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Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from November 2018

The SSC Team December 6, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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We try to post a new blog at least once a week, just to share our insights into the world of sustainability strategy and what it takes to be a sustainability consultant or professional today. Here are our most-read posts from November.

 

Welcome to the New Normal- Sustainability as a Requirement

 

Don't Insult Employees with Sustainability "Nudges"

 

Marketing Giants Take On Climate Change Message and There is No Time to Waste

 

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Thank You Paul Polman: Lessons in Leading-Edge Sustainability Leadership at the Fortune Global 500 Level

The SSC Team December 4, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Paul Polman has a lengthy and impressive history when it comes pushing the boundaries on sustainability strategy at a major global corporation.

 

As Unilever prepares for his retirement as their CEO at the end of 2018, we wanted to share his recent address from the CECP CEO Investor Forum and look at some of the remarkable changes he helped implement with his focus on sustainable efforts and embracing “long-termism” in the business world.

 

When Polman became the CEO of Unilever in 2009, he was committed to the notion that business has to be a force for good. However he knew that that wasn’t just going to happen without strong strategic leadership, demonstrating possible profitability alongside sustainable efforts, and ability to push back when required.

 

His team developed and introduced the Sustainable Living Plan early in his time with the company. This plan aimed to allow Unilever to grow while reducing their environmental footprint. Unprecedented at the time, the plan included significant changes, such as having 100% of agricultural raw materials be sustainable by 2020, developing a framework for fair pay, and investing heavily in hygiene promotion in developing markets.

 

Unilever became one of the classics in sustainability case studies – proving that profitability and sustainability can thrive with the right set of goals and directives.

 

As Unilever’s success grew, Polman has worked to promote sustainability and long-termism outside of Unilever as well. He has served as the chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and currently sits on the board of directors of the Consumer Goods Forum, leading its sustainability efforts. He is a member of board of the UN Global Compact and has also served as one of the 27 members of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

 

The recipient of numerous awards for his leadership and efforts in the area of sustainable development, we can only hope Polman will continue being committed to promoting and developing sustainable efforts around the world in the new year. Thank you, Mr. Polman, for being a standard bearer for strategic sustainability throughout your accomplished career.

Marketing Giants Take On Climate Change Message and There Is No Time To Waste

The SSC Team November 27, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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In order to make sweeping environmental changes, companies are going to have to step it up and work together to inspire the movement. Take the coordinated efforts that emerged when 17 of New York's top marketing, advertising, and communications agencies came together during the summer with leading climate scientists to launch an effort that would encourage urgent and collective action addressing climate change.

 

Through this meeting of the minds, Potential Energy emerged. Their mission? To put the full force of the creative industry behind the need to rapidly accelerate active support for clean energy as a cultural norm. This is not a small task, as those of us in the sustainability industry know after butting heads with folks who don’t even believe we have a problem.

 

So what was the motivation behind this campaign? Perhaps a little built of guilt about the constant narrative that consumerism and a more, more, more culture with no concern for the environmental impact is at play.

 

John Marshall, chief strategy officer at Lippincott and president of Potential Energy, hit the nail on the head — the current green narrative simply isn’t connecting with a broad enough base to drive the urgency of these efforts. 

 

“We're going to need a new narrative, one that de-polarizes and de-liberalizes the issue and moves beyond traditional messages of the environmental community and broadens it.”

Marshall’s team at Lippincott conducted a market segmentation based on querying 6,000 U.S. voters. They found that only 13 percent of the voting population is connecting with the traditional environmentalist message. So now we need to figure out how to create climate or clean energy or renewable energy messages that actually connect with and motivate the other 87 percent. In order to do that there are lots of questions to answer: How do they think? What do they value? What motivates them? What tribes do they live in? How do we make this relevant?

We know that this is nothing if not timely, in fact our citizen’s desire for efforts to address climate change seem to be moving in reverse with a Gallup poll from March noting that the percentage of Republicans who believe climate change is caused by human activity dropped over the past year, from 40 percent in 2017 to 35 percent.

