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Three Goals to Get Your Sustainability Program Off and Running

The SSC Team February 14, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

Your company recently formed a green team, but it doesn't seem to be accomplishing much. Or maybe you've just been designated as your organization's green champion, but can't seem to get anything done. Sound familiar? 

You may be suffering from "start-up" syndrome. Back in June, Inc. Magazine published an article by Peter Cohan called 3 Simple Goals You Must Set to Succeed, which discussed the importance of setting goals for start-up enterprises. We found it intriguing that his suggestions so closely mirror the questions we ask newly formed green teams during consulting engagements.

1. Mission: What is the enduring purpose of the venture?

To answer this, ask yourself what problem matters most to your venture and why you are willing to go years with little pay or sleep to solve it. A start-up’s mission must be deeply meaningful to the founder and be compelling to people that the founder wants to hire. After all, without capital, a hungry start-up’s only currency is denominated in terms that are hard to quantify: the difference between a humdrum existence and work that has deep meaning.

Before you jump into developing new programs and initiatives, get clear on your sustainability goal. Is it to "green your office" or to "green your organization?" That answer will tell you whether you should be focused on replacing styrofoam in the kitchen or developing a comprehensive green supply chain program. It will also tell you who needs to be on the team -- whether is a cadre of mid-level employees, or top executives with budget-wielding power. Setting the enduring vision of your sustainability program will help determine the scope of your ambitions.

2. Long-term goal: What will this company look like in five years?

A long-term goal for your start-up must satisfy the aspirations of the founder, the investors, and the employees. And that forces the entrepreneur to trade-off a desire to maintain control with drawing in capital so investors can get a sizeable return.

Start with the end in mind -- what do you want your organization's sustainability program to look like in 20 years? (While in start-up land, 5 years might be an eternity, we would argue that it's not really "long term.") Where do you want sustainability responsibilities to reside? Who should be managing sustainability? What do you want to have accomplished? Where do you want to stand relative to your peer group? Understanding the long-term goal will help you make smart decisions now about where to focus your efforts.

3. Short-term goal: What frugal experiments must we make to reach our long-term goal?

If the mission and the long-term goal are the 1% of the inspiration needed to build a successful venture, the short-term goals are the 99% perspiration. Create a series of real options. I mean that you should make small, inexpensive bets -- a win means that the venture can go on to the next short-term goal; a loss means a chance to learn what went wrong and do it better the next time.

Sustainability guru Bob Willard says that pilot projects are the surest way to convince management to move forward to bigger sustainability commitments. They are small, they are relatively cheap, they are exciting, and they create a sense of innovation. You may not get a huge budget or a lot of responsibility -- but as the green champion, you may get the leeway to tackle a couple of "frugal experiments." Use these opportunities to show what you can do, and you'll get a bigger bite at the apple next time around.

The Complexities of Connecting Executive Bonuses to Sustainable Efforts

The SSC Team February 7, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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https://hbr.org/2018/11/how-to-tie-executive-compensation-to-sustainability

 When it comes to doing the right thing, wouldn’t it be great if everyone jumped all in just because? Unfortunately, we’ve seen that that is certainly not the way green efforts have worked in the past.

 

While a number of large corporations are making good efforts toward greener practices, the way these efforts should be rewarded when it comes to a traditional bonus or increased compensation is hard to define.

 

In an exploration of how to tie executive compensation to sustainability, Seymour Burchman noted that deciding which elements of sustainable practices for that organization have priority is key and those goals could be linked to a pay incentive.

 

Typically compensation committees would start by tying bonuses or other long-term incentives to goals that relate to compliance and risk management. This tactic might be acceptable for some investors, but it may take too much focus off of the company’s core mission.

 

So, where to begin?

 

Burchman suggests that bonuses should depend heavily on executives’ success in engaging the company in the big strategic picture that correlate with sustainability. If they can motivate their team members to go on the offense when it comes to sustainable efforts, that in turn can help pull sustainability from the edges of the business model into the center.

 

Even though it is clear that not every company can tackle major sustainable initiatives right now, the opportunities to pursue them is growing fast. In a survey by the UN and Accenture, 63% of executives said they believe sustainability will cause major changes in their business over the next five years.

 

Taking these changes into consideration requires a company’s board to engage in a different way of thinking about what will make their company increasingly sustainable while also expanding those efforts when it comes to suppliers and customers.

 

As these goals are established and then connected to executive incentives, it’s vital that directors make sure that to avoid any negative consequences that may come with an attempt to meet said goals. It’s also imperative that directors remain focused on creating a reasonable number of sustainability goals that deliver the most value. Value that can, in term, be used to energize executives and provide benefits for other stakeholders and the broader community.

