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Three Goals to Get Your Sustainability Program Off and Running

The SSC Team February 14, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

Your company recently formed a green team, but it doesn't seem to be accomplishing much. Or maybe you've just been designated as your organization's green champion, but can't seem to get anything done. Sound familiar? 

You may be suffering from "start-up" syndrome. Back in June, Inc. Magazine published an article by Peter Cohan called 3 Simple Goals You Must Set to Succeed, which discussed the importance of setting goals for start-up enterprises. We found it intriguing that his suggestions so closely mirror the questions we ask newly formed green teams during consulting engagements.

1. Mission: What is the enduring purpose of the venture?

To answer this, ask yourself what problem matters most to your venture and why you are willing to go years with little pay or sleep to solve it. A start-up’s mission must be deeply meaningful to the founder and be compelling to people that the founder wants to hire. After all, without capital, a hungry start-up’s only currency is denominated in terms that are hard to quantify: the difference between a humdrum existence and work that has deep meaning.

Before you jump into developing new programs and initiatives, get clear on your sustainability goal. Is it to "green your office" or to "green your organization?" That answer will tell you whether you should be focused on replacing styrofoam in the kitchen or developing a comprehensive green supply chain program. It will also tell you who needs to be on the team -- whether is a cadre of mid-level employees, or top executives with budget-wielding power. Setting the enduring vision of your sustainability program will help determine the scope of your ambitions.

2. Long-term goal: What will this company look like in five years?

A long-term goal for your start-up must satisfy the aspirations of the founder, the investors, and the employees. And that forces the entrepreneur to trade-off a desire to maintain control with drawing in capital so investors can get a sizeable return.

Start with the end in mind -- what do you want your organization's sustainability program to look like in 20 years? (While in start-up land, 5 years might be an eternity, we would argue that it's not really "long term.") Where do you want sustainability responsibilities to reside? Who should be managing sustainability? What do you want to have accomplished? Where do you want to stand relative to your peer group? Understanding the long-term goal will help you make smart decisions now about where to focus your efforts.

3. Short-term goal: What frugal experiments must we make to reach our long-term goal?

If the mission and the long-term goal are the 1% of the inspiration needed to build a successful venture, the short-term goals are the 99% perspiration. Create a series of real options. I mean that you should make small, inexpensive bets -- a win means that the venture can go on to the next short-term goal; a loss means a chance to learn what went wrong and do it better the next time.

Sustainability guru Bob Willard says that pilot projects are the surest way to convince management to move forward to bigger sustainability commitments. They are small, they are relatively cheap, they are exciting, and they create a sense of innovation. You may not get a huge budget or a lot of responsibility -- but as the green champion, you may get the leeway to tackle a couple of "frugal experiments." Use these opportunities to show what you can do, and you'll get a bigger bite at the apple next time around.

C&I Report: From Data to Action: Bridging the Gap on Three Best Practices for Sustainable Resource Management

The SSC Team January 15, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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For more than 20 years sustainable resource management leader ENGIE Insight has watched as businesses of every size and across every industry have been facing increasing pressure from customers, employees, shareholders, and governmental entities to develop sustainable practices. As businesses evolve in their efforts, they are also developing plans that incorporate sustainability and resource management into their operations. In order to track their efforts, sustainable resource management programs are being implemented more often and are becoming more complex.

ENGIE Insight believes the process has been driven by three forces impacting companies around the globe: digitization, decarbonization, and decentralization.

In an effort to explore how businesses see these global forces influencing the creation, expansion, and complexity of their sustainable resource management plans as well as their greatest opportunity for growth and their biggest challenges ENGIE Insight partnered with Zpryme, a market-research firm, to survey 250 representatives from commercial and industrial businesses and get their perspective. You can check out their findings in From Data to Action: Bridging the Gap on the Three Best Practices for Sustainable Resource Management.

https://www.greenbiz.com/whitepaper/ci-report-data-action

Increasing Supply Chain Transparency Through Federal Oversight

The SSC Team December 25, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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In our growing global economy, there are so many risks to be considered when a company establishes their supply chain. From forced labor to human trafficking it is vital that those in the sustainability industry make every effort to address these atrocities if they arise.

 

On January 1, 2012, California enacted the Transparency in Supply Chain Act, requiring retailers and manufacturers with annual sales of $100 million or more conducting business in California to disclose their efforts to eliminate human trafficking and slavery from their supply chain. Ensuring disclosure of "to what extent if any" a company engages in the five following activities: verification, auditing, certification, internal accountability, and training are required.

