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A Conference to Check Out: Mark Your Calendar for SXSW Eco This Fall

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

Like TEDTalks, we love hearing from the world’s best and brightest. This year’s SXSW conference in March had some interesting forums on niche sustainability issues – like diversity in the sustainability field and greening the Super Bowl – but SXSW Eco is where the conference organizers devote an entire three-day conference on environmental and sustainability issues.  

To get your mind racing, catch up on the 2015 SXSW Eco Sessions now, read this guest blog about renewable energy, and talk yourself into booking that fall trip to Austin.

Have you attended a worthwhile conference that we should put on our radar? Let us know in the comments! 

 

 

 

 

Find Sustainability Mentors to Help Guide You

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

Everyone talks about mentoring, some with an eye roll and some with awed reverence of that one person who changed me forever. If you’re a sustainability consultant, you should be looking for mentors in places you may not have thought to look.

The obvious places we look for sustainability mentors: other consultants, professors, sustainability leaders.

But running a consultancy is more about sustainability, it’s about business skills. And, therefore, looking for mentors across the spectrum to help you build the support skills to run a business is crucial. And, even more interesting, you don’t even have to know your mentor to learn from her.

Look to people outside of sustainability and use best-practice from other fields to improve your own business as a sustainability consultant.

You’ll need much more than sustainability knowledge for your consultancy to succeed as a viable, profitable business. You’ll need to know how to sell, manage employees, manage clients, work with media, and keep up-to-date on everything from small-business taxes to major moves in sustainability reporting and policy.

It’s a big job, and you’re going to need all the help you can get!

Do you have a great “virtual mentor”? Tell us who it is in the comments.

 

 

Find Sustainability Mentors to Help Guide You

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

Everyone talks about mentoring, some with an eye roll and some with awed reverence of that one person who changed me forever. If you’re a sustainability consultant, you should be looking for mentors in places you may not have thought to look.

The obvious places we look for sustainability mentors: other consultants, professors, sustainability leaders.

But running a consultancy is more about sustainability, it’s about business skills. And, therefore, looking for mentors across the spectrum to help you build the support skills to run a business is crucial. And, even more interesting, you don’t even have to know your mentor to learn from her.

Look to people outside of sustainability and use best-practice from other fields to improve your own business as a sustainability consultant.

You’ll need much more than sustainability knowledge for your consultancy to succeed as a viable, profitable business. You’ll need to know how to sell, manage employees, manage clients, work with media, and keep up-to-date on everything from small-business taxes to major moves in sustainability reporting and policy.

It’s a big job, and you’re going to need all the help you can get!

Do you have a great “virtual mentor”? Tell us who it is in the comments.

 

 

Find Sustainability Mentors to Help Guide You

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

Everyone talks about mentoring, some with an eye roll and some with awed reverence of that one person who changed me forever. If you’re a sustainability consultant, you should be looking for mentors in places you may not have thought to look.

The obvious places we look for sustainability mentors: other consultants, professors, sustainability leaders.

But running a consultancy is more about sustainability, it’s about business skills. And, therefore, looking for mentors across the spectrum to help you build the support skills to run a business is crucial. And, even more interesting, you don’t even have to know your mentor to learn from her.

Look to people outside of sustainability and use best-practice from other fields to improve your own business as a sustainability consultant.

You’ll need much more than sustainability knowledge for your consultancy to succeed as a viable, profitable business. You’ll need to know how to sell, manage employees, manage clients, work with media, and keep up-to-date on everything from small-business taxes to major moves in sustainability reporting and policy.

It’s a big job, and you’re going to need all the help you can get!

Do you have a great “virtual mentor”? Tell us who it is in the comments.

 

 

Use a “Pitch Deck” Format for Your Sustainability Project

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

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. 

Sustainability Strategy Isn’t a Checklist

The SSC Team February 9, 2016 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

There are a lot of business books out there that provide templates for business plans and checklists. And having a plan and a checklist is important for any project or start-up, but developing a business strategy or incorporating sustainability into a business strategy isn’t a series of items to check off of a “to-do list.”

Even if you went through and commissioned and then checked off an annual sustainability report, a carbon footprint, a life-cycle analysis, et cetera, there is no guarantee that your organization would even be close to executing a true sustainability strategy.

Sustainability strategy should be based on an organizational understanding of why you need to invest in assessing and reducing your environmental impact. Without understanding why, you risk wasting time and money on projects that don’t align with the overall business strategy and stakeholder needs.

After determining why sustainability is important to the organization, you should focus on materiality, or what are the most important or impactful steps the organization can make inside of a realistic timeframe or budget or deadline.

Finally, look to experts to develop a proven path forward that speaks to both the materiality and the underlying corporate strategy on this issue.

For example, if your company is a small manufacturing firm held accountable to demanding suppliers or upcoming environmental regulations, but you have no clear idea on your environmental impact, then your why may be “we need to know what we are facing so we can answer questions of our stakeholders with honesty and confidence.”

Next, is materiality – are suppliers or regulators more important? Can they be addressed through the same sustainability tool or report?

If you determine through a materiality assessment that your suppliers are the most important stakeholder group to address first, next, consider what information they are demanding, in what format, and by when. In the example case of manufacturing, this may be be collecting LCA data for a supplier scorecard or more pulling together even more thorough data for a third-party environmental or human product declaration (EPD/HPD) report.

Essentially, sustainability strategy should be tailored as carefully as marketing strategy or pricing strategy.

