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TEDTalk 7 Principles for Building Better Cities

The SSC Team March 15, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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.

Where Sustainability and Boards of Directors Intersect

The SSC Team January 25, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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! 

Is Vanpooling a Good Choice for Your Company?

The SSC Team January 23, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

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 Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives

Check out the following question pop up on 2Degrees.com (a platform for sustainability professionals): 

We’re based in rural Wiltshire and fast outgrowing our site. Whilst expansion plans are in the works, our car park is at capacity and we have more new starters joining every week. Whilst most of us car share, we’re still looking for ways to take cars off the road. We’re looking at introducing buses from the major towns and cities for Dyson people to get to work and back home. It would be great to learn about how others have implemented a similar scheme successfully and what things to watch out for including any experiences you can share on linking incentives to use of more sustainable modes of transport.

-- Nicola Warner | Dyson

There were several good comments already in the thread, but of course we wanted to add our own input! Here's what we said:

Have you considered vanpooling as an option?

We’ve found that vanpooling is a great option for companies located in rural areas when employees live in many directions. It’s particularly valuable for companies with a growing headcount, because it’s relatively easy to add a new van (while adding a new bus route is a significant commitment in terms of time and money).

There's lots of good evidence that vanpooling is good for employees and good for companies. According to Enterprise RideShare:

Vanpooling drastically reduces commuting and maintenance costs by up to $800 a month* (based on AAA mileage). Also, employees who vanpool are eligible for tax incentives  (IRS Tax Code 132(f)) and local government subsidies... People who share a ride aren't subject to the daily traffic grind, which means they arrive at work happier, more relaxed and, in turn, are more productive. Also, vanpoolers are found to be more punctual than those that drive alone. So employees who vanpool are more likely to arrive to work on time.

If you'd like to chat more with us about vanpooling and the key lessons (both positive and negative) we've learned over time, please contact us to set up a meeting. Otherwise, check out these resources for more information.

Vanpooling: A Handbook to Help You Set Up a Program at Your Company - a PDF guide from the US Department of Transportation. While the handbook is a bit old (published in the early 1990s), it is a great roadmap for setting up and managing a vanpooling program.

Vanpool Benefits: Implementing Commuter Benefits - a PDF guide from the US Environmental Protection Agency's "Best Workplace for Commuters" program. While written with an American audience in mind, all companies will find it useful for considering the financial costs and benefits of a vanpooling program.

Curious about how different commuting patterns affect your company's carbon footprint? Download our free white paper, Reducing Your Organization's Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions

TEDTalk Fashion has a pollution problem — can biology fix it?

The SSC Team January 18, 2018 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

Multi-discipline designer Natsai Audrey Chieza is committed to reducing pollution in the fashion industry while creating amazing new things to wear. Working in her lab she noticed that the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor makes a striking red-purple pigment. Now she’s using the bold, color-fast fabric dye and cutting down on water waste and chemical runoff. She isn't alone in using synthetic biology to redefine our material future — imagine "leather" made from mushrooms or super strong yarn made from spider-silk protein. We're not going to build the future with fossil fuels, Chieza says. With a background crossing the boundaries between technology, biology, design and cultural studies, she believes a more sustainable future will be built with biology.

How to Set Carbon Reduction Goals

The SSC Team February 16, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

Based on a presentation by the EPA, we picked up some great nuggets of advice for companies seeking to establish credible and meaningful carbon reduction goals.

KEY COMPONENTS OF A CREDIBLE GHG REDUCTION STRATEGY:

  • Begin with a corporate-wide GHG inventory (base year) of Scope 1 and 2 emissions, with Scope 3 emissions included if relevant to the goal. Annual tracking and reporting of progress is a must!
  • Build an emissions inventory plan, which institutionalizes progress and ensures high quality data. Make sure you know where the data is coming from, who is responsible for managing it, and where (and why) assumptions are being made.
  • Determine a GHG reduction goal, based on a complete and verified inventory. While independent, 3rd party-verification is best, it can be expensive. Consider beginning with an internal auditing and assurance process.

WHAT MAKES A STRONG CARBON REDUCTION GOAL?

