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

The SSC Team April 3, 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 March.

 

The Importance of Creating a Diverse Work Team

 

How to Earn the Respect as a Sustainability Leader

 

How Does HR Fit into Sustainability?

 

Free Learning Resources for Aspiring Sustainability Professionals

 

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There is Room to Grow for Suppliers Tackling Sustainability

The SSC Team March 27, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Let’s start with the positive news. When it comes to implementing more sustainable sourcing practices, a recently published Stanford University study, which focused on large global suppliers, found that more than 50% of the companies reviewed have been implementing these practices. Not surprisingly companies with valuable brands (and therefore a more vocal customer base) were the most likely to be utilizing sustainable practices.

 

But Cassandra Sweet notes in There’s Room for Progress on Tackling Sustainability Through the Supply Chain, that while this is great news, the study also found that companies lower down the supply chain — where changes to their social and environmental practices would be more beneficial — have been less likely to implement sustainable practices.

 

To complete their research, 449 publicly traded companies from a variety of sectors were examined in order to evaluate the extent to which their efforts were going to impact the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. And from this evaluation, it was clear that progress is being made. This portion of the study was focused on industry giants like L’Oreal and Coca-Cola Co. who, among others, have been making big adjustments. These include training their suppliers to help reduce or reuse plastic packaging, address climate change and promote sustainable production among other areas. Coca-Cola Co. has also been providing training to the farmers who supply them in order to help promote sustainable agriculture, gender equity, and fair working conditions.

 

With this good news, we now need to focus our attention on non-consumer-facing companies who haven’ t been as committed to implementing sustainable practices yet. Unfortunately supply-chain sustainable implementations aren’t as likely to drive change at a global scale unless a lot more companies start to utilize sustainable sourcing practices. Sweet raises the important issue that these practices need to be strong, verifiable, address a broad set of sustainability issues and reach all tiers of global supply chains.

 

Here’s the thing, so many companies are going half in when it comes to making sustainable changes. An example that Sweet highlights is when a company focuses on ensuring that one product ingredient is sustainably sourced, without paying any attention to other ingredients. Or by making sure that the packaging of a product is made from recycled materials, but at the same time the product contained within that packaging is not sustainably sourced.

 

Do you feel like your company is falling into this gray zone and could do better? If so, you will benefit from connecting with a sustainability consultant. You might be struggling to understand the complex world of corporate social responsibility, wondering how you can translate your values into actions, and unsure how to prioritize your social and environmental initiatives, but we can help! At Strategic Sustainability Consulting we can work with you to kick off your sustainability journey and help you understand the strengths, challenges, and best-fit sustainability strategy for your company, in your industry, to meet your stakeholder needs, right now. 

How to Earn Respect as a Sustainability Leader

The SSC Team March 13, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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 February 2018

The SSC Team March 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 February.

How to Improve Client Outreach

 

The Four Big Social Media Mistakes Your Company Is Probably Making

 

Straight Talk with the CEO to get Better Sustainability Results

 

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.

Straight talk with the CEO to get better sustainability results

The SSC Team February 26, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Sustainability decisions and reports are data-heavy. And not only that, sustainability data may be unfamiliar to many, including your own CEO.

One of the worst things a sustainability executive or sustainability consultant can do is jargon-speak and data-overload when presenting to corporate leadership.

“Too many executives overestimate the CEO’s understanding of, and desire for, detailed functional data. Many of the best CEOs are generalists who lack deep expertise in most functional areas,” writes Joel Trammell for Entrepreneur.

Remember that the CEO, and in many cases other executives, are relying on you – either as an consultant or as the in-house expert – to analyze the functional data and deliver your expert opinion on that data.

Here are Trammell’s three tips for turning down the data noise and turning up the sustainability signal to get better results:

  1. Keep the big picture in mind. Deliver “concise insight” into how a sustainability program is tracking on goals and how those goals are supporting the company’s overarching goals. Drop the details, and focus on impact.
  2. Focus on the future. When talking about a new sustainability program or report, focus on how the results of the report are going to affect the company’s future performance. Asking for an expensive LCA? Don’t dwell on the cost of the actual LCA assessment, instead frame the ask around how the LCA will “identify risk.” And, by identifying risk the LCA will give guidance on mitigating it, and the result will be long-term, low-risk operations in a more sustainable marketplace. Win!
  3. Ask for support when you need it. “Only the CEO can mitigate conflicts between departments and allocate resources where they are most needed,” said Trammell. This is especially important for sustainability executives, as we are trusted with advising and changing how other departments operate. Not everyone likes change. If you are feeling push back from purchasing on the new sustainable purchasing processes, directly provide guidance on how the CEO can proactively remove barriers in purchasing so he or she can see the positive results you promised from the program (Note: Don’t tattle. Keep it professional with clear action steps from the CEO).

