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How to Earn Respect as a Sustainability Leader

The SSC Team October 9, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

When trying to lead a sustainability program from the inside, you may find that getting internal buy-in from your peers, managers and executives is the toughest part of the job. This is especially true when sustainability and CSR don’t get a lot of respect as a corporate priority.

Consider the situation from nay-sayers perspectives, though, and you can begin to see why sustainability (and you) aren’t favorites at work:

  • The CFO may be thinking: why was sustainability “forced” on my, and why does it always seem to be spending more money than it saves?

  • The COO may be thinking: have CSR programs really delivered anything meaningful to the company, or is it just a feel-good initiative that’s taking people away from their “real” jobs?

  • Department heads may be thinking: Do sustainability people do anything except for harp about recycling all the time?

  • The Director of Communications may be thinking: I just want to tell a good story. Why do the sustainability managers always want to bring up our weaknesses?

The industry, the corporate culture, the history of the company’s performance, the physical location, and many other factors may contribute to how your co-workers, subordinates, and leadership view the role of the sustainability leader.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat, a security software company, gives some solid advice about earning respect inside a corporate culture.

Sustainability leaders may want to pay special attention to Whitehurst’s advice.

  • Show passion for the purpose of your organization and constantly drive interest in it. Even though you may have a TON of ideas on how your company can quickly change and make significant environmental gains, you should frame those ideas and the positive change they can create in language that speaks to the purpose of the organization itself. If internal stakeholders see sustainability programs as strengthening the business as a whole, and not just some ancillary reporting department, they will begin to respect sustainability’s role in the organization.

  • Demonstrate confidence. You may be asking employees who are not under your direct supervision to make changes to purchasing habits, reporting protocols, and behavior. You need to ask them with respect and confidence. Conveying confidence for a program that is supported up the chain-of-command will help establish you – and the programs you are implementing – will encourage others to follow your lead.

  • Engage your people. One of the biggest complaints about sustainability may stem from the top-down approach to change. Of course, you’re gathering the data, interpreting the reports, and making recommendations – but those who have to change because of a recommendation may come to see your role as an arbitrary rule imposer. As you look at programs and policies that affect department function or employee behavior, ask for input, ideas, and thoughts about how to implement change. You may get some great ideas from unexpected places.

  • Don’t be a know-it-all. You may know a bit about sustainability, but you probably don’t know a lot about the detailed work of the different functional areas in your company. By showing passion for shared company goals and values, being confident in your own role, and engaging people in different areas of the company, you will begin to build a positive reputation. But, you may also misstep. By “owning up” as Whitehurst says, you should frankly address when something doesn’t go as planned and help the team build a work-around together.

Managing sustainability is a difficult role in many corporate systems as sustainability is not a supervisory, but more of an advisory, department. This makes it even more important to earn respect with internal stakeholders. By doing so, you will really see the full effects of sustainability programs and help integrate sustainability into the fabric of the company’s culture.

Working on a tough sustainability project where internal stakeholders are pushing back? Let us know in the comments.

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

The SSC Team October 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 September.

 

How Sustainability Experts Should Give Feedback

 

Social Sustainability Satisfying Human Needs

 

How to Hire a Successful Sustainability Manger

 

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.

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.

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.

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

The SSC Team August 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 July.

 

Big Businesses Making Smarter Sustainable Choices

 

Motivate Your In-House Team to Meet Your Sustainability Goals

 

Why Standards Would Benefit the Green Finance Industry

 

Facility Managers: Putting Energy & Sustainability Practices to Work

  

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.

Facility Managers: Putting Energy & Sustainability Practices to Work

The SSC Team July 17, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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In this white paper from GreenBiz, you can learn more about how Facility Managers are prioritizing energy, water, and waste efficiency initiatives in response to current market conditions.

Key sustainability findings from surveyed facilities professionals and market insights on topics including: How Facility Professionals are Utilizing Energy Data to Drive Low/No Cost Efficiency Initiatives; The Role of Right-Sizing and Right-Streaming in Driving Toward Waste Reduction Goals; Go-to Strategies for Water Conservation and more.

 https://www.greenbiz.com/whitepaper/facility-managers-putting-energy-sustainability-practices-work

TEDTalk The Business Benefits of Doing Good

The SSC Team June 21, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

In a talk from earlier this year, social impact strategist Wendy Woods explored assessing the impact the various aspects of business can have on various aspects of society, and how we can make adjustments in order to not only do less harm, but to actually improve things. Woods discusses how executives can move beyond corporate social responsibility to "total societal impact" — which will not only benefit a company's bottom line but also society at large. 