  • Absolute reductions are important--don't just rely on efficiency improvements to lower carbon-per-product, carbon-per-revenue, or carbon-per employee trends.
  • Consider your company's goals against projected GHG performance in your sector--are you aligned with industry expectations? (And if you are wildly different from your peers, do you have a good reason as to why you are different?)
  • Goals should be achievable within 10-12 years--ambitious enough to need a decade to execute, but not so lofty as to lose touch with reality.
  • Public commitment from a company's executive leadership adds credibility and gravitas to the goal!
  • Make it specific to your company's operations, and beyond "business as usual".

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS WHEN SETTING CARBON REDUCTION GOALS:

  • Align your goals with what science tells us is necessary for climate-balance. For example, the IPCC recommends reductions of 20-30% by 2020, and 80% by 2050 (from 1990 levels).
  • Frequently review your emissions inventory for completeness, accuracy, and relevance. Determining your carbon footprint boundaries and data sources isn't a one-time process. It should evolve as your company evolves.

Want more information? Check out our carbon footprinting and CDP Reporting services, and download our white paper on the impact of employee commuting on your company's carbon footprint!

EPA and Waste Management Webinar Recap: Putting a Price Tag On Emissions Reduction

The SSC Team August 16, 2016 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Last Tuesday, GreenBiz hosted the first in a two part webinar series on the emissions impact of recycling and Sustainable Materials Management (SMM).

SMM can be generally described as active management of a product’s life cycle to reach sustainability aims.

The webinar began with an overview of the EPA’s work on SMM/LCA advocacy. Essentially, the EPA sees its role as advancing LCA and SMM as integral business practices. Because LCA and supply-chain work is so crucial to truly moving the bar on reducing emissions, it’s heartening to know that the EPA has made this a priority in their policy, oversight, and research work.

From lifecycle to the trash

After the EPA presentation, the talk shifted from life-cycle studies directly to the end of the life cycle and the work of Waste Management, the American comprehensive waste and environmental services company. Waste Management has undertaken a massive effort calculate the actual dollar cost of reducing emissions waste by method of disposal.

As a side note, the presenters did not do a great job of clearly making this transition from LCA work to emissions reduction cost calculating. But, it seems that the overall point was two-fold:

1.     Most organizations look at their carbon footprint – which is business operations – and what comes up most commonly is that the largest emissions source for most businesses is energy use. So, companies focus on energy reductions initiatives, essentially passing their product emissions - natural resources, product use, and product disposal –  onto suppliers and consumers. This needs to stop. More organization need to look up and down a product’s life cycle to really engineer, source and plan in ways that reduce the overall impact of the entire product to move the bar on sustainability.

2.     As organizations begin to engineer products with a focus on SMM, it would be helpful to know the GHG emissions resulting in end of life (i.e. GHG emissions of landfilling versus single-stream recycling) and the cost in real dollars of each of the processing methods. That’s where Waste Management stepped in.

Waste Management’s work calculating the price of reducing GHGs in the waste management industry delivers a cost per ton of GHG emissions through various waste processing techniques. (The most reduction for the lowest cost goes to – residential and commercial single-stream recycling!)

The Waste Management process, prioritization, and graphical representation on how they calculated cost/benefit is pretty fantastic. Definitely consider downloading the slides.

But questions remain.

How can organizations and policymakers work to reduce the cost of the other types of GHG emissions reduction technologies (e.g. anaerobic digesters)? Is there talk about subsidizing them? How can businesses be incentivized to use materials that can be sent into the low-emissions/low-cost single-stream recycling category and/or eliminate materials that can’t? Is there talk about banning certain materials? Are there waste processing technologies that need research funding that provide low-cost emissions reduction?  

Calculating cost and cost benefit is important from an engineering standpoint, but only if your organization is somehow incentivized or driven to engineer with the life cycle in mind. Without pressure – regulatory or otherwise- companies are still largely driven by the biggest incentive of all: producing products for the lowest actual cost and passing any environmental costs onto the planet, via the consumer.