By focusing on the big picture, the future, and framing how your role is working with and for other departments, you can keep your communication with the CEO focused and relevant.

Are you looking to pitch to company executives, but need to translate sustainability performance in a language that the C-suite understands? Let us know!  

How to Improve Client Outreach

The SSC Team February 6, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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You may think that your work in the world of sustainability puts you in a totally unique industry. But think again! You may not like the idea of equating your work with work in sales, however a lot of the elements of a sales role overlap sustainability.

 

Just think — if you need to convince an internal audience that it is worth investing in sustainable efforts, aren’t you selling them on it? Or, as a consultant, you’re constantly selling your expertise? With that in mind, here are some tips from sales pros — and some things you definitely want to avoid when you are trying to engage a new client.

 

Focus on trust. Out of the gate you can’t just throw tons of new (and possibly expensive) ideas right out of the gate. First you need to establish a relationship, which will allow you to build trust. Then when you present a strategic plan the listener will be more likely to be confident in your agenda.

 

How can you create this trust? Jeff Haden offered three great suggestions in his recent post on Inc. about taking this step. First you need to learn about your contact and their business or organizational obstacles. If you don’t understand their unique challenges and values, how can you create a strategy that will make sense to them?

 

Find common ground. The best way to connect with a potential client is through a mutual connection. Research has shown that a buyer is five times more likely to engage with a sales person if they connected through a mutual acquaintance. Five times more likely! You can easily translate that from sales to your sustainability business — always look for a common professional connection.

 

And for in-house common ground? Look for opportunities to collaborate on their projects before pushing hard for someone to immediately jump on board your project. The old adage, “make it their idea” works well when selling to co-workers across departments.

 

The last tip seems like a no brainer — demonstrate expertise and knowledge in your industry. You may get in the door, but your potential client is probably not going to sign onto any strategy you create unless they believe you really know what you are talking about. Be confident and show that you are tuned into their business and the best ways to make sustainable adjustments in their industry.

 

As an internal sustainability manager or advocate, it might be helpful to bring in an expert for a workshop to better explain what sustainability is from a position of experience. This may answer a lot of questions for everyone on the team, and give you some insight on what next steps you need to take as well.

 

With those guidelines in mind, let’s take a look at some of behaviors you want to avoid while selling:  

 

Do not blame others if your performance declines. Your plans aren’t being accepted? You aren’t growing your client base? Before you start casting the blame on someone else, take a real look at what former clients, supervisors, or colleagues are saying about your work. Have things changed?

 

As a consultant, even if you’ve found one super, amazing client, don’t neglect your other work. Remember do not put all your eggs in one basket. Client needs change, relationships change, and you can’t focus all your attention on only one company or you could end up with nothing.

 

You probably don’t want to get too political. If you take a stance make sure it is in line with your brand as a consultant or in line with the corporate values. Try to keep your personal feelings in check, and think about the brand you’re selling before make politically motivated statements. 

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?

 

 

 

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.

Is Vanpooling a Good Choice for Your Company?

The SSC Team January 23, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

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Check out the following question pop up on 2Degrees.com (a platform for sustainability professionals): 

We’re based in rural Wiltshire and fast outgrowing our site. Whilst expansion plans are in the works, our car park is at capacity and we have more new starters joining every week. Whilst most of us car share, we’re still looking for ways to take cars off the road. We’re looking at introducing buses from the major towns and cities for Dyson people to get to work and back home. It would be great to learn about how others have implemented a similar scheme successfully and what things to watch out for including any experiences you can share on linking incentives to use of more sustainable modes of transport.

-- Nicola Warner | Dyson

There were several good comments already in the thread, but of course we wanted to add our own input! Here's what we said:

Have you considered vanpooling as an option?

We’ve found that vanpooling is a great option for companies located in rural areas when employees live in many directions. It’s particularly valuable for companies with a growing headcount, because it’s relatively easy to add a new van (while adding a new bus route is a significant commitment in terms of time and money).

