There are 4 reasons why we are unsustainable as a society and in this Alexandre Magnin examines the root causes of unsustainability based on based on science, cycles of nature and social issues.
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Convincing employees to work hard and work well is a millennia-old management challenge. Hundreds of studies point to proven motivational tactics, such as goal setting, feedback, and incentives, but all of these tactics can (and will) backfire.
“Chances are that you (at least sometimes) are using the wrong tools under the wrong circumstances,” writes Juliana Schroeder, a behavioral economist and psychologist.
Using feedback effectively
- Use positive feedback to enhance personal commitment. For example, if you’re ramping up the arduous data collection process that goes along with a complex, detailed life-cycle assessment, that’s when you want to use encouraging words. We can do this!
- Use negative feedback when you’re nearing the finish line. So data collection starts off well with everyone ready to get going and get the project done, but you get into a lull midway as the engineers and logistics folks are tired of taking your calls, that’s when you might want to roll out some stern warnings about being a team player and calling your supervisor.
“Typically, a shorter distance between you and your goal is more motivating than a longer one,” writes Schroeder. “It feels within reach, and it’s easier to feel that you’re making progress. This means people should set closer targets or sub-goals.”
Using the same example from above, don’t kick off your LCA talking about the mountains of data we shall climb, instead map out with a consultant who has experience with LCA reporting a reasonable set of milestones for data collection inside of various processes identified. And when you see a big knot to untangle, break it into smaller pieces and set goals based on achieving the sub-goals.
“Focusing on the least amount of distance—either from the start or from the end of your project— is more motivating,” said Schroeder.
This means, don’t look up when you’re at the bottom, and don’t look down when you’re at the top.
Focus on the middle stages
“Research has found that people are more likely to slack off or behave unethically around the middle of a project,” said Schroeder.
Take this into consideration when project planning. If your team can quickly identify what the onerous parts of the job will be, and take on those early wince folks will still be motivated to perform well. In the middle, focus on the low-hanging fruit, like collecting the utility or transportation data or info you can get from third party vendors. If big obstacles pop up in the middle, try and work around them and save them to the end to tap into the motivation folks feel right as a project is wrapping up.
If your company has the structure to provide incentives, don’t hesitate to use them. But don't go overboard.
“People will work harder for incentives they can get sooner—even if they are smaller than those they would get after waiting longer. The lesson here is simple: To motivate people, use immediate incentives,” said Schroeder.
If a team has a goal, structure small incentives for the manager or team member that help validate the hard work put in. Consider an extra day off for completing the work on time or a group luncheon after every major milestone.
“People also seem to value intrinsic incentives more when they are in the middle of pursuing a goal than when they have not yet started,” said Schroeder.
When working on sustainability projects, help frame the work in terms of the intrinsic benefits to the team members, to the company, and to company strategy focused on reducing environmental impact. Ideally this will already be a part of the company’s strategic plan, but capitalize on the feeling that employees have when they can take pride in working on a project that goes beyond the bottom line.
Selecting motivational tools can be complicated, especially keeping them fresh and appealing to meet the changing needs of employees. But, if you haven’t yet taken a strategic look at motivation, now is a great time to start.
Need to launch a life-cycle assessment or carbon footprint in 2018? We can guide you through the process and help keep your team motivated along the way.
Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:
Andrew Dent is hitting all the right notes in this talk about reducing our waste creation. Dent believes there should be no such thing as throwing things away because no matter what it is — used take out containers, broken toys or an old pair of undies — it inevitably ends up in a landfill if we dump it. It’s time to get smarter about the way we make, and remake, products. Dent’s focus is centered on the idea of thrifting, basically avoiding the purchase of anything new. His talk also explores advances in material science, like electronics made of nanocellulose and enzymes, which can help make plastic infinitely recyclable.
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 June.