 

The New York Times also featured a lengthy look at how we could have solved climate change in the 1980s, but here we are with intensely polarized — and, arguably, misinformed — opinions. All this means that changing minds is not going to be an easy task.

 

In the past, advertising has not simply promoted consumerism, but also the idea that the more you have the happier you will be. Only recently that people have begun to embrace the concept that we can live well — perhaps even live better — if we have less stuff.

So Potential Energy hopes that their efforts can resonate with those who aren’t on that page yet. They are working to bring some of the most creative people on the planet together in order to come up with crazy, weird, new ideas, to test those ideas, and try to launch them. At this point, we simply don't have time for the existing messages to continue to not work, Marshall said.

Here’s hoping we can find a message to reach that 87% and get everyone on board to help our world. We don’t have a back up, so we’ve got to find a way to make this one last!

Curiosity is Key to Success at Your Company

The SSC Team November 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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When we make great discoveries in the world of sustainable efforts — or any industry for that matter — one key element is the main driver: curiosity.

 

The desire to find a new way to accomplish a goal or, scratch that, a better way to accomplish a goal is vital to the success of all enterprise. Not sure you buy it? A recent study highlighted three key factors about how curiosity impacts the success of a business.  

When it comes to sustainability, we definitely buy in that curiosity is key. When employees from the CEO to the janitor think creatively about possible solutions, then everyone is more deeply committed to the final decisions. Also in an area constantly developing and changing, like sustainable efforts, encouraging curiosity allows those leading the way to gain more respect from their team members while inspiring employees to develop more-trusting and more-collaborative relationships with one another.

Encouraging curiosity will spark not only success, but engagement at work. By making some small adjustments to the way you manage your employees, you are likely to find better ways to inspire your team members to think more creatively about both new and routine efforts.

Part of encouraging curiosity is actually being open to the ideas your employees develop. In a survey conducted by Francesca Gino for HBR, she asked more than 3,000 employees from a wide range of industries and 70% reported that they face barriers to asking questions at work. While many leaders fear that spending time engaging in creative thought processes might increase risk and inefficiency, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Other benefits? When employees are encouraged to think creatively they also tend to think about things from someone else’s perspective and take an interest in others ideas rather than focus solely on their own desires. This leads to a more effective and smooth workflow where conflicts are less intense and groups can achieve better results.

But this is all easier said than done. Here are 5 ways can foster curiosity in our workplace (and reap the benefits!)

1.     Hire curious people
There are lots of ways to assess curiosity such as asking candidates about their interests outside of the office. Being an avid reader of subject unrelated to their industry, just for the sake of knowing more is an indication of curiosity. Also keep in mind that questions posed by your candidates can demonstrate a curious streak.

2.     Be curious yourself
Ask questions of your team members and sincerely listen to their answers. By being curious about their insights, taking their responses in and acting on what makes the most sense for your company will show everyone that you are really interested in their ideas.

3.     Focus on learning
While we tend to be super focused on results at work, it can be highly beneficial to also show a commitment to learning. Spending time to gain new knowledge is typically more beneficial to organizations than simply thinking about the end goal all the time.

4.     Encourage exploration in your team
Employees can also broaden their interests by broadening their networks. Curious people often end up being star performers because of their diverse networks. How do they get there? By being more comfortable asking questions than their peers and creating and nurturing ties at work easily. Those ties tend to be critical to their career development and success.

5.     Take time to listen to questions
Leaders can help draw out a employee’s innate curiosity. Think about asking all employees for answers to “What if…?” and “How might we…?” questions about the firm’s goals and plans through a brainstorming session. They are likely to come up with all sorts of things, which can then be discussed and evaluated together.

In most industries people tend to believe that the implicit message that comes from asking questions is an unwanted challenge to authority. However this perception doesn’t need to be the case. Inspire the creative minds at your office to help come up with new, inventive solutions to your unique client problems. Being creative and innovative is what sustainability is all about!

