putting others first.

5. Beware of your Habits

Don’t get trapped by the status quo. Sustainability best practices are always rapidly changing, so get motivated by learning something new on the cutting edge of the field. Enroll in a class or learn to use a new assessment tool. You’ll likely want to run out and start working on applying the new knowledge.

6. Realize that Nothing is Perfect

Whether it’s a big project or a small one, everything we do as sustainability professionals is about incremental change that helps add up to big impact. Nothing will ever be perfect, but don’t let that hold you back. Just get up, get a project started, and then celebrate what you did accomplish.

Staring for too long at the big picture may be counterproductive in any field, but especially in sustainability. Instead, find internal motivation and understand that there are thousands of us, like-minded professionals in all sectors, who are working alongside you.

Together we will create change.

How do you stay motivated? Let us know in the comments.

Sustainability Consulting Round Up: Best of our blog for 2015

The SSC Team December 31, 2015 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Each month, we highlight some of our more popular content on the SSC blog.

To wrap up 2015, here's a round-up of our most popular blog posts published this past year. These are the articles that received the most attention from our online audience. Check them out!

  1. 4 Reasons Why Corporate Sustainability Reporting Might be a Waste of Time
  2. 8 Steps to Becoming a Better Sustainability Consultant
  3. 6 Ways to Gain Support for your New Sustainability Project
  4. 5 Habits that Might be Stunting Your Sustainability Leadership
  5. 7 Ways to Get Attention for Your Sustainability Plan

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.

Happy New Year! 

Don’t get caught – Create a calendar to manage sustainability deadlines

The SSC Team December 29, 2015 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Another new year is fast approaching. Soon it will be time to start looking back on last year's sustainability performance, assessing, reporting, and making plans. But now is the time for looking forward, and the time for making those New Year's resolutions. Here's one: work smarter in 2016. Check out this post from the SSC archives with one smart idea. 

In March 2012, 29 companies got caught shirking their sustainability commitments. Could you be next?

In this 3-minute video, SSC President Jennifer Woofter explains the challenge of managing corporate sustainability obligations, and an easy solution for keeping abreast of all the sustainability deadlines that loom throughout the year.

If you'd like help cataloging your company's sustainability obligations into an effective project management format that will keep you ahead of the deadline, please contact Strategic Sustainability Consulting today. One of our sustainability consultants will walk you through the options that will work best for your situation.

Trying to win sustainability consulting work? Referrals, referrals, referrals

The SSC Team December 24, 2015 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Earlier this year we wrote about how to broaden your professional network in the small world of sustainability consulting. As you build your peer relationships, you might be thinking you’re ready to start approaching clients.

Maybe not.

A recent article in Harvard Business Review pushes back on the idea of a direct approach.

“Persuasion researchers know that decision-makers will often place their faith less in what is being said, and more in who is saying it,” said Steve Martin, an consultant and expert in persuasion research.

Essentially, having someone else toot your horn is the ideal way to win over someone who doesn’t know or is skeptical of your expertise and value.

It truly pays to ask for client testimonials on LinkedIn, use case study examples, provide references, and in some extreme cases, have someone else approach a decision maker on your behalf before you make a direct pitch.

When you finally do make the direct pitch, list references and high-value contacts and clients up front in your proposals.

“Avoid making the mistake of squirreling away you and your team’s credentials towards the end of an already full document. Instead, make sure they are prominently positioned up front,” said Martin.

What if you don’t have any real on-the-job experience yet? Martin says all hope is not lost. Craft your referral statements in terms of your potential – ask a trusted mentor to write about your bright future, sharp mind, and potential for being one of the best sustainability consultants in the field.

Ready to hone your consulting skills and build your sustainability network? Check out our junior consultant training programs.