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While we have been recycling certain products for a long time, there have been some pretty amazing innovatinos when it comes to building products on the market. These new materials are taking the idea of a sustainable approach to building to a whole new level. Take for example the creation of luxury building materials from waste. One truly great feature of this upcycling trend is that the new materials are being developed by designers who will use them, which means that they are actually attractive as well as useful.
These new materials are being used as substitutes for conventional woods, plastics and stone, and often come in sheet or tile form that are ready to be cut, shaped and manipulated by architects and designers.
Really, a Danish company at the forefront of this movement is focused on taking used textiles and transforming them into a sheet material similar to plywood.
In fact, companies around the world are coming up with some pretty clever new building materials turning items as basic as bottles and as strange as dirty diapers and sanitary products into materials that can be used for construction.
When it comes to embracing sustainable living, those are thinking well outside the box and turning products — like the notoriously hard to recycle plastic grocery bags — into building materials are making incredible strides. In Building with Waste, which compiles these unique new materials, the authors speculate that, in future, we could end up re-using pretty much everything. This would be pretty darn helpful since we are on track to double municipal waste output by 2025. That’s a pretty terrifying thought.
And it isn’t just building materials, there are products being made with carbon dioxide. Collecting CO2 from the world’s smokestacks is hard, but once it has been collected what can be done with the carbon? To address this problem, people have invented technologies that convert captured CO2 into new products — crazy in a great way, right?
Solutions so far have included a lot of creative ideas such as converting carbon dioxide into carbon fibers which can be used as lighter-weight alternative to metal to make products like wind turbine blades, race cars, airplanes and bicycles. A company in Calgary is combining CO2 with waste products, such as fly ash left over from burning coal or petroleum coke, to create nanoparticles that can be used as additives for concrete, plastic and coatings to enhance performance and increase efficiency.
These innovations and more prove that many in this world are working toward a more sustainable future. We must continue to find creative solutions for reducing waste in order to take care of our most precious resource — the earth.
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A few summer ago, the World Resources Institute and the UNEP Finance Initiative consulted with more than 100 energy, climate, and finance experts to create a discussion framework for investors to weigh exposure to the risks of climate change.
Essentially, it is a toolkit for investors to evaluate a company based on climate risk factors not directly related to physical risk. Most investors can already pick out obvious physical risks, i.e. investing in coastal property as sea levels rise. But non-physical, climate-change effected risks are also important.
The WRI discussion framework addresses those risks, called carbon-asset risks. They include public policy, regulation, technology, unpredictable market conditions, and shifting public opinion.
This discussion framework is an excellent tool for investors to weigh risks as they choose to make investments, but we argue that companies themselves should be looking at this tool to discover their own carbon asset risks and then engaging in some deeper-level analyses and audits.
For example, the assessment recommends that investors look beyond carbon footprinting and delve deeper into company supply chain audits that may uncover risks. For example:
- Geographic location (are too many of your suppliers in the path of a super-typhoon?),
- Local regulations (are the countries your source your raw materials from looking to legislate and increase your costs?),
- Diversification in operations or production (are your products and services too dependent on fossil fuels?).
This discussion framework, while absolutely useful for investors, can also be used as a cheat sheet for your own business. Next step: Start auditing and taking action now to mitigate your climate risk.
Reducing exposure to risk is crucial, not only to become more attractive to investors, but also to become a more sustainable organization overall!
If you’re ready to start looking more deeply at your carbon asset risk, contact us to learn more about sustainability assessment and supply chain analysis.
You may have thought about the pros and cons of from home, but there is a lot for someone managing a remote workforce to think about when a company expands their telework policy. You may not be certain that this would be the best choice for your company, but the truth of the matter is having a remote workforce is a green solution. Think about it, no more long commutes for your team members just so everyone can sit in the same office. We’ve pulled together some guidelines that will help make managing a remote team work for your company.