In October, the US House of Representatives introduced H.R. 7089: Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2018, in an effort to amend the Securities Act of 1924. This resolution, like the Transparency Act, would require certain companies to disclose information describing any measures they have taken to identify and address conditions of forced labor, slavery, human trafficking, and child labor within the company’s supply chains. In 2014, the Department of Labor identified 136 goods from 74 countries around the world made by forced labor and child labor. That information, and the current challenges of prosecuting the perpetrators of such crimes, are the driving force behind this legislation which states “the United States is the world’s largest importer, and in the 21st century, investors, consumers, and broader civil society increasingly demand information about the human rights impact of products in the United States market.”

With the impact that that this bill could have on business around the country in mind, we wanted to look back at the way the Transparency Act impacted midsize clothing retailer Eileen Fisher when it went into effect. The business was already committed to sustainability so they weren’t starting from scratch, but they aren’t a business empire like Adidas or Nike so their resources for these efforts were limited.

Shortly after the act was in place, the company’s Human Rights Associate Luna Lee spoke about what actions the business had taken to comply with the new law. What the team at Eileen Fisher did in order to implement efforts to meet the requirements of the Transparency Act will likely be applicable and beneficial to companies that would be impacted by HR 7089.

A key takeaway is that you might know all about your company’s sustainability obligations, but your suppliers may not. It’s vital that you take the time to educate them. And while you're at it, ask how they can help you. They may have great ideas, but believe you don’t really care. Let them know that you do!

8 Steps to Designing an Incident Management System That Works

The SSC Team September 18, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Incident management focuses on handling unplanned issues effectively while minimizing damage to your organization. So, whether it is IT, PR, or sustainability, being as prepared as possible for the unplanned is essential to success.

 

Everbridge offers these 8 Best Practices for IT Incident Management, a process that can be applied generally for managing all sorts of incidents.

 

1.     Manage an incident through the entire lifecycle

This one is pretty straightforward. When an incident occurs be sure to see it all the way to the end. That means when it is resolved for everyone involved. In sustainability, its tempting to address the legal ramifications of an incident, such as determining fault in a wastewater spill, and ignoring other stakeholders. Be sure your organization protects itself, but also that messages are as transparent as possible. If you make a huge error, then try owning up for a collaborative, effective resolution.

2.     Standardize for efficiency

Sure, not all incidents will be the same; but by ensuring there is a process in place the response for each incident can more efficient. Processes can include how to document the incident, who is responsible for what, and when the incident begins and ends. Checklists can help ensure there is a concrete standardization of the process.

3.     Classify and Prioritize incidents

By determining the urgency of certain categories of incidents, managers are better able to determine how to move forward with coinciding issues. This is an additional form of standardization that allows for a quick decision to be made based on the importance of each incident. This helps to resolve urgent incidences rapidly while placing low priority incidents further back in the queue. Thinking about incidents involving the supply chain – environmentally or human factors - and incidents that seem “superficial,” like an executive being caught out in a personal scandal, as different priorities, but under the same planning structure, will help keep everyone on the same page.  

4.     Automate spread of messaging

Communication is key to resolving incidents and ensuring customers are still satisfied. Categorization helps to ensure communication is done in conjunction with priority level. Low priority issues will require a little less touch while high priority incidents require immediate action and more direct stakeholder engagement.

5.     Effective communication

The importance of real-time communication cannot be overstated. Automation helps to keep all relevant stakeholders updated as to the status of each incident. Ensuring communication is in real-time keeps impacted users updated to changes and satisfy customers’ questions about incident status.

6.     Optimize access to allow users to track status

Placing ourselves in the user’s shoes helps us to understand the importance of knowing the incident status. Usually, no news is bad news for a company. When an incident arises, let stakeholders know exactly what phase of response the company is in. Even if the statements seem repetitive, stakeholders will appreciate the attentiveness.

7.     Integrate with other processes and systems

Incidents are often not isolated to one process or system. So don’t overlook the role that these variables might have on the incident. Consider ticketing systems, monitoring systems, knowledge base, and situational intelligence. In terms of sustainability, things like a product recall may be seen by the manufacturing division as an engineering issue, but the ripple effects across the supply chain need to be addressed as well. Be sure in the planning phases that all stakeholders are accounted for and all areas of operations.