The Science of Setting Credible Courageous Sustainability Goals

The SSC Team October 30, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Looking for some inspiration that will help you set bold sustainability goals? Check out this webinar on Greenbiz.com. It focuses on how going big when it comes to sustainability goals can be a smart business strategy as well as good stewardship. The panel is composed of sustainability professionals from big businesses  — General Mills, Kering, McDonald’s and Quantis — and discusses topics like science-driven goal setting, the Science-Based Targets initiative, planetary boundaries, Sustainable Development Goals and more. The talk also provides concrete business cases from diverse organizations so you can see how they're working through this transition.

https://www.greenbiz.com/webcast/science-setting-credible-courageous-sustainability-goals

What “Sustainability Consulting” Is (and Isn’t)

The SSC Team September 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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In today’s marketplace, sustainability consulting is a catch-all term, used to describe multiple professions. It is important for readers to pay careful attention when an author predicts the growth of the “sustainability consulting industry” since it can be defined in so many ways.

We believe that many of the firms that claim to offer sustainability consulting services are, in fact, offering something quite different. Sometimes it is a narrower subset of services (like energy auditing); in other cases it is simply traditional services (like public relations) focused on sustainability initiatives. 

So how do we define sustainability consulting?

In general, organizations purporting to offer sustainability consulting services fall into the following broad categories.

Sustainability Strategy: these consulting firms provide planning and strategy services—usually for an entire organization or division. Sustainability strategy firms help businesses use sustainability as a lens through which to make good business decisions. Their goal is to help clients innovate, gain competitive advantage, satisfy stakeholders (especially customers), and empower employees to integrate sustainability into their day-to-day jobs. This type of firm usually has staff with extensive training in management, business administration, organizational development, and/or change management. Example: Strategic Sustainability Consulting.

Technical Support: these firms focus on one or more technical aspects of sustainability, such as green building design and construction, renewable energy and energy efficiency, waste diversion and recycling, and water and wastewater services. Rather than help the company integrate sustainability into its overall business decision-making processes, these firms tend to tackle discrete projects within a facility or division. Their staff generally has engineering or other technical degrees. Example: ERM.

Testing, Auditing and Verification: these firms provide third-party review of sustainability data—either on a corporate/facility level or a product level—and may provide assurance, auditing, or verification services. A firm in this category may exclusively cater to sustainability data (e.g. third-party assurance of a sustainability report), but will often provide non-sustainability services as well (e.g. third-party assurance of annual reports). Example: UL Environment.

Visioning and Facilitation: these firms focus on the “big picture” of sustainability, working with clients to brainstorm and create new mental models for companies, communities, and societies. These firms tend to be smaller and more radical, since the market for their services is smaller and their goal is to push the boundary of “business as usual.” The principals of these firms come from a variety of backgrounds, but often have training in facilitation techniques like Open Space, World Café, and the Art of Hosting. Example: The Natural Step.

Sustainability Marketing: these firms help clients tell their sustainability story. They range from public relations firms to graphic designers, and have varying involvement in the crafting of the story versus the delivery of the message. Staff at these firms usually has marketing, advertising, design and communications degrees. Many smaller firms in this category will focus exclusively on sustainability marketing, but larger companies will often have only one division devoted to sustainability and focus most of its effort on other communication areas. Example: J. Ottman Consulting.

Sustainability Software: one of the fastest growing areas of the sustainability marketplace is the development and sales of sustainability software—including carbon accounting, EHS management, and sustainability reporting platforms. Many of these companies offer some kind of consulting support, but it is generally related to the set-up and implementation of the sustainability software. While there is some overlap between this category and the Technical Support category, we distinguish the two because the Technical Support companies generally provide a service (e.g. an energy audit) while Sustainability Software companies generally sell a distinct product. Example: Credit360.

Check out our past blog “State of the Sustainability Consulting Industry” to learn more on the background for these findings.

How to Hire a Successful Sustainability Manager

The SSC Team September 6, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Determining whether or not to implement sustainability efforts is a question of the past for many firms. But once it has been decided, the focus is on how to hire a successful sustainability manager.