First as a sustainability company, you know that employees who switch to telecommuting impacts carbon emissions—as soon as a person stop driving into work they reduce their carbon footprint in a big way. Multiply that by a larger population of the workforce and that impact increases dramatically. Sara Sutton Fell highlighted how a few large corporations who were encouraging workers to telecommute had a major impact in her piece, How Telecommuting Reduced Carbon Footprints at Dell, Aetna and Xerox, for Entrepreneur in 2015. It’s been a few years, so think about how much more we can do remotely!
Fell pointed out that Global Workplace Analytics had determined 50% of the American workforce had telecommute-compatible jobs. If those individuals all worked from home half the time it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of taking almost 10 million cars off the road. It would also reduce annual oil consumption by 640 million barrels. You know that these changes would be an incredible boon for the environment.
Speaking of oil, the U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that the U.S. uses approximately 19 million barrels of oil every day. If people worked from home part-time, 1.75 million of those barrels—almost 10 percent—would be eliminated. Plus, a CoSo Cloud study suggested that 77 percent of the remote employees it studied were more productive than office-bound employees. Clearly companies implementing wider work-from-home policies are seeing positive impacts in three big ways:
• the company benefits thanks to cost savings, higher productivity and employee retention
• the environment benefits due to the reduction of carbon footprints
• and the individual team members benefit because they have a better work-life balance (and can feel good about positively impacting the environment).
Who can say no to such a win-win-win situation?
Okay so all of that sounds great, but you might not be sure how to best manage your team from a distance or how to keep them engaged with their peers and their projects. William Morrow offered some insight into the challenges of managing an off-site team in his recent article Don’t Even Try Managing a Remote Team Without These Tools.
What are the main challenges to a remote work force? Different time zones or communication and collaboration issues among team members can be a hindrance to productivity. It can also be more challenging to build up strong relationships within your team if they are never in the same place at the same time. To help you combat these challenges, Morrow highlights some of the top tools that will keep your team on the same page, starting as soon as they onboard. He suggests utilizing ClickMeeting for this process. It is a platform built for webinars that is commonly used as a virtual conference room. It also enable your organization to deliver presentations that allow remote workers to engage in real time as well as share documents, illustrate information with a whiteboard feature, and run Q&A sessions for your remote attendees, keeping everyone on the same page.
Morrow also suggest finding a platform that that will allow your new employees to gain skills from hands on training while they work (particularly if they are working in a tech capactity). Setting up a virtual lab environment, like MicroTek, allows team members to experiment and make mistakes without negative consequences to your company.
But on top of the hiring and initial workflow, you also need to think about HR and technology issues. Whether they are in the office or working remotely, all members of your team will be more productive if their computers and other devices are running smoothly and they feel invested in the company as individuals. Check out the BambooHR suite, which provides a valuable employee-appraisal platform, and TeamViewer to help you deal with remote tech issues.
Then, and this is perhaps the trickiest part, you need to find a good solution to support communication and collaboration among the team. There are a number of tools that can help your team continue to be cohesive, but Slack and Google Drive are definitely among the top performers in this area.
Now remember all of these helpful platforms require a password and since you should be creating unique and complex passwords for everything, consider an option like LastPass or 1Password to help you keep track of these. A site like these allows you to store every password associated with your online accounts which means you only have to remember one master password — the one that logs you in to the password-manager application. Bonus: administrators can select which remote employees can log in to which online accounts, and set expiration dates for access.
You’ve got all your processes in place — great! — but you still need to help keep your employees engaged with their jobs and each others. While your team is likely to be more productive at home where they can avoid all the office distractions, Ryan Gellis notes that you have to make sure your workforce has a sense of cohesion. To create this positive team culture from a distance you need to make sure to use the right technology (as Morrow mentioned), plan for in-person activities ranging from a coffee hour to happy hour to fancy dinner out. It is clear that meeting in person, when possible, boosts a team’s connection even if that meeting is purely a social outing.