Company leadership should clearly understand why the sustainability efforts are integral to the success of the company, how important they are to the stakeholders who drive that success to help prioritize efforts, and which strategic path forward to take to meet stakeholder needs best.

SSC not only delivers excellent sustainability consulting services, we are focused on ensuring our clients choose the service, and level of service, that will meet their real business goals.

 

SSC Releases Latest Case Study on Health Product Declarations for a Global Commercial Interiors Manufacturer

The SSC Team February 2, 2016 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

SSC is working with Stonhard/Liquid Elements, a global leader in the manufacturing and installation of commercial interior floor, wall and lining systems, to gather data to complete the company's Health Products Declaration (HPD). 

The reporting requirements for manufacturers in the building industry continue to demand more detailed information, as architects, engineers, and builders continue to design structures to meet the high standards of green design and gain LEED, USGBC, and other certifications. 

But many manufacturers do not have the in-house expertise to gather data used in HPD and/or EPD reports, use the industry tools required to submit and report data, and also ensure their proprietary information is protected.

Read our latest case study to see how the SSC team was able to help the client with its HPD and help them navigate the path toward accurate, secure and transparent product reporting. 

Contact us to talk about taking the first step toward navigating your industry-specific reporting requirements. 

5 Tips for Staying Motivated as a Sustainability Professional When Making a Difference Seems Overwhelming

The SSC Team January 21, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Global climate science sometimes comes head to head with policymakers and corporations in ways that make us feel like there is no way that we, as sustainability professionals, can really ‘save the world.’

It can be difficult to keep things in perspective. But we must.

If you quit, then you really have no hope of effecting change. And you’re still here, still on this planet, and you likely still need a job. So, find some internal motivation and keep going.

Here is our take on the Six Ways for Staying Motivated When You Really Want to Quit:

1. Practice looking at Things From the Other Side

If you think it’s futile to ‘keep fighting’ when change is so incremental and what is at risk in our world seems so great, look at it from a different perspective. Don’t be afraid to spend a few minutes looking back in time and celebrating some of the that have been accomplished in our world, or in your own career, to feel reenergized.

2. Identify your Intention

Are you going head-to-head with the CEO because you want to win, or because you truly believe what you’re doing will help the company achieve its goals? Look at what you hope to achieve as a sustainability professional, assess whether it lines up with what you’re actually doing, and then realign your action steps so you’re doing what you intend to do. If you have a clear intention, you’re more likely to feel motivated because you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere.

3. Find a Different Way to do Things

If you come up against a hurdle, use some creative genius to work around it. Or just evaluate whether to reprioritize this activity. It may not be the right time to implement a certain policy in your industry, but there may be other areas you can focus on and have equal impact.

4. Lose Your Ego (and your High Horse)

Ego can get in the way of a lot of good ideas. In sustainability, a combination of ego and that sustainability, because of its focus on the lofty ‘world saving’ type goals, can immediately be off-putting.

You are likely a good person and working in sustainability is likely going to make the world a better place, overall, but focusing on that can be so self-centric that you’ll lose your motivation. Instead, go back to the first item on our list, and challenge yourself to get projects going by putting others first.

5. Beware of your Habits

Don’t get trapped by the status quo. Sustainability best practices are always rapidly changing, so get motivated by learning something new on the cutting edge of the field. Enroll in a class or learn to use a new assessment tool. You’ll likely want to run out and start working on applying the new knowledge.

6. Realize that Nothing is Perfect

Whether it’s a big project or a small one, everything we do as sustainability professionals is about incremental change that helps add up to big impact. Nothing will ever be perfect, but don’t let that hold you back. Just get up, get a project started, and then celebrate what you did accomplish.

Staring for too long at the big picture may be counterproductive in any field, but especially in sustainability. Instead, find internal motivation and understand that there are thousands of us, like-minded professionals in all sectors, who are working alongside you.

Together we will create change.

How do you stay motivated? Let us know in the comments.

Sustainability Consulting Round Up: Best of our blog for 2015

The SSC Team December 31, 2015 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Each month, we highlight some of our more popular content on the SSC blog.

To wrap up 2015, here's a round-up of our most popular blog posts published this past year. These are the articles that received the most attention from our online audience. Check them out!

  1. 4 Reasons Why Corporate Sustainability Reporting Might be a Waste of Time
  2. 8 Steps to Becoming a Better Sustainability Consultant
  3. 6 Ways to Gain Support for your New Sustainability Project
  4. 5 Habits that Might be Stunting Your Sustainability Leadership
  5. 7 Ways to Get Attention for Your Sustainability Plan

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.

Happy New Year! 

Don’t get caught – Create a calendar to manage sustainability deadlines

The SSC Team December 29, 2015 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Another new year is fast approaching. Soon it will be time to start looking back on last year's sustainability performance, assessing, reporting, and making plans. But now is the time for looking forward, and the time for making those New Year's resolutions. Here's one: work smarter in 2016. Check out this post from the SSC archives with one smart idea. 

In March 2012, 29 companies got caught shirking their sustainability commitments. Could you be next?

In this 3-minute video, SSC President Jennifer Woofter explains the challenge of managing corporate sustainability obligations, and an easy solution for keeping abreast of all the sustainability deadlines that loom throughout the year.

If you'd like help cataloging your company's sustainability obligations into an effective project management format that will keep you ahead of the deadline, please contact Strategic Sustainability Consulting today. One of our sustainability consultants will walk you through the options that will work best for your situation.