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How to interpret eco labels

The SSC Team March 9, 2017 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

 

SSC President, Jennifer Woofter, was quoted in an article in Recyclebank about how to better understand eco labels on products in order to make wiser product choices.  This is what Jennifer had to say:

“There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace about which certifications are credible and which are fluff. Shoppers who do want to choose environmentally friendly products are throwing their hands up and saying ‘How do I choose?’”

A major cause for confusion is the broad scope of the labels. Jennifer adds, "...labels are applied in roughly three ranges: by product, by company, and by facility. When we see a label on a product, we understandably assume that the label says something about the product, but that’s not always the case. For example, a pint of ice cream might have a B Corps seal, but that doesn’t mean that specific pint of ice cream is sustainable. That’s because a B Corps certification applies to the entire company, not its products. A certified B Corps company has met the threshold for responsible business as defined by B Lab, the 501(c)3 nonprofit that developed and assesses B Corps standards."

Read the entire article in Recyclebank here.

Interested in sustainability strategies in product packaging?  Read our white paper, Cut the Wrap! Packaging Waste and Strategies for Mitigation and Reduction.

 

Incorporating 30 Elements of Consumer Value to Maximize Sustainability Returns

The SSC Team December 1, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Occasionally we run across an article that is so jam packed with information and application to the world of corporate sustainability that we don't want to summarize a single word.

Instead, we recommend you stop what you're doing right now and read every single word of the recent article, The Elements of Value, from the September issue of the Harvard Business Review.

The article's implications for how B2C companies can position their own sustainability activities to generate consumer value are invaluable ways to approach sustainability strategy in product and service design and development. 

Yes. Mind. Blown.

Now that you're really understanding how this can truly transform your business, contact us so we can help get you on the path. The hardest part is usually the first step. We're here to help.

 

Consider an employee-driven sustainability effort, but weigh cost and benefit

The SSC Team October 18, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Building effective green teams, motivating employees, channeling creativity and harnessing energy among employees can be difficult during the implementation of a sustainability program that pushes employees to change behavior.

Recently, an article published by CH2M provided an excellent series of “steps” for sustainability managers to consider when pushing for distributive leadership in the sustainability area – creating a strong program that is employee-driven versus manager-driven.

The steps are centered on the company’s efforts to match the company’s material goals with the employees’ material goals and then encourage the employees to “run with it.”

CH2M’s list of steps is an excellent resource for those organizations with the flexibility and opportunity to engage employees in specific ways that empower employees and align their efforts with corporate sustainability goals.

However, when strategically allocating sustainability resources, it is important to weigh the cost benefit of any and all sustainability activities with regard to their investment versus real impact.

CH2M’s program is unique – and powerful – because the investment in this type of employee-driven program directly aligns with the material needs of the corporation – reducing energy use, rehabilitating watersheds, reducing water consumption, reducing waste.

However, not all industries align so closely to benefit from employee-driven sustainability programs. It’s important when developing sustainability programs that employees do have a way to provide input and also understand why the company is making efforts in this area, but spending half of the sustainability budget – in dollars or in time investment – on a program that makes employees “feel good” or “feel committed” may not actually result in meaningful change on sustainability metrics.

Following CH2M’s example, we would propose adding an 8th step (and placing that step in the top spot), performing a materiality assessment. By doing this first, a company can clearly see where its strategies will be directly aligned with its employees priorities (as well as other stakeholders) and will rate those priorities in order of most to least impactful on the overall business. Then, harnessing the energy and developing the programming will be both successful and valuable in terms of sustainability metrics.

Are you interested in figuring out what your stakeholders are most concerned with and how those concerns match up to your organizational strategies? Contact us about performing a materiality assessment to help align your sustainability strategy and optimize it for the most impact. 

The Importance of a Personal Sustainability Project

The SSC Team August 18, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives. 

The business world is an ever-changing entity that is constantly being fueled by new ideas and initiatives. One of the latest initiatives is no longer just “going green,” but becoming sustainable. This means that simple recycling efforts aren’t going to be enough. Individual employees at any business can take action to work toward sustainability.

Creating a green team is one way you can send a message of your need to improve up the chain-of-command. But reflect on your personal habits that you could change for sustainability. Consider taking on a ‘Personal Sustainability Project’ or PSP that could help you achieve sustainability in your office. Encourage others to do the same! The idea behind a PSP has been explored by Mr. Adam Werbach, former Sierra Club President, in order to engage Walmart workers in sustainability. His hope was “that if we could learn how to help individuals become personally sustainable, then we might also learn how to affect the two hundred million people who shop regularly at Walmart.” While you may not be working on the scale off affecting two hundred million people, your work toward sustainability may convince others in your company to take on a PSP.
Establishing your PSP means taking on a small project that is something you really believe you can do. Do not try to take on a task that seems impossible. Rather, take on something you know may be a little difficult but something that you can make a habit over time: “Instead of overhauling someone’s lifestyle, we started by finding daily or recurring practices that can express an individual’s values … What are the qualities of a PSP? It is repeatable, inspirational, sustainable, and enjoyable (RISE). At its most basic level, it is a healthy habit. People learn to spot PSPs through self-reflection or through a group session where they can talk about their routines and identify changes they would like to make.” In a business case, a PSP should be something you can achieve that not only helps you but can also help your company work on sustainability. A great example would be to ride your bicycle to work instead of driving your car. While this may not seem like a way to help your business, think of all the areas biking to work can have an influence on:
Reducing CO2 emissions (environmental)
Getting a great workout (social)
Potentially cutting health-care costs and health-club fees (economic)