Listen to the recap here, and log in today at 1pm Eastern for the second webcast, Setting Goals: Have We Reached the Limits of Recycling?, where presenters look at SMM through waste reduction efforts and give guidance on how to set effective waste reduction and recycling goals.

Are you ready to take a more advanced approach to understanding and reducing impact through a product life-cycle assessment? Check out our LCA overview information and contact us for a brief discussion of the benefits and challenges. 

 

The Trouble with Reducing Air Travel-Related Emissions

The SSC Team July 12, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

We were delighted to be interviewed recently by Bloomberg's, Ben Elgin, on the topic of corporate air travel (and why companies are struggling to reduce air travel-related emissions). SSC President, Jennifer Woofter, was quoted in his article,  "Handshakes and Body English Vex Corporate Carbon Cutting Goals":

"Airplane travel is an environmental no-no," says Jennifer Woofter, President of Strategic Sustainability Consulting in Herndon, Virginia. "A number of our clients are struggling with this."

As with many articles, the final quote is but a smidgen of what we have to say on the topic. Since it didn't make the final cut in the Bloomberg article, we'd like to share what we know on the question of "Why are companies struggling to reduce their air travel?" 

AIR TRAVEL IS CONNECTED TO IMPORTANT EMPLOYEE PERKS

While promotions and raises may have hit the skids during the recession, one of the perks that many employees have been able to hang on to is the annual conference, training event, or trade show.

Employers need to invest in the professional development of their staff, and many workers enjoy the benefits of getting out of the office environment to learn something new, network with industry peers, or showcase their talents.

Companies can reduce air travel to a certain extent, but if even a portion of the workforce travels periodically for professional development reasons, it's going to be difficult to find additional air emissions reductions without sacrificing employee morale and engagement.

GROWING TELEWORK CAN MEAN INCREASED AIR TRAVEL

We have several clients who have dramatically increased the ability of their employees to work from home. This policy has significantly reduced employee commuting-related emissions (from driving to and from work each day) but occasionally results in more air travel when virtual workers relocate to remote areas. Instead of driving each day, they may fly into the corporate office once a month, or once a quarter. Those air miles add up quickly.

THE COST OF VIRTUAL MEETINGS IS STILL SIGNIFICANT

Let's not ignore cost. While there are a number of pretty amazing free tools (Skype and join.me are two of our favorite), companies that need high-resolution, ultra-secure video presence need to shell out a pretty penny. And it's not enough to install a videoconferencing center in your corporate office -- you also need one in each of the connecting locations. It might make sense to install a system in each of your branch offices, but what about the locations of your major suppliers, or at the headquarters of your prospective customers? Nope, that won't work -- most of the time you will still need to send people out to do business in a face-to-face setting.

Of course, the biggest roadblock is one that is covered in detail in the Bloomberg article, the fact that an electronic handshake just isn't the same as spending time in the physical presence of another person. So while we do counsel clients on how to reduce unnecessary air travel, we also face reality: most businesses will need to maintain some level of air travel and the best option is to look broadly at the entire picture (telepresence, commuting, air travel, professional development, and the sales process) and find a balanced approach that makes good business sense. 

Curious about how to better measure and manage commuting-related emissions? Download our free white paper on Reducing your Organization's Carbon Footprint:  Addressing Commuter Related Emissions. The

The Trouble with Reducing Air Travel-Related Emissions

The SSC Team July 12, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

We were delighted to be interviewed recently by Bloomberg's, Ben Elgin, on the topic of corporate air travel (and why companies are struggling to reduce air travel-related emissions). SSC President, Jennifer Woofter, was quoted in his article,  "Handshakes and Body English Vex Corporate Carbon Cutting Goals":

"Airplane travel is an environmental no-no," says Jennifer Woofter, President of Strategic Sustainability Consulting in Herndon, Virginia. "A number of our clients are struggling with this."

As with many articles, the final quote is but a smidgen of what we have to say on the topic. Since it didn't make the final cut in the Bloomberg article, we'd like to share what we know on the question of "Why are companies struggling to reduce their air travel?" 

AIR TRAVEL IS CONNECTED TO IMPORTANT EMPLOYEE PERKS

While promotions and raises may have hit the skids during the recession, one of the perks that many employees have been able to hang on to is the annual conference, training event, or trade show.

