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Are Green Bonds Really Making an Impact?

The SSC Team February 26, 2019 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Corporate green bonds, which are issued to fund climate-friendly projects, have grown incredibly since their inception in 2013. That year investors purchased $3 billion green bonds, but in 2017 that amount had sky rocketed to  $49 billion. A wide-range of companies issue these bonds including Apple, Unilever, and Bank of America and it doesn’t look like the trend will end.

 

But what are green bonds? And do they really contribute to creating positive results for the environment? A review analyzing the 217 corporate green bonds issued by public companies globally from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2017, demonstrated that they are not only getting a positive reaction from the stock market, but also leading to improvements in financial and environmental performance, increased green innovations, and an increase in stock ownership by long-term and green investors.

The growth in the environmental performance of these companies as well as their increased green innovation is certainly encouraging.

Several measures suggest that after issuing green bonds, companies improved their environmental performance. When it came to the Thomson Reuters’ ASSET4 scale (based on more than 250 performance indicators like CO2 emissions, hazardous waste, and recycling), these green bond businesses environmental score rose by 6.1 percentage points. They also reduced their emissions by 17 tons of CO2 per $1 million of assets and increased their green innovations―measured by the ratio of the number of “green” patents filed to the total number of patents they filed in a given year― by 2.1 percentage points

All these positive response to such a relatively new innovation in impact investing shows that there is significant promise when it comes to fighting against climate change on a global scale. Big businesses are willing to step up and take the lead when it comes to making changes even if the government is not.

Why Won’t We Make Changes for Our Future?

The SSC Team January 29, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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In the sustainability industry we clearly know that climate change is a huge factor impacting the future of our planet. So why does it seem like there are many people who would rather pretend we aren’t damaging our world each and every day?

 

In a piece last fall by Art Markam, he explored the reasons that people don’t seem to be motivated to address climate change. Perhaps if we can understand these issues it will be easier to find a way to get those who don’t want to make any changes to their behavior to truly understand the dangerous road we are on. 

 

What Markam admits is so strange about this circumstance is typically people are pretty concerned about avoiding imminent danger in their lives. Need to walk down a dark alley? You are likely to move quickly. Passing an aggressive looking dog? You may cross the street. So why don’t people realize the magnitude of global climate change and how pressing it is to make a difference?

 

Because it is easier to ignore it. By pretending that climate change isn’t real or not that big of a threat, a person can continue to drive a gas guzzling SUV, buy an enormous home that they don’t really need or shop without regard for the impact their carbon footprint has on the environment. For companies, turning a blind eye could very well mean cheaper processes, despite the fact that investing in greener efforts would likely lower costs in the long run.

 

We are a right here, right now type of society that doesn’t seem to have a lot of concern for the long term. Markam notes that there are a few others reasons holding people back. Including that climate change isn’t a linear issue. Take spending money — if you go out to eat lunch every day, you are going to see a clear impact that this expense has on your bottom line. But by deciding to make changes to you routines in order to benefit the world around you, well, that impact isn’t as obvious.

 

Another reason people may have a hard time accepting that climate change is a real problem is that most of us aren’t directly feeling the impact in a tangible way. Even with extreme weather, it is relatively intangible so most people don’t make the connection to the bigger picture. As a society we also tend to view the future as less predictable than the present — so who knows what’s going to happen with the environment down the road?

 

Well, we do know what is happening and despite these challenges there is hope that we can influence change. Try exploring the values your colleagues or peers hold in terms of the world they’d like their children or grandchildren to experience. Or bring up a way in which human behavior is really is impacting climate change. Markam’s suggest that if your peer indicates a lack of regard for this human impact follow up with a specific question like “would you give something up today that would allow you to invest in research that could help your great-grandchild in the future?” they are likely to say yes. Using this logic, how can they continue to turn a blind eye to climate change?

 

By putting our values on the table, we can connect with those who continue to disregard their impact on the future of our planet and help them see the immense benefit in making changes to their personal live or business practices.

Purpose Driven Companies Gain Consumers’ Hearts and Minds

The SSC Team January 8, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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It’s not a new concept, but it does seem to be a growing one — the general public’s desires for greener offerings are driving more businesses to use product certification. While branding has long played a big role in decision making when it comes to making a purchase, the rise of “purpose-driven” brands is heartening.

 

Whether it’s groceries, coffee, clothing or home products, there is a growing awareness among consumers that making more ethical choices when spending money can actually make an impact.

 

Although we’ve discussed the concept of consumer desires driving the ambitions of a business to “go green” for their clientele in the past, there has been tremendous growth in this area since 2013.

 

Iaian Patton recently pointed out that during this is a time of intensified feelings about the environmental challenges and climate change issues we are facing as a society it’s clear that consumers are differentiating brands by their authenticity, values and sustainability credentials at an unprecedented rate.

 

In fact, this rise in mindful buying shows that when it comes to the world of sustainability, customers can be a part of the solution and not just the problem.  Recent research by Deloitte showed that nearly 90 percent of millennials believe that a company’s success should be measured not only by it’s financial performance but also by its social and environmental impact.

 

And to help demonstrate to consumers that a product is working toward being sustainable, many businesses are pursuing  more rigorous, industry-recognized certifications, which serve as a tool for those in the same industry to work toward unified standards.

