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Future of the FSC: What Happens When Manufacturers Reject Certification? Sustainability Lessons from ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX)

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

Last month, we headed out to ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX) to get the pulse on sustainability from the perspective of architects, engineers, builders, contractors, manufacturers, and other AEC professionals. We spoke to dozens of representatives from the more than 400 exhibitors about sustainability programs, sustainability strategy, and what they think of it all.

Our conversations resulted in two really great questions:

Additionally, we took extra time and conducted a survey specifically targeted at companies that manufacture products (as opposed to service providers and distributors) used in the AEC field to delve deeper into what types of companies are doing what types of sustainability programs and why. Come back on Thursday to see what we’ve learned!

Future of the FSC: What Happens When Manufacturers Reject Certification?

Many of the manufacturing companies we spoke with manufactured some sort of wood product for the built space. Either importing wood from other continents or harvesting here in the United States and Canada, almost all of them said that they were “FSC Certified.”

But there’s a catch.

Nearly all of the company representatives, once they understood we weren’t potential clients and we just wanted to discuss sustainability certifications, immediately had a lot more to say.

One of the company representatives said, “We’re not renewing our FSC certification next year.”

Another said, “Yeah, we are FSC Certified, but we really don’t need to be.”

Another said, “I just don’t think FSC Certification is going to be around in a couple of years. We’re spending money on something to put on our labels or our website that fundamentally doesn’t change how we manage the forests we harvest from anyway.”

His point, like many was that most FSC Certified and non-FSC certified companies selling (specifically) hardwood products understand that sustainable forest management is the only way to not drive yourself out of business.

They have to manage the forest well. Replant. Use every bit of byproduct to maximize efficiency and profits. And the FSC Certification doesn’t change any of that, it just costs money to certify to doing something they would do regardless. Most companies in this industry sector must demonstrating best practice so they go out of business like the Once-ler and his Truffula trees.

What’s next for wood?

It will be interesting to see if the FSC Certification does fade away, but what will be more interesting is to see what’s next in the cutting-edge of sustainability from the wood products segment. Is importing South American hardwood or South African hardwood preferable to a material that is made from North American hardwood (assuming we live in North America)? Are there going to be wood substitutes that are more sustainable to manufacture from a life-cycle perspective? What metric does the FSC Certification miss that can actually demonstrate how different wood products companies are impacting the environment?

If the FSC is out, then something else needs to step in

Wood, in and of itself, isn’t a “renewable resource.” Active forestry management practices need to be in place to “renew” the resource, and there is always room for improvement.

Are you in the wood products industry and are thinking of giving up on FSC Certification? Tell us why in the comments.

Check back for Part 3 in our ABX series in January: What should your manufacturing company be doing right now to improve environmental and social impact? 

Are Architects Hurting Manufacturers’ Sustainability Progress? Sustainability Lessons from ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX)

The SSC Team December 15, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Last month, we headed out to ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX) to get the pulse on sustainability from the perspective of architects, engineers, builders, contractors, manufacturers, and other AEC professionals. We spoke to dozens of representatives from the more than 400 exhibitors about sustainability programs, sustainability strategy, and what they think of it all.

Our conversations resulted in two really great questions:

  • Are Architects Hurting Manufacturers’ Sustainability Progress? and
  • Future of the FSC: What Happens When Manufacturers Reject Certification? (Check back on Dec. 22 for our thoughts!)

Additionally, we took extra time and conducted a survey specifically targeted at companies that manufacture products (as opposed to service providers and distributors) used in the AEC field to delve deeper into what types of companies are doing what types of sustainability programs and why. We'll post our survey results in early January. 

So, are architects hurting manufacturers’ sustainability progress?

Talking to small-to-mid sized manufacturing companies, the most common strategic sustainability headache cited is being asked either directly or through the RFP process by an architecture firm, project management team, and/or developer whether or not they “have” or “can get” a specific certification, accreditation, or report to be competitive on the bid.

Some pressure is good

For example, most mid-sized companies (15-50 employees) we spoke with are aware of and able to offer LEED credits, at a bare minimum. And some have done and EPD or HPD reports. And others track specific sustainability metrics.