Another key to keeping your staff members engaged is inspiring communication among everyone — yourself included. If you are available, your staff is likely to be more tuned in. Also set core hours — even if it is just 4 or 5 hours midday —because having a set time where everyone is available via email, phone or chat will help keep the projects progressing in a timely fashion.
So if you are thinking about expanding your remote workforce — you can do it! It’s great for the environment, your employees, and likely, your company’s bottom line.
Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:
We may all have too many clothes in our closet that we keep meaning to sort through and donate, but did you ever think about the clothes that never make it to anyone’s closet? If you thought that last season's unpurchased coats, pants and tops ended up being put to use, you’re wrong. Sadly, most of it (nearly 13 million tons each year in the United States alone) ends up in landfills. Clearly the world of fashion has a massive waste problem, and Amit Kalra wants to fix it. Here are some creative ways that he believes the industry can evolve to be more conscientious about the environment —and gain a competitive advantage at the same time.
Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:
Let’s face, we are an urban world. With more than half of the world's population living in cities, and another 2.5 billion people expected to move to urban areas by 2050 we need to be giving a lot of though to the way we build. From climate change to economic vitality to our very well-being and sense of connectedness, Peter Calthorpe is at work planning these cities of the future and advocating for community design that's focused on human interaction. In his talk, he shares seven principles to help us solving sprawl while also building more sustainable cities.
With consumers and Wall Street continuing to put pressure on companies to be open about their sustainable practices, boards of directors are feeling the pinch. Investors certainly expect that board members understand and help prepare for challenges. Investing in sustainability is increasingly seen as a risk mitigation strategy, particularly now that it is clear that there is a connection between sustainable efforts and how companies perform.
There are a number of sustainability issues — climate change, water scarcity, labor inequality, product safety — that impact the bottom line. By understanding the impact of these risks on their companies and incorporating that information into the decision making process, boards can meet the demands of a growing number of investors around the world — and unlock real business opportunities.
This Greenbiz.com article, How to Build a Board that’s Competent for Sustainability, was an excellent round up of how to manage boards effectively when it comes to sustainability issues.
When an environmental or social issue impacts production and more, board members must respond. And it’s the job of the corporate staff, from investor relations to corporate secretaries to sustainability officers, to help the board become fluent in these sustainability risks — so that directors can understand why it matters to their business and what they can do about it. While some would say you could simple add a member or two to the board who is well versed in sustainable issues, a report recently release by Ceres suggest you should build a sustainably competent board.
How to build a sustainably competent board
Key suggestions include integrating sustainability issues into board recruitment and educating directors on sustainability issues and why it’s critical for them to engage with external stakeholders, including investors and experts on sustainability issues. The end goal is totally straightforward and by tackling material sustainability risks as a group, the board can ask the right questions, support or challenge management as needed and make knowledgeable decisions on strategy and risk.
There are other important elements that can assist in this process such as investor relations. Investors have long paid attention to board composition, including leading the charge calling for more diversity on corporate boards. Now that focus has grown to include climate competency, with major investors including CalPERS, CalSTRS, Blackrock and State Street (PDF) demanding that boards bring on climate-competent directors.
To work on this transition, the sustainability department and investor relations team can pair up to help educate directors when it comes to sustainability issues. They can prepare educational materials and sessions, report on material sustainability issues and discussion to boards and involve boards in materiality assessments, including ongoing updates of the business case for managing sustainability issues. Materiality assessments are particularly important. A growing number of companies are putting in place formal process to assess materiality sustainability issues. Board members should be involved in these processes to provide input, as well as to vet the results.
Finally, corporate staff can help the board engage with investors and other expert stakeholders on the topics important to the company through outreach to stakeholders or by creating advisory councils that have sufficient expertise to engage with directors and help brief and prepare board members for investor engagements on sustainability issues.
If a board wants what is best for the company, it’s clear that establishing a focus on sustainability issues will be good for business. Would you like help making the case to leadership on the power of sustainability, contact us!