Where can you start on your road to sustainability? Our white paper, “Become a Sustainability Champion: At Any Career Level has a whole section devoted to walking you through this process and outlining a clear path forward to getting started. Examples are given for employees ranging from general office associates, to middle managers, to CEOs.

Find out myriad ways that you can become a sustainability champion! Download this complimentary white paper here.

4 Ways to Effectively Execute Your Sustainability Programs

The SSC Team August 11, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Execution, or the ability to meet goals and objectives, is consistently ranked as a top-3 skill that executives require of successful managers. Going through the motions to develop processes – whether that is providing regular updates or analyzing best practices of a system – are all fine and good, but if you can’t actually move the bar, it’s possible your sustainability program (or you) will get canned.

But reaching goals and milestones for a sustainability program that requires company employees to change their own workplace behavior to reach objectives is less about long hours at the office burning the midnight oil tracking data, and more about engaging in employees effectively.

Analysts at Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy, looked at data gleaned from thousands of performance reviews to determine the top four behaviors that improved manager ability to execute team-based projects.

Be clear and methodical

If you’re a sustainability manager, you need to take a breath and set aside time for strategic planning. If your CEO wants meaningful sustainability results, then defining those results through strategic planning, based on how the sustainability strategy aligns with company goals is likely the best path to effectively execute a sustainability strategy.  

Don’t get distracted too early with green teams or waste reduction or the excitement of a budget for a carbon footprint. You likely need to start with a pow-wow with the C-suite on what exactly the company hopes to achieve, strategically, through the sustainability program, then perform a materiality assessment, and then develop an organized strategic plan to connect company strategy with stakeholder materiality.

The result will be a plan with a clear direction, action steps, and measurable goals – backed up by company leaders.

Set stretch goals and deadlines

By framing the activities inside of a clear strategic plan that ties to company success, everyone can see why they are being asked to change. And by setting realistic “stretch goals” and deadlines, employees see opportunity to do something possible, following a clear path.

Goal-setting is a solid motivational strategy, but don’t overdo it and stress employees out.

Give more feedback, especially more positive feedback

When managing people, or motivating them, feedback is crucial. If you want employees, on an individual level, to change their behaviors to help the company achieve its goals, then give individual employee positive feedback.

Tie employee action to positive feedback – and get personal. Thank departments for reaching milestones or goals. Celebrate participation in sustainability focused programs. And, if you are tracking departmental data and see a team not achieving the milestones set forth for, don’t send a memo.

Instead, sit down for a lunch and learn with the team and talk about the progress-to-date and their barriers to participation. Listening and positive feedback can move people to action much more effectively and quickly than emails and memos.

Resolve conflict and build team unity

Pairing individual praise and feedback for individual behavior change is doubly effective when people are also strongly tied together in teams. Successful teams “probably do all or most of the above – work assignments are clear and processes make sense, deadlines are ambitious but fair, and feedback is plentiful – but they also do something more. On these teams, it’s not just the boss motivating team members — the expectations of peer team members are powerful motivators, too.”

Managers that can build team culture around sustainability efforts – so that employees are proud to be a part of the larger organizations in part because of it’s commitment to social and environmental sustainability – will also aid in executing the sustainability strategy.

Contact us to start talking about sustainability strategy and how to go from tracking data to reaching meaningful milestones.

 

The Secret to Getting a Green Premium

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

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives

There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not customers are willing to pay more for green products. And just like any kind of market research, you can usually find a study to support whatever theory you're currently promoting.  

For example, in August 2013, an article from Sustainable Brands proclaimed, “50% of Global Consumers Willing to Pay More for Socially Responsible Products”. Just a few months earlier, a Harris Interactive poll said that, “78% of U.S. consumers were already buying products specifically because of their social or environmental profile”.

Not so fast. There are a number of articles that argue the opposite -- that consumers are NOT willing to pay a price premium for so-called "green" products. In September 2012, an Advertising Age article noted, “As More Marketers Go Green, Fewer Consumers Willing to Pay For It”. And perhaps most compelling, P&G's CEO flat out declared that, “consumers aren't willing to pay a green premium,” in a video hosted by the Wall Street Journal.

