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

The SSC Team February 1, 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.

 

The Obstacles with Sustainability Strategy

 

Creating Partnerships Can Be Useful for Your Company

 

Is Vanpooling a Good Choice for Your Company?

 

 

 

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Where Sustainability and Boards of Directors Intersect

The SSC Team January 25, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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With consumers and Wall Street continuing to put pressure on companies to be open about their sustainable practices, boards of directors are feeling the pinch. Investors certainly expect that board members understand and help prepare for challenges. Investing in sustainability is increasingly seen as a risk mitigation strategy, particularly now that it is clear that there is a connection between sustainable efforts and how companies perform.

There are a number of sustainability issues — climate change, water scarcity, labor inequality, product safety — that impact the bottom line. By understanding the impact of these risks on their companies and incorporating that information into the decision making process, boards can meet the demands of a growing number of investors around the world — and unlock real business opportunities.

This Greenbiz.com article, How to Build a Board that’s Competent for Sustainability, was an excellent round up of how to manage boards effectively when it comes to sustainability issues.

 

When an environmental or social issue impacts production and more, board members must respond. And it’s the job of the corporate staff, from investor relations to corporate secretaries to sustainability officers, to help the board become fluent in these sustainability risks — so that directors can understand why it matters to their business and what they can do about it. While some would say you could simple add a member or two to the board who is well versed in sustainable issues, a report recently release by Ceres suggest you should build a sustainably competent board.

 

How to build a sustainably competent board

Key suggestions include integrating sustainability issues into board recruitment and educating directors on sustainability issues and why it’s critical for them to engage with external stakeholders, including investors and experts on sustainability issues. The end goal is totally straightforward and by tackling material sustainability risks as a group, the board can ask the right questions, support or challenge management as needed and make knowledgeable decisions on strategy and risk.

 

There are other important elements that can assist in this process such as investor relations. Investors have long paid attention to board composition, including leading the charge calling for more diversity on corporate boards. Now that focus has grown to include climate competency, with major investors including CalPERS, CalSTRS, Blackrock and State Street (PDF) demanding that boards bring on climate-competent directors.

To work on this transition, the sustainability department and investor relations team can pair up to help educate directors when it comes to sustainability issues. They can prepare educational materials and sessions, report on material sustainability issues and discussion to boards and involve boards in materiality assessments, including ongoing updates of the business case for managing sustainability issues. Materiality assessments are particularly important. A growing number of companies are putting in place formal process to assess materiality sustainability issues. Board members should be involved in these processes to provide input, as well as to vet the results.

Finally, corporate staff can help the board engage with investors and other expert stakeholders on the topics important to the company through outreach to stakeholders or by creating advisory councils that have sufficient expertise to engage with directors and help brief and prepare board members for investor engagements on sustainability issues.

If a board wants what is best for the company, it’s clear that establishing a focus on sustainability issues will be good for business. Would you like help making the case to leadership on the power of sustainability, contact us! 

The Obstacles with Sustainability Strategy

The SSC Team January 4, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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After you set up a sustainability strategy for a client, does it feel like they end up standing in their own way? Here you have a business that asked you to create a plan, but when it is presented they are hesitant to take the necessary steps to implement one or all of your ideas?

 

Talk about frustrating! Recently the Harvard Business Review talked about the challenges of navigating the politics of innovation and honestly the same concepts can be applied to sustainability strategy. So how can we leap over those hurdles that are getting in the way of a positive end result?

 

Here are the tips Brian Uzzi shared:

 

1. Anticipate Resistance
While the client may be clamoring to “be innovative” or incorporate “creative, new ideas” they may also not actually have the resources necessary to implement them in the long run. While the need for funds or time (or both) may cause resistance initially, you can present how your idea(s) is new, creative and won’t be stealing resources from an on-going project. This should help encourage clients to be more willing to implement your plan.

 

2. Unmask Political Motives

While it may seem clear to you that some kind of internal, political factors are getting in the way of sustainable changes, often the real reasons may not come to the forefront. The clients may present issues —cost, time, complexity — that are publically acceptable but are just covers for underlying factors. Maybe the client sees that the change may impact them in a way they don’t find positive. Or they feel like there isn’t enough data to support making adjustments. To move past issues that may not even be made clear to you, might require expanding your network and bringing more people on board to gain support to move forward.

 

3. Find the right champion

That’s where tip three comes into play. You may need another player within the organization — perhaps someone very senior — who will buy into the sustainable efforts you plan to implement. With them on board, it will likely be less challenging to convince others that there is merit to what you are proposing. However, you may need more than management support to seal the deal.

 

4. Secure social proof

So people wanted to make their office more sustainable, but they haven’t seen hard data that supports it will be effective. But since that evidence won’t be available until they implement the plan what are you going to do? Here’s where social impact can come into play. At the end of the day if enough people believe something, it doesn’t really matter how many facts we have, that social pressure is likely to be enough. If you can inspire some support within the larger team it is likely to lead to more support and implementation of your plan from the higher ups. If people in the office want to reduce waste and lessen their footprint, their desire is likely to impact others in the office.