Employers need to invest in the professional development of their staff, and many workers enjoy the benefits of getting out of the office environment to learn something new, network with industry peers, or showcase their talents.

Companies can reduce air travel to a certain extent, but if even a portion of the workforce travels periodically for professional development reasons, it's going to be difficult to find additional air emissions reductions without sacrificing employee morale and engagement.

GROWING TELEWORK CAN MEAN INCREASED AIR TRAVEL

We have several clients who have dramatically increased the ability of their employees to work from home. This policy has significantly reduced employee commuting-related emissions (from driving to and from work each day) but occasionally results in more air travel when virtual workers relocate to remote areas. Instead of driving each day, they may fly into the corporate office once a month, or once a quarter. Those air miles add up quickly.

THE COST OF VIRTUAL MEETINGS IS STILL SIGNIFICANT

Let's not ignore cost. While there are a number of pretty amazing free tools (Skype and join.me are two of our favorite), companies that need high-resolution, ultra-secure video presence need to shell out a pretty penny. And it's not enough to install a videoconferencing center in your corporate office -- you also need one in each of the connecting locations. It might make sense to install a system in each of your branch offices, but what about the locations of your major suppliers, or at the headquarters of your prospective customers? Nope, that won't work -- most of the time you will still need to send people out to do business in a face-to-face setting.

Of course, the biggest roadblock is one that is covered in detail in the Bloomberg article, the fact that an electronic handshake just isn't the same as spending time in the physical presence of another person. So while we do counsel clients on how to reduce unnecessary air travel, we also face reality: most businesses will need to maintain some level of air travel and the best option is to look broadly at the entire picture (telepresence, commuting, air travel, professional development, and the sales process) and find a balanced approach that makes good business sense. 

Curious about how to better measure and manage commuting-related emissions? Download our free white paper on Reducing your Organization's Carbon Footprint:  Addressing Commuter Related Emissions. The

TED Talks Sustainability: Tshering Tobgay: This Country Isn’t Just Carbon Neutral – It’s Carbon Negative

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

Nothing inspires us like a good TED talk, and here’s one of our favorites. Enjoy it!

About the speaker: Tshering Tobgay is the prime minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan. He is the second democratically elected prime minister, a social media star, and is leading his country based on principles of sustainability, well-being, and “Gross National Happiness.” Tobgay, an optimistic leader in tumultuous global environment, is focused on stability and sustainability in Bhutan.

About the talk: The Kingdom of Bhutan is a small Himalayan country of 700,000 people centered between China and India. The small nation has a commitment to remaining carbon neutral “for all time.” Learn about how the monarchy, and now this new democracy, has adopted a holistic look at development, favoring “Gross National Happiness” over gross national product.  

Parent company of Puma provides detailed look at its Environmental Profit & Loss methodology

The SSC Team December 17, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

This summer, Kering, the parent company of the clothing and footwear manufacturer, Puma, not only published its EP&L, the environmental footprint of the company’s operations translated into monetary values, it published the entire methodology as an open-source tool for others to use.

The EP&L analyses the impact of Kering’s supply chain from raw materials to retail outlets and reports the impact in monetary terms.

In an article about Kering’s decision to open-source the methodology, the company’s CEO said, “Our EP&L has already served as an effective internal catalyst to drive us towards a more sustainable business model. I am convinced that an EP&L, and corporate natural capital accounting more broadly, are essential to enable companies to acknowledge the true cost on nature of doing business.”

From making the business case for sustainability to assessing carbon asset risk in monetary terms, and finally to reporting environmental results using natural capital accounting, more and more companies are moving toward currency as a way to plan, assess, and evaluate environmental performance.

This move makes sense, considering we live in the age of global capitalism.

Kering’s EP&L, along with World Bank’s WAVES initiative, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Valuation Guide, the Natural Capital Coalition, and others, provide strategies to implement natural capital accounting into the sustainability reporting process.

If your company is interested in producing a sustainability report using principles of natural capital accounting, let us know! And check out our analysis of how Puma stacks up to other athletic apparel companies.