There is simply no doubt that companies have the opportunity to change and influence consumption habits. And this is where corporate responsibility really comes into play. 

Patton notes that from a long-term perspective, certification can help ensure the future viability of farming and agriculture, which likely will confront increasing pressures from climate change and socio-economic factors. By applying best practices related to environmental management, worker health and safety, and farm productivity, certified farms are preparing to be able to deliver high-quality, sustainable produce in the future.

Whether it’s in agriculture or another industry, it is never too late to implement your brand’s purpose driven ethics into the marketing strategy.

For many consumers these days, sustainability is basically the same thing as quality. So push your company to make long-term decisions, and we bet your consumers are going to be more apt to buy in.

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!

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

 

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Curiosity is Key to Success at Your Company

The SSC Team November 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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When we make great discoveries in the world of sustainable efforts — or any industry for that matter — one key element is the main driver: curiosity.

 

The desire to find a new way to accomplish a goal or, scratch that, a better way to accomplish a goal is vital to the success of all enterprise. Not sure you buy it? A recent study highlighted three key factors about how curiosity impacts the success of a business.  

When it comes to sustainability, we definitely buy in that curiosity is key. When employees from the CEO to the janitor think creatively about possible solutions, then everyone is more deeply committed to the final decisions. Also in an area constantly developing and changing, like sustainable efforts, encouraging curiosity allows those leading the way to gain more respect from their team members while inspiring employees to develop more-trusting and more-collaborative relationships with one another.

Encouraging curiosity will spark not only success, but engagement at work. By making some small adjustments to the way you manage your employees, you are likely to find better ways to inspire your team members to think more creatively about both new and routine efforts.

Part of encouraging curiosity is actually being open to the ideas your employees develop. In a survey conducted by Francesca Gino for HBR, she asked more than 3,000 employees from a wide range of industries and 70% reported that they face barriers to asking questions at work. While many leaders fear that spending time engaging in creative thought processes might increase risk and inefficiency, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Other benefits? When employees are encouraged to think creatively they also tend to think about things from someone else’s perspective and take an interest in others ideas rather than focus solely on their own desires. This leads to a more effective and smooth workflow where conflicts are less intense and groups can achieve better results.

But this is all easier said than done. Here are 5 ways can foster curiosity in our workplace (and reap the benefits!)

1.     Hire curious people
There are lots of ways to assess curiosity such as asking candidates about their interests outside of the office. Being an avid reader of subject unrelated to their industry, just for the sake of knowing more is an indication of curiosity. Also keep in mind that questions posed by your candidates can demonstrate a curious streak.

2.     Be curious yourself
Ask questions of your team members and sincerely listen to their answers. By being curious about their insights, taking their responses in and acting on what makes the most sense for your company will show everyone that you are really interested in their ideas.

3.     Focus on learning
While we tend to be super focused on results at work, it can be highly beneficial to also show a commitment to learning. Spending time to gain new knowledge is typically more beneficial to organizations than simply thinking about the end goal all the time.

4.     Encourage exploration in your team
Employees can also broaden their interests by broadening their networks. Curious people often end up being star performers because of their diverse networks. How do they get there? By being more comfortable asking questions than their peers and creating and nurturing ties at work easily. Those ties tend to be critical to their career development and success.

5.     Take time to listen to questions
Leaders can help draw out a employee’s innate curiosity. Think about asking all employees for answers to “What if…?” and “How might we…?” questions about the firm’s goals and plans through a brainstorming session. They are likely to come up with all sorts of things, which can then be discussed and evaluated together.

In most industries people tend to believe that the implicit message that comes from asking questions is an unwanted challenge to authority. However this perception doesn’t need to be the case. Inspire the creative minds at your office to help come up with new, inventive solutions to your unique client problems. Being creative and innovative is what sustainability is all about!

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

The SSC Team November 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 October.

 

Anyone can become a trash talker and help reduce waste. Are you next?

 

How to Earn Respect as a Sustainability Leader

 

What's Next for the Recycling Industry

 

 

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The Science of Setting Credible Courageous Sustainability Goals

The SSC Team October 30, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Looking for some inspiration that will help you set bold sustainability goals? Check out this webinar on Greenbiz.com. It focuses on how going big when it comes to sustainability goals can be a smart business strategy as well as good stewardship. The panel is composed of sustainability professionals from big businesses  — General Mills, Kering, McDonald’s and Quantis — and discusses topics like science-driven goal setting, the Science-Based Targets initiative, planetary boundaries, Sustainable Development Goals and more. The talk also provides concrete business cases from diverse organizations so you can see how they're working through this transition.

https://www.greenbiz.com/webcast/science-setting-credible-courageous-sustainability-goals

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.

Creating Sustainable Value (for a Business)

The SSC Team August 23, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Day in and day out, you likely encounter clients who question how sustainability will create value for their business. Let this video by Alexandre Magnin help you respond to their concerns so you can better work with them to incorporate sustainability into their strategy. Magnin’s video focuses on the Sustainable Value Framework (published in 2003 in the journal of the Academy of Management Executive).

https://sustainabilityillustrated.com/en/portfolio/creating-sustainable-value-business/