But nearly all of the smaller companies (1-15 employees) and start-ups told us that they wanted to figure out how to be able to offer LEED credits (and most hadn’t even heard of an HPD or EPD or LCA), but the certification process was unclear at the time – especially considering they are generally running a small, lean firm. To the folks we talked to, chasing certifications that don’t really mean much to them at this phase of their business wasn’t a smart financial choice right now, but they have it on the list.

This is where the pressure can be good. Even small companies are looking ahead to some of the industry’s most recognizable program – LEED – which, we believe, will eventually push them to open their eyes to why LEED exists, what consumer and regulatory pressures are driving “green” buildings, and to ask themselves “what’s next?” in terms of sustainability strategy and certifications.

After LEED, it gets hard

With all of the mid-sized companies offering LEED credits, we asked them “what else are you doing in sustainability? Some said nothing. Some said tracking waste or water or something relevant to their own corporate mission.

But most of them essentially ended with: We try to do what the client, usually the developer or architect wants, in terms of certifications or data submissions with regard to our environmental and social impact, but almost every time, each architect and each developer want different things.

Essentially, a single mid-sized manufacturing firm supplying coatings or interior glass to multiple clients on multiple projects all at different times faces being asked for multiple things, and often not presented in the same format.

One mid-sized interior finishings company representative said (and I paraphrase), “After awhile, as a mid-sized manufacturer, we can’t keep going around spending money and time on a dozen different certifications to meet the needs of a dozen different clients all wanting a different type of certification from us. The architecture industry needs to really figure out what it wants to know about the sustainability efforts of the companies they use to supply goods and services, and standardize that better.”

The overall feeling, was that an industry association – whether it is architects or developers, or both together – needs to take a leadership role and start developing an industry-wide reporting tool that works for the AEC industry, tailored to the process of design-build-maintain. Similar to what the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is doing for clothing.

Buildings and the built space are unique in so many ways, so having their own sustainability reporting program that actually tells us what the total environmental and social impact of a given building is needs to be the future of the industry.

So, who will step up?

In the meantime, we are here to help companies figure out the certifications or reports or data sets that will serve their own business operations best as clients and customers increase their demand for sustainability information. If you’re just getting started, we can help you understand the smartest path forward to keep you one step ahead.

 

Sustainability Resources You Might Have Missed

The SSC Team November 24, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

It seems like every day there is a new sustainability tool on the market. Some are awesome, some are interesting, and some will make you scratch your head in confusion. But don't worry, we've done the heavy lifting and highlighted three sustainability tools below that are worth your time. Enjoy!

World Resources Institute (WRI) Climate Analysis Indicators Tool, or CAIT 2.0 - "The platform offers free online access to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other climate data, enabling researchers, policymakers, media, and others to download, visualize and share data for analysis and communications on climate change."

Value Chain Mapping - "Obtaining a clear picture of the fundamental inputs and outputs of your business provides valuable information for sustainability program development, as well as CSR reporting. CR professionals are developing sustainability-specific value chain maps in order to systematically assess the company's impacts throughout product sourcing, transport, development, use and disposal."

Sustainable Apparel Coalition's Higg Index Web Portal - "The Higg Index is used by the coalition's members to measure metrics such as energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, chemicals policies, waste management and labor practices from factories around the world... Although you must be a coalition member to gain complete access to the index, any invited supplier can submit data about its facilities and business practices. This will turn the Higg Index into a valuable Web resource that will help apparel and footwear companies collect and consider environmental and social information from potential suppliers or production resources."

Want to know more about sustainability reporting?  Check out our white paper, Sustainability Reporting and SMEs:  A Closer Look at the GRI.

 

G4 Guidelines, Meet GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards

The SSC Team August 23, 2016 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

The Global Reporting Initiative expects to soon unveil the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards, improving how the G4 Guidelines, adopted in 2013, are reported.

The G4 Guidelines were an improvement on the previous reporting guidelines, helping provide more context around sustainability and push toward an integrated form of reporting on financial, social, and environmental metrics.

However, over the past three years, the G4 guidelines proved complicated, daunting, and included a number of elements that were “too often misinterpreted or inconsistently applied.”

Eric Hespenheide, interim chief executive the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and chair of Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) for GRI, recently discussed how the G4 Guidelines aren’t going away, but how the new GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards will help reduce complexity and increase standardization.

“GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards is the latest step in the evolution of the guidelines, aimed at enhancing the credibility and adoption of the standards around the world. The new modular structure will allow the standards to be kept more up-to-date and aligned with international instruments in the future. To keep pace with developments in reporting practices or regulation, the new structure will enable additional sustainability topics to be added, with greater ease,” Hespenheide said.

The G4 Guidelines – including the data required to create a GRI report – aren’t changing (“This isn’t G5,” Hespenheide said.), but the modular formatting will help companies more clearly and accurately report on material topics in a way that is comparable across industries, and will allow flexibility when adding or changing specific reporting areas as the field evolves.

Ideally, by continually improving the standards AND making the reporting tool and methodology modular and more accessible, more and more organizations will begin producing GRI reports, pushing companies more toward credible, standardized sustainability reporting.

Contact us to talk about how your company can join leading organizations in producing a sustainability report following the G4 Guidelines. o

Welcoming the New ASTM Standards for Manufacturing Processes

The SSC Team July 5, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

At SSC, we have been calculating environmental impact in manufacturing processes using process flow diagramming for years. When conducting life-cycle assessments, process-flow diagramming provides a visual and a data-based representation of every input and output in a manufacturing process to achieve the most accurate results. 

But mapping manufacturing processes becomes difficult because of the wide variety of technologies, inputs, outflows, variations inside of a single facility or lack of information from upstream or downstream. Additionally, the standards and software tools used to calculate processes can vary in their accuracy and be limited in their flexibility, unable to adapt to a wide variety of industries.

Complexity is par for the course when determining environmental impact of a manufacturing process.

The newly released ASTM International standard for calculating the environmental aspects of manufacturing processes (ASTM E3012-16), developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), promises to be a step forward in guiding sustainability professionals through a systematic and more comprehensive, yet flexible, way to calculate environmental impacts based on a graphical process-flow modeling.

NIST systems engineer Kevin Lyons, who chaired the ASTM committee that developed the manufacturing sustainability standard, describes it as similar as tracking financials. “You have to gather income and expenditure data, run the numbers and then use the results to make smart process changes — savings, cutbacks, streamlining, etc. — that will optimize your monthly budget,” he said. “We designed ASTM E3012-16 to let manufacturers virtually characterize their production processes as computer models, and then, using a standardized method, “plug and play” the environmental data for each process step to visualize impacts and identify areas for improving overall sustainability of the system.”

The updated database will help standardize terminology and structure of mapping and reporting manufacturing process impact, reducing complexity in mapping manufacturing processes, and thereby helping companies fully and accurately understand environmental impacts and work toward reducing them.

Are you ready to begin your product life-cycle assessment? Contact us for a quick briefing on whether your company would benefit most from a highly detailed analysis to broad-strokes, baseline assessment. Understanding your impact may not be as big of an investment as you might think.

 

 

 

Welcoming the New ASTM Standards for Manufacturing Processes

The SSC Team July 5, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

At SSC, we have been calculating environmental impact in manufacturing processes using process flow diagramming for years. When conducting life-cycle assessments, process-flow diagramming provides a visual and a data-based representation of every input and output in a manufacturing process to achieve the most accurate results. 

But mapping manufacturing processes becomes difficult because of the wide variety of technologies, inputs, outflows, variations inside of a single facility or lack of information from upstream or downstream. Additionally, the standards and software tools used to calculate processes can vary in their accuracy and be limited in their flexibility, unable to adapt to a wide variety of industries.

Complexity is par for the course when determining environmental impact of a manufacturing process.

The newly released ASTM International standard for calculating the environmental aspects of manufacturing processes (ASTM E3012-16), developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), promises to be a step forward in guiding sustainability professionals through a systematic and more comprehensive, yet flexible, way to calculate environmental impacts based on a graphical process-flow modeling.

NIST systems engineer Kevin Lyons, who chaired the ASTM committee that developed the manufacturing sustainability standard, describes it as similar as tracking financials. “You have to gather income and expenditure data, run the numbers and then use the results to make smart process changes — savings, cutbacks, streamlining, etc. — that will optimize your monthly budget,” he said. “We designed ASTM E3012-16 to let manufacturers virtually characterize their production processes as computer models, and then, using a standardized method, “plug and play” the environmental data for each process step to visualize impacts and identify areas for improving overall sustainability of the system.”

