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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? 

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.

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.

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.

Sustainability Regulation and Reporting Refinement: More of Everything in 2016

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

From the Paris Climate Talks to changes in the GRI, we keep seeing the needle move toward regulation and refinement in sustainability reporting. We’ve said it before, and we will say it again, sustainability reporting is no longer optional.

Companies that aren’t aligning their strategy around sustainability now are soon going to be left in the dust – or maybe even taken to court as governments are increasingly enacting legislation that requires companies to report on sustainability factors.

Here are three solid examples of this trend, and three good reasons that every organization should be collecting data on sustainability for the inevitable day that the reporting becomes a business requirement.

1.     Governments: We recently wrote about the UK’s Modern Slavery Act. This is just one of dozens of national-level legal requirement cases around the globe. From Japan to Norway, governments are using laws and the courts to push toward transparency – and action – on sustainability issues.

2.     Reporting Trends: A recent article series from GreenBiz compared different environmental reporting tools – GRI vs SASB vs IR – and their various focus areas. In Part 2 of the series the author analyzes how different “sustainability topics” have shifted between the annual financial report and the sustainability report. Essentially, annual financial reports have consistently been held as required documentation to give insight into company performance. As sustainability topics become material to a company’s financial position, these topics are shifted from the sustainability report and into the annual report. Our thought: Soon sustainability as a whole will be material to investors, so you better be reporting.

3.     Reporting Framework Refinements: Has anyone looked at the new CDP reporting requirements? The days of ‘interpretation’ may be coming to a close as organizations like CDP start to require clarification and specificity in reporting impact. The most significant change in the CDPs reporting this year, in terms of data, is the reporting of Scope 2 emissions based on the new GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance. By factoring in market-based and location-based electricity information to calculate a CDP score, companies will be called out for which energy providers they choose – and will be rewarded for choosing green energy (or in some cases, building green energy into their own grid).

Sustainability reporting requirements keep on coming, pushing the field far from the bad old days of greenwashing and closer and closer to the heart of what it means to integrate sustainability into core strategic planning for lasting, long-term impact.

Partnering with an experienced consulting firm like SSC, with the background knowledge and experience, to understand legislative impact, stay ahead of reporting trends, and choose the appropriate reporting framework is crucial. Contact us today to talk about your CDP report or carbon footprint analysis. 

 

 

 

TED Talks: Luciana Walkowicz of NASA – Let’s not use Mars as a backup planet

The SSC Team January 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: Lucianne Walkowicz works on NASA's Kepler mission, searching for places in the universe that could support life.

About the Talk: Walkowicz spends her days looking for planets like our own, but as she does this challenging work, she us to think carefully about how we treat our own home world. In this short talk, she suggests that we stop dreaming of Mars as a place that we'll eventually move to when we've messed up Earth, and to start thinking of planetary exploration and preservation of the Earth as two sides of the same goal. As she says, "The more you look for planets like Earth, the more you appreciate our own planet."

 

Will the UK Modern Slavery Act do any good?

The SSC Team November 5, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Late last week, the UK Parliament passed the Modern Slavery Act, a bill designed to require UK companies to report any steps they are taking to address and prevent human trafficking and modern slavery in their supply chains.

According to the Global Slavery Index, modern slavery is estimated to include more than 36 million people who work in conditions completely controlled by others. Most of these people are found deep in the supply chains of global corporations.

To comply with the Modern Slavery Act, it doesn’t mean a company will have to actually address human trafficking and modern slavery. A company simply has to report whether it has taken any steps to do so.

Therefore, if a corporation files a report indicating that it has taken no steps, it will still be in compliance with the law.

So, does this do us any good?

Overall, yes.

This act pushes corporations one step closer to connecting the process of reporting to the concrete steps of taking action.

We've seen this cause/effect hundreds of times as external pressure – supplier scorecards, stakeholder pressure, or legislation – pushes companies to report. The first report can be humbling, but the process of reporting opens up action steps, focus areas, and progress.

As companies file their first reports, some saying “no action taken.” We believe that their stakeholders will ask “why?” It is then that they will realize it is time to do an initial Social Audit, Supply Chain Analysis and/or Life Cycle Analysis.

A recent article in Huffington Post written by two CEOs speak to the effect of data:

"The vulnerability in our supply chains was in labour hire, specifically the recruitment of migrant workers from disadvantaged backgrounds. Social audits revealed that recruiters were stealing wages from workers through excessive recruitment fees and high interest loans, creating a situation of debt bondage. Upon learning of these terrible conditions, we took immediate action so that workers were paid back the fees they were owed, allowing them to earn a proper wage.”

The companies and the CEOs in question were performing social audits prior to the UK Modern Slavery Act, and were able to take action.

We believe that more companies will engage with auditors, and decisive action will be taken because of this new law.

So, yes, the Modern Slavery Act is going to do some good.  

Would stronger legislation and adoption in other countries, like the U.S., do even more good? Likely.

However, corporations can and should begin on this important work now. There is no need to wait for legislation to become a more socially and environmentally responsible organization.

Learn more about supply chain assessments and audits and how they can help your company create a system to uncover risks lurking in the supply chain. How have supply chain audits helped your organization uncover risk? Let us know in the comments!