Why the disconnect? Turns out the devil is in the details -- it's the difference between what consumers SAY and what they really DO. Here's an excerpt from No, Consumers Will Not Pay More for Green:

“Consumers will consistently tell surveys that they are willing to pay more for socially and environmentally superior products…A major utility company, for example, surveyed rate payers asking if they would pay a small premium for ‘green electricity.’ The response was overwhelmingly ‘Yes!’ However, when the product was offered, fewer than 5% actually signed up.”

 This leaves companies in a bit of a conundrum. How do you get consumers to pony up extra money for green products? This issue is important for many reasons--innovation can be expensive, and paying better wages for laborers and higher margins for raw materials can seriously impact the profitability of a product or product line. 

So how do you do it? 

The secret might be in how you talk about the sustainability or the "green-ness" of your product or service. It's not enough to spout out key statistics or throw an eco-label on the packaging. New research suggests that it's all in the story. 

In her article, Want to Raise Prices? Tell a Better Story, Francesca Fenzi shares insight about consumer purchasing practices.  “As a business owner, you probably believe that quality is what drives consumers to buy your product. Certainly, superior execution and customer service go a long way toward making your business a success.”

Ty Monague, author of True Story: How to Combine Story and Action to Transform Your Businessbelieves that customers will pay more for a good story.  Take, for example, a 2006 experiment by New York Times magazine columnist, Rob Walker, which tested a hypothesis that stories sold products. Writers were asked to create a story that evoked human interest to accompany a handful of cheap items worth less than $5 each, such as a wooden mallet, a lost hotel key, a plastic banana. He put the objects up for sale on Ebay with the narratives- and was surprised by the results. “On average, the value of the objects rose 2,700 percent,’"wrote Montague. 

Maybe the reason that today's eco-conscious products have trouble commanding a price premium is because their social and environmental stories are communicated poorly--or worse, not at all. Unless the consumer can make a human connection to the story behind the product, it's likely going to remain at a price disadvantage and fighting it out with other traditional products in a competitive marketplace.

So the next time you think about green products--whether you are buying them or selling them--consider whether the story has been crafted in a way to appeal to your values, your history, or your humanity. Are you more willing to shell out a couple extra bucks to be part of that story?  Leave us a comment or join the conversation on Twitter!

3 Creativity Boosters to Engage Employees in Your Sustainability Efforts

The SSC Team July 26, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Employees tend to get tunnel vision, focusing on their own daily work and not having the time or training to keep organizational strategy or “other department” goals in mind. Use these four creativity boosters to engage employees in sustainability efforts and keep them thinking outside of their cubicles.

Mix and Match

By pulling employees from different departments together for meetings or brainstorming sessions, you will see how different perspectives combined together may produce interesting results. Are you struggling to get recycling numbers up or having difficulty motivating employees to turn in critical data for sustainability reporting? Gather them in a room with folks they usually don’t work with and ask them to solve your problems for you. Shifting comfort zones and encouraging risk-taking may result in real progress.

Take Time to Play

Sitting behind a desk or in front of a machine all day can take put your brain into automation mode. For desk-bound employees, some companies set up an art station or a Lego block area to boost creativity. For engaging employees in sustainability, figure out how to put some fun into behavior change – Who can make the tallest paper recycling tower? Build a composting monster bin that “eats up” food waste. Host a competition for the team that comes up with a new way to save time, energy or materials in product production.

Ask the Kids

Another way to engage employees is to involve their kids. Freedom to create is part of a child’s mind, so posing adult problems to children can yield in very interesting results. Engage kids in a competition, either at home or through Bring Your Kids to Work Day. Problem solving competitions, design focus groups, or just plain old awareness campaigns using kid-created messaging will both engage employees in your effort and bring new insight to your sustainability team. 

Best of the Blog for June 2016

The SSC Team June 30, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

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

In case you missed them, here's a round-up of our most popular blog posts from this past month. These are the articles that received the most attention from our online audience. Check them out! 

  1. Free Learning Resources for Aspiring Sustainability Professionals
  2. Puma, Adidas, Under Armour - Who Has the Best Sustainability Sustainability
  3. Best Practices for Virtual Teams
  4. Seven Questions to Focus Sustainability Leadership
  5. Test Your Company's Strategic Sustainability Alignment

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.

Best of the Blog for June 2016

The SSC Team June 30, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

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

In case you missed them, here's a round-up of our most popular blog posts from this past month. These are the articles that received the most attention from our online audience. Check them out! 

  1. Free Learning Resources for Aspiring Sustainability Professionals
  2. Puma, Adidas, Under Armour - Who Has the Best Sustainability Sustainability
  3. Best Practices for Virtual Teams
  4. Seven Questions to Focus Sustainability Leadership
  5. Test Your Company's Strategic Sustainability Alignment

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 for May 2016

The SSC Team May 31, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

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

In case you missed them, here's a round-up of our most popular blog posts from this past month. These are the articles that received the most attention from our online audience. Check them out!

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.