8.     Continue improving

The work doesn’t stop once a system is in place. Continuously review performance and strive for process improvement. Listen to those using the system, too, for opportunities to improve. Create opportunities to hold yourselves accountable by monitoring and reporting out on how successful your incident management process is and how you intend to improve.

 

At the end of the day, incident management is about the mitigating the impact of each incident.

 

By creating a standardized process that focuses on communication and continuous improvement you will eventually find a process that works for your company.

Use a “Pitch Deck” Format for Your Sustainability Project

The SSC Team August 30, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives. 

 

Investors and C-suite leaders are used to seeing pitch decks. They’re used to getting high-level information that is well presented, organized, and clear, and quickly analyzing it to ask the right questions.

If you bog your ideas or proposals down in data, as we sustainability professionals do love the data, you risk losing the attention of the decision makers and not winning the work or getting the green-light on your big idea.

Instead, consider crafting a pitch deck style presentation to get your idea off the ground. Entrepreneur published a 14-point checklist for investors, and we think it’s easily molded for any project-pitching presentation. Not all 14 are relevant here, but we pulled out the best ones!

1. Cover page.

If you are an outside consultant pitching a project, include personal contact information, logo, and business name to establish your identity. And even if you’re an internal employee, put your name and title on the front page (just in case someone in the board room spaces on your name. Save everyone the embarrassment).

2. Elevator pitch.

Briefly summarize the scope of the project, the goals, and the impact on the company, specifically in terms of this project’s alignment with the company’s strategy (or lack of strategy) in sustainability. Keep this part short.

3. Describe the problem.

Outline why you’re proposing this particular sustainability effort for the company in the first place, using peer benchmarking, risk profiles, and/or stakeholder pressure to demonstrate how this project is a “worthy investment.” For example, if you’re going for a life-cycle assessment for a small manufacturing firm or supplier to a major retailer, talk about supplier scorecards and stakeholder pressure.

4. Propose a solution.

Explain why this sustainability effort is the best next (or first) step toward a marked solution to the problem. Be realistic and don’t over-promise.

5. Competition.

Bring up other case studies from companies similar to the one you’re pitching and demonstrate how a project of this type has been successful to others.

12. Critical risks and challenges.

In a traditional pitch deck, you would want to “address every obstacle and stumbling block you can foresee,” but in this case use this area to demonstrate that the scope of work might grow or change based on discoveries along the way.

6. Market opportunity.

If you’re a consultant, be sure to point out what makes you different from the competition, whether it’s your extensive industry knowledge, your data collection gurus, or your long performance record.

11. Press mentions and accolades (and case studies or references).

Keep this short, but provide references or a case study that demonstrates your expertise.

9. Team (and budget).

Outline how many of the company’s employees will need to set aside time to support this project (or just the budget if you’re pitching as a consultant).

A solid presentation that is well organized and clear will get your point across quickly and give you more time to answer specific questions if the need arises.

We like to provide clear proposals to our clients to clarify and demystify the processes, benefits, application, and cost of services like life-cycle assessments and sustainability reporting. Although every company is unique, we have more than 10 years of experience delivering valuable results for a modest investment. 

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? 

White Paper Worth Reading: Choosing the Correct Emission Control Technology

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

Clean air standards and GHG reduction pressure are driving manufacturers to reduce energy use, and sometimes look to install emission control technologies.  

As the air-pollution control landscape changes, manufacturers are rushing to keep up with emission reduction trends, but many questions remain.

Check out this white paper to learn about pairing industrial processes with appropriate emissions control devices, determining the cost-benefit of the various devices, and whether new or established technologies are a better fit for meeting GHG emissions standards.

Choosing the Correct Emission Control Technology

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.

 

 

 

TED Talks Sustainability: Christiana Figueres – The Inside Story of the Paris Climate Agreement

The SSC Team May 12, 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: Christiana Figueres is the executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). She led the December 2015 climate talks in Paris, bringing 195 global leaders to make steps toward slowing climate change.

About the talk: Christiana Figueres talks about her work in bringing the leaders of 195 countries together – and to agree – on steps to slow climate change. Starting from a place of skepticism, not believing that she could even accomplish bringing the leaders together, much less coming to an agreement. 

Don't forget to check out an opposing view - Paris climate agreement called "a fraud" by a climate activist and former NASA scientist during the GreenBiz 2016 conference.

Were the Paris climate talks and subsequent agreements truly impactful, or just another delay toward the goal of meaningful change? Let us know in the comments.