The updated database will help standardize terminology and structure of mapping and reporting manufacturing process impact, reducing complexity in mapping manufacturing processes, and thereby helping companies fully and accurately understand environmental impacts and work toward reducing them.

Are you ready to begin your product life-cycle assessment? Contact us for a quick briefing on whether your company would benefit most from a highly detailed analysis to broad-strokes, baseline assessment. Understanding your impact may not be as big of an investment as you might think.

 

 

 

Can You Attract Low-Carbon-Focused Clients and Investors?

The SSC Team June 7, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

From the Fortune 500 to retail investors, corporations and individuals are looking to fund green companies and projects. Additionally, B2B companies are increasingly setting sustainability thresholds for suppliers. 

You can make your company attractive to the low-carbon marketplace in a number of ways:

Start reporting: One of the simplest ways to start on the path of attracting the green investment community is to clearly communicate your sustainability efforts and their results. If you aren’t generating a transparent, comprehensive sustainability report, then you are communicating that you do not and have not acknowledged your impact or risk in the face of climate change. By simply reporting on sustainability metrics, you are communicating that your organization is “on it.”

Seek certifications: Look to third-party certifications, in your industry or in a wider industry role, to begin building a validated sustainability strategy that follows best practices. From B-Corp certification to Energy Star (for electronics and appliances) to LEED to ….there are dozens of certifications that signal that your company is serious about following accepted sustainability standards.

Get on “a list:” There are a number of index funds put together based on corporate qualifications and certifications, or you can be added to a green stock listing. Of course, your sustainability efforts or products must be robust to qualify.

Issue green bonds: Starbucks recently made the news for issuing $500 billion in green bonds to fund its sustainability programs. Offering green bonds to investors to fund your sustainability efforts can serve two purposes: generate capital to fund larger-scale sustainability efforts and signal that you’re serious about the investment in the program.

Are you looking to improve your supplier scorecard performance and attract more green business? We have experience with dozens of supplier scorecard metrics and reporting standards to help open doors for your company.

 

Can You Attract Low-Carbon-Focused Clients and Investors?

The SSC Team June 7, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

From the Fortune 500 to retail investors, corporations and individuals are looking to fund green companies and projects. Additionally, B2B companies are increasingly setting sustainability thresholds for suppliers. 

You can make your company attractive to the low-carbon marketplace in a number of ways:

Start reporting: One of the simplest ways to start on the path of attracting the green investment community is to clearly communicate your sustainability efforts and their results. If you aren’t generating a transparent, comprehensive sustainability report, then you are communicating that you do not and have not acknowledged your impact or risk in the face of climate change. By simply reporting on sustainability metrics, you are communicating that your organization is “on it.”

Seek certifications: Look to third-party certifications, in your industry or in a wider industry role, to begin building a validated sustainability strategy that follows best practices. From B-Corp certification to Energy Star (for electronics and appliances) to LEED to ….there are dozens of certifications that signal that your company is serious about following accepted sustainability standards.

Get on “a list:” There are a number of index funds put together based on corporate qualifications and certifications, or you can be added to a green stock listing. Of course, your sustainability efforts or products must be robust to qualify.

Issue green bonds: Starbucks recently made the news for issuing $500 billion in green bonds to fund its sustainability programs. Offering green bonds to investors to fund your sustainability efforts can serve two purposes: generate capital to fund larger-scale sustainability efforts and signal that you’re serious about the investment in the program.

Are you looking to improve your supplier scorecard performance and attract more green business? We have experience with dozens of supplier scorecard metrics and reporting standards to help open doors for your company.

 

SSC is Proud to be Certified as a B Corporation

The SSC Team April 7, 2016 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Did you know that Strategic Sustainability Consulting is a B Corp? B Corps are a type of corporation that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.  

B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

SSC is part of a growing community of more than 1,400 Certified B Corps from 42 countries working together to redefine success in business.

As a certified B-Corporation since 2011, SSC has been verified as having met rigorous and independent standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

We’re proud to have made the grade once again!

We are committed to implementing proactive social and environmental policies and making sustainable choices in our own business operations – “walking our talk” – as we help our clients find ways to make sustainability good for their own business as well.