 

Implementing your strategy may end up taking as much (or more!) work than creating it. But if you can approach the challenge with awareness, hopefully each project can be accomplished without a lot of added stressors. 

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from December 2017

The SSC Team January 2, 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 December.

 

What is augmented reality and why is it important to integrate it into sustainability advocacy and strategy? 

 

Life Cycle Analysis can help you write a better ‘business continuity plan’

 

Making the case for water conservation? Communicate risk in dollars and cents

 

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Making the case for water conservation? Communicate risk in dollars and cents

The SSC Team December 21, 2017 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

With extreme heat, drought conditions and raging wildfires in the headlines around the world, water and water conservation has been top of mind this summer and fall.

We have been talking about water sustainability in terms of corporate sustainability assessment, reporting and risk management for years. But many companies are just now looking at ways to assess their water risk.  

If you’re on the sustainability team, there is no better time than right now to make the case for performing a risk assessment and developing a sustainable water strategy to help mitigate business risk.

One of the best ways to speak the language of company leadership is to present risk in terms of dollars and cents.

Monitize how water scarcity may impact revenue

The Water Risk Monetizer is a tool that enables water-dependent businesses to look at their current and future water risks, with direct-impact insight into how water, or water scarcity, will impact revenue.  This free financial modeling tool will help water-dependent businesses better understand the current and future value of water.

When supply and demand meet water

A basic human need, water is likely the most under-priced natural resources in the global economy. Water costs to business have the potential to dramatically increase, or be made unavailable for business needs, as public opinion and government policy shift to ensure equal access for basic human consumption. 

Businesses can expect the cost and availability of water to increase, and should plan now to incorporate those increased costs, or look for ways to minimize water use, to ensure financial viability in an age of water scarcity.

Understand water risk, plan for water reduction

A monetized water scarcity assessment will help companies identify areas where risk exists today and in the future.

But, performing a cursory risk assessment is just the first step. Next, you’ll need to delve into actionable solutions to mitigate risk before it becomes a revenue loss – supply chain analysis, production technologies, factory siting, R&D strategy, or even product phase-out planning.

Make the case for water conservation, and then push for some real strategic water sustainability strategy.

If you are interested in corporate water management, you'll love our water footprinting tools. Got another water resource to share? Leave a comment, or talk to us on Twitter (@jenniferwoofter).

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from February 2017

The SSC Team February 28, 2017 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

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 February.

  1. The Business Case for Sustainability
  2. How to Calculate Your Company’s Carbon Footprint
  3. Interview Skills: How to Land Your Dream Job in Sustainability
  4. What “Sustainability Consulting” Is and Isn’t
  5. What Does Gender Equality Have to Do With Climate 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.

 

 

Interview Skills: Landing Your Dream Job in Sustainability

The SSC Team February 7, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Many people confuse sustainability consulting with green marketing – beautifully branded, sleek consumer products designed with unbleached, post-consumer recycled paper products and lots of leafy logos – or with strategic sustainability communications – guiding employees or green teams toward more sustainable behavioral changes through values training and green workplace programs and policies.  

Sustainability consulting includes both of those elements at times, but most of the heavy lifting in sustainability consulting entails using complicated datasets to analyze and quantify activities, policies, programs, and processes that contribute to the environmental and social impacts of a product or organization.

Essentially, a lot of math. A lot of data. And a lot of analysis. And then a lot of strategic communications.

If you’re still with us, and you still think you’re stoked about a career in sustainability, how are you going to land the dream job?

  1. Get experience in sustainability through internships or fellowships
  2. Ensure you understand the work through finding and working with a mentor in the field
  3. Provide work samples
  4. Knock the interview out of the park

The interview is critical

Taking your interview skills to the next level means demonstrating your ability to learn while doing.

By using the 1956 research of Benjamin Bloom to highlight your higher cognitive thinking. This article helps explain how its done, but essentially – whether looking for a new client or a new job – going beyond storytelling and detailing your experiences based on your abilities to analyze, synthesize, evaluation and adjust course is going to put you ahead of the pack. 

Conference Worth Considering: GreenBiz 17

The SSC Team January 26, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Each year sustainability leaders from the world’s largest companies gather at the GreenBiz Forum to explore pressing challenges and emerging opportunities in sustainable business. The event offers a rich blend of presentations, workshops and networking opportunities framed by the State of Green Business report.

This year, join GreenBiz 17 in Phoenix, Arizona from February 14-16, 2017.

Come back inspired by what’s possible and ready to tackle your organization’s sustainability challenges.

Are you going? Let us know in the comments. 

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog for 2016

The SSC Team December 29, 2016 Tags: Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

 

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. This year, we published some great content, and here is the top five list featuring posts our readers read the most.

  1. Free learning resources for aspiring sustainability professionals
  2. Food & beverage industry demonstrates how “business success” cannot be achieved without sustainability
  3. Tips for staying motivated as a sustainability professional when making a difference feels overwhelming
  4. Use a “pitch deck” format for your sustainability project
  5. Turning a profit on sustainability: Are Target, Ikea, and Nike just “greenwashing” 2.0?

 

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.

 

 

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.