There's lots of good evidence that vanpooling is good for employees and good for companies. According to Enterprise RideShare:

Vanpooling drastically reduces commuting and maintenance costs by up to $800 a month* (based on AAA mileage). Also, employees who vanpool are eligible for tax incentives  (IRS Tax Code 132(f)) and local government subsidies... People who share a ride aren't subject to the daily traffic grind, which means they arrive at work happier, more relaxed and, in turn, are more productive. Also, vanpoolers are found to be more punctual than those that drive alone. So employees who vanpool are more likely to arrive to work on time.

If you'd like to chat more with us about vanpooling and the key lessons (both positive and negative) we've learned over time, please contact us to set up a meeting. Otherwise, check out these resources for more information.

Vanpooling: A Handbook to Help You Set Up a Program at Your Company - a PDF guide from the US Department of Transportation. While the handbook is a bit old (published in the early 1990s), it is a great roadmap for setting up and managing a vanpooling program.

Vanpool Benefits: Implementing Commuter Benefits - a PDF guide from the US Environmental Protection Agency's "Best Workplace for Commuters" program. While written with an American audience in mind, all companies will find it useful for considering the financial costs and benefits of a vanpooling program.

Curious about how different commuting patterns affect your company's carbon footprint? Download our free white paper, Reducing Your Organization's Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions

Creating Partnerships can be Powerful for Your Business

The SSC Team January 16, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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If you are going it alone as a small sustainable business owner now may be the time to consider partnering up with others in a similar situation. Sure, you could be making ends meet, but as Web Smith noted in his recent piece for Entrepreneur — it’s hard to be the kid on the playground with no friends.

 

Not only can establishing partnerships in the community make you feel a little less alone in the business world, it can help your business make meaningful connections via an established partner.

 

Like anything, you still need to be mindful of creating relationships that make sense and are the right fit for your mission. If you are running a consulting firm that aims to help offices reduce their paper footprint, partnering with a paper company probably doesn’t make sense. However if you are trying to create a foothold in the area of environmentally-friendly household management perhaps you could connect with local cleaning companies and work with them to create a cleaning plan that utilizes natural and organic products. They could offer their clients this service at a slightly higher rate than a cleaning that uses standard products and provide you with a consulting fee as well as offer their customers the chance to connect with you directly to “green” their home stash of products.

 

But no matter what angle you are pursuing, Smith offers up some wise tips about establishing professional partnerships:

 

1. Be clear and straightforward about your business
While your desire to expand your business may make you want to put on blinders and join forces with every potential partnership that comes your way — don’t. Make sure that you have a clear idea of what your purpose is and maintain that focus. If you try to be a brand that means something to everyone, your vision will be diluted and your company may not make sense to the consumer. That is not going to benefit you in the long run.

 

2. Ask questions
Make sure you have as much information as you can before making decisions about a new partnership. Sure, you’ll never know everything and something that seems great may still be a bad fit down the line. But it’s vital that you know what your potential partner’s values and vision are — if they don’t align with yours, you probably don’t want to have your company associated with them.

 

3. Be honest
You are likely to have limitations — everyone does — but by understanding your limitations you are more likely to identify strong partners that can help you fill in these gaps. Don’t hide from those gaps in your experience, use them to find support.

 

4. Know when to say farewell
As an entrepreneur you are already a pro at taking risks, but if a partnership isn’t working as you imagined it’s time to say bye-bye.

 

While establishing your small business may feel isolating, remember to step outside your comfort zone and start making those connections. As long as you maintain a clear commitment to your company’s vision, your brand is likely to benefit from creating business partnerships.

Best Practices for Virtual Teams

The SSC Team January 9, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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A growing number of companies allow employees to work from home some or all of the time. That's great for many reasons (less time spent in traffic, lower commuting emissions, happier workforce!), but also presents challenges. Today, we're inspired by three articles on how to create, manage, and inspire the best virtual teams. Enjoy!

Tips for Transitioning an Office-Based Company to Remote Work: This Fast Company article from last April includes an interview with an organization that recently went virtual (4 days a week) and 10 tips for companies considering a similar move. (Our favorite is #7!)

How to Be a Family-Friendly Boss: This Harvard Business Review article is focused on ways that bosses can help staff be great employees and great parents. Not surprisingly, allowing some form of virtual work, or telecommuting, is high on the list of recommendations. Our favorite part about this piece is the discussion about how to measure job performance.

How Virtual Teams Can Create Human Connections Despite Distance: This Harvard Business Review article provides great ideas for developing and maintaining highly effective teams when members are in different offices around the world (or just working from home a couple miles away). 

Curious about the environmental benefits of commuting (and how much telecommuting can help)? Download our free white paper, Reducing Your Organization's Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions to learn more about it!