Triple Bottom Line: The Science of Good Business

The SSC Team June 14, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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We couldn’t wait to share Alexandre Magnin’s Triple Bottom Line: the Science of Good Business. Check out Magnin’s idea of looking at the triple bottom line from a scientific angle. This viewpoint can provide businesses with more insight into why integrating sustainable efforts into business operations can be a great thing for more than one reason. And it’s less than 5 minutes! Check it out.

Mining Companies Can Care

The SSC Team June 5, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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When it comes to the mining industry, we know that there is a lot at stake for the environment. However, we don’t often think about mining companies as business that care about sustainability.

While fossil fuels and mining companies tend to be dismissed as unable to create sustainable strategies, but many companies in the mining industry are trying to mitigate their impact.

At Strategic Sustainability Consulting we have worked with mining companies, like Teck Resources Limited and a global resource leader in Scandinavia.  

 

Through our work with natural resource companies, we helped to identify emerging sustainability trends and best practices in the mining industry. The result of which has been that Teck has garnered national and international attention for its sustainability performance. In fact, in 2017 they were recognized among the best of their peers for social and environmental responsibility.

 

Mining companies can care.

 

And in an industry this big, with heavy materials circling the globe and creating significant environmental impacts, it’s vital that those in the sustainability field continue to push for more companies to embrace changes like Teck.

 

While the traditional corporate responsibility agenda has required that mining companies work with greater transparency and coordinate with local communities during the life of their projects, the sustainability agenda for mining is getting broader. For example, the industry itself has so much to lose if they do not try to understand and manage global trends, including the intense pressure their business is putting on the world’s very limited natural resources.

 

With alternative energy solutions taking off, we might think there is less need for mining, but as the population continues to increase (we are closing in on 9 or 10 billion) — and more and more of us have disposable income, our demands on these resources just keep growing. Unfortunately at the same time the demand is rising, the richness of ores (the “ore grade”) has been in long-run decline for most elements. Copper ore grade is down from 4% a century ago to well under 1% now (and falling). Copper mining isn’t just affected by natural resource pressures; it embodies natural resource constraints.

 

With all this information available, we must continue to monitor mining companies and encouraging them to engage in more mindful practices that can lessen their negative impact on the world around us all. 

Listen Up: Companies Should Not Be Afraid to Get Political

The SSC Team April 10, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Over the past two years, it seems like everything is political, from coffee makers to the color red, and as sustainability experts we desperately need to be advocates for climate change policy.

 

You might think jumping into the world of politics isn’t a good move if you’re not in an advocacy industry, but just “selling good products to good people.” Concerns about alienating some of your clients are real, but here’s the thing: fighting for what your business values likely won’t be offensive to your core clientele.

 

Here are some tips to help you commit to your goals so you can make a difference in the long term and continue doing important work in your day-to-day life.

 

A recent piece about how getting political has impacted companies following the Parkland shooting outlined some valid points for any industry or organization that intends to take a stand. The benefits that come with making your opinions known can be greater than sitting on the sidelines.

 

Time has shown that corporate responsibility can actually have a positive impact on business, including political advocacy and issue alignment.

 

Understanding the values and motivation of a company can deepen the relationship a business has with its customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

 

The four elements of sustainability consulting that we center our own work around — transparency, consistency, materiality, and leadership — are the same elements that frame a company’s plan to “go political.”

 

Relationships between companies and their stakeholders are based on trust — and transparency when it comes to areas that you feel your business should take a stand. If you are forthright with your ideas, clients are likely to accept them long term.

 

This is where consistency comes in. You can’t change your mind over time. For example, Patagonia has long been a vocal supporter of environmental legislation. When President Trump noted that he would eliminate federal protections for national monuments in Utah, Patagonia’s clear message that they opposed this decision was what customers and other stakeholders expected to hear. In fact, they likely would have been disappointed in Patagonia if the company had not responded in this manner.

 

Organizational leaders worry that speaking out might damage the bottom line, but consumers actually expect companies to be driven in part by profits —“Rent-seeking is not only tolerated, but admired, so long as a company is transparent, consistent, and shows leadership in its industry.”

 

And leadership plays a vital role. Stakeholders are more likely to purchase from, work for, and invest in companies that have social and environmental impact where leaders are genuine and firm in taking sides.

 

While it may seem like avoiding the political spotlight is the best choice, companies that are transparent, consistent, and can make a business case for political positions are sometimes better off standing out in the crowd.

 

And it’s true, sometimes a company might regret making their values known. But maybe that’s because the company needs to take a hard look at its values.