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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.

The Importance of a Personal Sustainability Project

The SSC Team August 18, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives. 

The business world is an ever-changing entity that is constantly being fueled by new ideas and initiatives. One of the latest initiatives is no longer just “going green,” but becoming sustainable. This means that simple recycling efforts aren’t going to be enough. Individual employees at any business can take action to work toward sustainability.

Creating a green team is one way you can send a message of your need to improve up the chain-of-command. But reflect on your personal habits that you could change for sustainability. Consider taking on a ‘Personal Sustainability Project’ or PSP that could help you achieve sustainability in your office. Encourage others to do the same! The idea behind a PSP has been explored by Mr. Adam Werbach, former Sierra Club President, in order to engage Walmart workers in sustainability. His hope was “that if we could learn how to help individuals become personally sustainable, then we might also learn how to affect the two hundred million people who shop regularly at Walmart.” While you may not be working on the scale off affecting two hundred million people, your work toward sustainability may convince others in your company to take on a PSP.
Establishing your PSP means taking on a small project that is something you really believe you can do. Do not try to take on a task that seems impossible. Rather, take on something you know may be a little difficult but something that you can make a habit over time: “Instead of overhauling someone’s lifestyle, we started by finding daily or recurring practices that can express an individual’s values … What are the qualities of a PSP? It is repeatable, inspirational, sustainable, and enjoyable (RISE). At its most basic level, it is a healthy habit. People learn to spot PSPs through self-reflection or through a group session where they can talk about their routines and identify changes they would like to make.” In a business case, a PSP should be something you can achieve that not only helps you but can also help your company work on sustainability. A great example would be to ride your bicycle to work instead of driving your car. While this may not seem like a way to help your business, think of all the areas biking to work can have an influence on:
Reducing CO2 emissions (environmental)
Getting a great workout (social)
Potentially cutting health-care costs and health-club fees (economic)

Where can you start on your road to sustainability? Our white paper, “Become a Sustainability Champion: At Any Career Level has a whole section devoted to walking you through this process and outlining a clear path forward to getting started. Examples are given for employees ranging from general office associates, to middle managers, to CEOs.

Find out myriad ways that you can become a sustainability champion! Download this complimentary white paper here.

4 Ways to Effectively Execute Your Sustainability Programs

The SSC Team August 11, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Execution, or the ability to meet goals and objectives, is consistently ranked as a top-3 skill that executives require of successful managers. Going through the motions to develop processes – whether that is providing regular updates or analyzing best practices of a system – are all fine and good, but if you can’t actually move the bar, it’s possible your sustainability program (or you) will get canned.

But reaching goals and milestones for a sustainability program that requires company employees to change their own workplace behavior to reach objectives is less about long hours at the office burning the midnight oil tracking data, and more about engaging in employees effectively.

Analysts at Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy, looked at data gleaned from thousands of performance reviews to determine the top four behaviors that improved manager ability to execute team-based projects.

Be clear and methodical

If you’re a sustainability manager, you need to take a breath and set aside time for strategic planning. If your CEO wants meaningful sustainability results, then defining those results through strategic planning, based on how the sustainability strategy aligns with company goals is likely the best path to effectively execute a sustainability strategy.  

Don’t get distracted too early with green teams or waste reduction or the excitement of a budget for a carbon footprint. You likely need to start with a pow-wow with the C-suite on what exactly the company hopes to achieve, strategically, through the sustainability program, then perform a materiality assessment, and then develop an organized strategic plan to connect company strategy with stakeholder materiality.

The result will be a plan with a clear direction, action steps, and measurable goals – backed up by company leaders.

Set stretch goals and deadlines

By framing the activities inside of a clear strategic plan that ties to company success, everyone can see why they are being asked to change. And by setting realistic “stretch goals” and deadlines, employees see opportunity to do something possible, following a clear path.

Goal-setting is a solid motivational strategy, but don’t overdo it and stress employees out.

Give more feedback, especially more positive feedback

When managing people, or motivating them, feedback is crucial. If you want employees, on an individual level, to change their behaviors to help the company achieve its goals, then give individual employee positive feedback.

Tie employee action to positive feedback – and get personal. Thank departments for reaching milestones or goals. Celebrate participation in sustainability focused programs. And, if you are tracking departmental data and see a team not achieving the milestones set forth for, don’t send a memo.

Instead, sit down for a lunch and learn with the team and talk about the progress-to-date and their barriers to participation. Listening and positive feedback can move people to action much more effectively and quickly than emails and memos.

Resolve conflict and build team unity

Pairing individual praise and feedback for individual behavior change is doubly effective when people are also strongly tied together in teams. Successful teams “probably do all or most of the above – work assignments are clear and processes make sense, deadlines are ambitious but fair, and feedback is plentiful – but they also do something more. On these teams, it’s not just the boss motivating team members — the expectations of peer team members are powerful motivators, too.”

Managers that can build team culture around sustainability efforts – so that employees are proud to be a part of the larger organizations in part because of it’s commitment to social and environmental sustainability – will also aid in executing the sustainability strategy.

Contact us to start talking about sustainability strategy and how to go from tracking data to reaching meaningful milestones.

 

Jennifer Woofter Answers: Does it Matter Where Your Sustainability Consulting Firm is Located?

The SSC Team August 9, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

What does it take to grow a global consulting business in a medium-sized city or smaller town?

Jennifer Woofter talks about how to grow a business from anywhere, leveraging technology, time management, and your professional network in this short video presentation for Launched In Lynchburg, a web portal designed to inspire, educate and connect local entrepreneurs and professionals in Lynchburg, Virginia. 

Lynchburg is the global HQ of Strategic Sustainability Consulting.

As a seasoned entrepreneur and accomplished consultant, Jennifer shares four important pieces of advice for local consultants to compete in the global economy:

  • All roads eventually lead to Lynchburg
  • Be local, act global
  • Play to your competitive advantage
  • Know where to find talent

Do you have questions about relocating your business to a small town? Let us know in the comments! 

The Most Important Skill for Sustainability Professionals

The SSC Team July 21, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

What is the most important skill for sustainability professionals to have? In this short video, SSC President Jennifer Woofter shares her thoughts on what it takes to succeed in this profession.

Need more help with your new career in sustainability?  Register for our online course, Sustainability Consulting Masterclass or sign up for some one-on-one coaching