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from January 2019

The SSC Team February 5, 2019 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 January.

 

Exploring Innovative Solutions to Plastic Recycling

 

Ecological Footprint

 

Use the "8 habits" of Creative Genius to Shape Your Sustainability Activities

 

What You Know and Who You Know Are Important for Aspiring Sustainability Consultants

 

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

The SSC Team January 1, 2019 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.

 

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

 

Sustainability Explained with Simple Natural Science

 

State of the Profession 2018

 

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.

Increasing Supply Chain Transparency Through Federal Oversight

The SSC Team December 25, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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In our growing global economy, there are so many risks to be considered when a company establishes their supply chain. From forced labor to human trafficking it is vital that those in the sustainability industry make every effort to address these atrocities if they arise.

 

On January 1, 2012, California enacted the Transparency in Supply Chain Act, requiring retailers and manufacturers with annual sales of $100 million or more conducting business in California to disclose their efforts to eliminate human trafficking and slavery from their supply chain. Ensuring disclosure of "to what extent if any" a company engages in the five following activities: verification, auditing, certification, internal accountability, and training are required.

In October, the US House of Representatives introduced H.R. 7089: Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2018, in an effort to amend the Securities Act of 1924. This resolution, like the Transparency Act, would require certain companies to disclose information describing any measures they have taken to identify and address conditions of forced labor, slavery, human trafficking, and child labor within the company’s supply chains. In 2014, the Department of Labor identified 136 goods from 74 countries around the world made by forced labor and child labor. That information, and the current challenges of prosecuting the perpetrators of such crimes, are the driving force behind this legislation which states “the United States is the world’s largest importer, and in the 21st century, investors, consumers, and broader civil society increasingly demand information about the human rights impact of products in the United States market.”

With the impact that that this bill could have on business around the country in mind, we wanted to look back at the way the Transparency Act impacted midsize clothing retailer Eileen Fisher when it went into effect. The business was already committed to sustainability so they weren’t starting from scratch, but they aren’t a business empire like Adidas or Nike so their resources for these efforts were limited.

Shortly after the act was in place, the company’s Human Rights Associate Luna Lee spoke about what actions the business had taken to comply with the new law. What the team at Eileen Fisher did in order to implement efforts to meet the requirements of the Transparency Act will likely be applicable and beneficial to companies that would be impacted by HR 7089.

A key takeaway is that you might know all about your company’s sustainability obligations, but your suppliers may not. It’s vital that you take the time to educate them. And while you're at it, ask how they can help you. They may have great ideas, but believe you don’t really care. Let them know that you do!

A 6-Minute Guide to Better Sustainability Decisions

The SSC Team December 18, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

This video from Harvard Business Review introduces a methodology for helping you choose the best decision-support tool for your specific business situation. While the tool is not sustainability-focused, we found it fascinating to think about how to use a decision-tree model like the one presented for thinking about high-stakes decisions like:

  • Accounting for climate change impacts on capital investments.

  • Introducing new "green" products into the marketplace.

  • Rolling out a new telecommuting program.

  • Planning new freight routes for global distribution.

Watch this 6-minute video and let us know if you think this tool helps identify better ways to make high-stakes sustainability decisions?  Leave a comment or join the conversation on Twitter!

State of the Profession 2018

The SSC Team December 11, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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This year marks the 5th Annual GreenBiz Group’s State of the Profession report, which examines the evolution of the role of the sustainability leader in today’s business world. Each year, GreenBiz conducts an in-depth survey to find out how much sustainability leaders earned, where they worked and what their job entails. A few highlights from this year’s report are a look at whether sustainability programs are sustainable, the rise of the specialists, the implementation of external talent and the gender pay parity.

 

One of our favorite takeaways from this year’s report?

 

That the most important factor impacting whether or not an organization would push their sustainability efforts to the next level was customer pressure. Not top investors or C-Suite demands, but instead the value that people have put into taking care of our planet.

 

For insight into this and so much more, check out the 2018 State of the Profession Report.

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

 

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.

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.

Sustainability is like Football: a 5-step game plan to help you win

The SSC Team November 29, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Ever thought that sustainability is like football? No? Think about it, a good game plan is the basis of helping you win. If players were running in all directions performing random actions on their own a team would not stand a chance! The same concept can be applied to your sustainability plan. Magnin uses football as a metaphor to present a 5-level approach for your sustainability plan. This framework can be very useful for gaining perspective and having structure as you analyze an organization, write a report, answer questions, and help people avoid picking random actions from a list of best practices. Having a game plan will establish a course of action that is more effective with the resources available in order to make maximum progress on a sustainability journey.