 

Of course, many firms have standardized hiring policies and procedures focused on hiring the most qualified candidate; but when it comes to hiring a manager for an all-together new initiative, especially sustainability, where should you start?

 

Bob Langert, former VP of Sustainability at McDonald’s identified 8 attributes most commonly found in sustainability leaders. With 30 years of experience working in sustainability, Langert is a leading expert on the topic and has recently finished work on his book, The Battle to Do Good: Inside McDonald’s Sustainability Journey, due out in January.

 

Among these eight common characteristics Langert found in sustainability leaders are courage, contrariness, and conviction.

 

He describes that sustainability change will often be met with resistance and, in order to persevere in the face of this resistance, managers must be courageous and “accept and relish the fact that leadership in sustainability means changing something...”  

 

Additionally, conviction plays a central role in leading with courage. Because sustainability is a big-time change from the status quo, “conviction – really having a firmly held belief – is required as the contagious springboard to bring others along,” according to Langert.

 

Bold, contrarian characteristics are incredibly valuable in a sustainability, but they cannot exist without bringing people together around a common goal – sustainability.

 

Langert outlines this need clearly, saying “It’s ironic that while it takes a lot of courage, conviction, cleverness and contrariness to battle to make sustainable change, a really good leader knows how to do so and still attract others to the mission or cause.” Thus, highlighting the need for attributes like collaboration, cheerfulness, charisma, and humility.

 

While conviction can carry an initiative to a certain extent, listening to and working with those who will be impacted can increase success. Langert also includes that, when it comes to charisma, “there’s no one personality profile that dominates.” Instead, he emphasizes that good leaders use their charisma to influence others by building trust.

Finally, Langert noticed that the most successful sustainability leaders are quick to share wins and slow to take credit. In other words, their humility is a strength that is good for teams and, ultimately, sustainability.

 

Knowing these characteristics is a wonderful start, but how can businesses identify them in applicants to ensure they are hiring the right sustainability leader?

 

Inc. offers advice for hiring managers emphasizing that “It (hiring) goes far beyond conducting an insightful professional interview, although this is part of it.”

 

Take a look at what you have to offer and what you are looking for by building a performance-based job description. Once you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, you can be more prepared to ask questions that allow candidates to demonstrate what it is you are looking for in a sustainability manager.

 

During the interview process consider conducting a performance-based interview and asking questions about accomplishments. These types of questions allow you to compare the candidate’s accomplishments to the sustainability manager position.

 

Additionally, as the candidate discusses these accomplishments interviewers can dig deeper, focusing on the attributes discussed by Langert.

 

This process can be arduous and complicated. In many cases, you may not yet know what you’re looking for or how to best determine which candidates are ready to lead your sustainability initiatives and there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

Sometimes it's ok NOT to hire, but to get a consultant (like us) on board first to fully develop the job description and 5-year plan, and then hire a more junior person for implementation. There are many things to be learned when it comes to creating successful sustainability efforts. Luckily, there is plenty of help available. 

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from August 2018

The SSC Team September 4, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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We try to post a new blog at least once a week, just to share our insights into the world of sustainability strategy and what it takes to be a sustainability consultant or professional today. Here are our most-read posts from August.

 

Companies Collaborating Could Mean Everyone Wins

 

Are You Getting the Real Truth from Your Employees?

 

Break Your Own Sustainability Habits and then Help Employees Change

 

If you like an article, please consider sharing it online via your favorite social media platform. Helping us grow our audience is the #1 way you can show your support for the work that we do.

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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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. 

United We Understand: EcoPulse 2017 Special Report

The SSC Team August 9, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

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White Paper: United We Understand
This special report released by GreenBiz earlier this year is centered around the idea that words have power. Are you choosing the ones that unify? Or the ones that divide?

In an age filled with divisive rhetoric, sustainability messaging can be a unifying force. Check out this report for ideas about how your company can create sustainability messages that help you connect with your consumer values.

 https://www.greenbiz.com/whitepaper/united-we-understand-eco-pulsetm-2017-special-report