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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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GreenBiz19

The SSC Team November 8, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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It may be getting chilly, but all the more reason to make plans to head to sunny Phoenix from February 26–28 for GreenBiz19. Join more than 1,000 of the world’s brightest thinkers and most influential sustainability leaders for the chance to examine pressing challenges, emerging trends and the biggest opportunities in sustainable business today. As a regular attendee put it, “GreenBiz is such a great platform for sustainability. Our team attends every year, because it’s a fantastic source of inspiration and an opportunity for problem solving.” Who can say no to that? The “best” rate is good until November 14 and the “fall” rate expires December 14. Don’t wait too long to make your plans!

https://www.greenbiz.com/events/greenbiz-forum/phoenix/2019

Time to Do More Than Talk

The SSC Team November 6, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Have you encountered a CEO or employee who totally believes in the value of sustainable efforts, but also thinks it’s basically someone else’s problem? Unfortunately you aren’t alone. A recent feature in the Harvard Business Review noted that while many organizations these days are happy to talk about sustainable changes, they aren’t really committed to implementing those efforts.

 

Example? While carbon emissions continue to grow, only 1/3 of the 600 largest US Companies have taken steps to put systematic sustainability oversight in place at the board level. So how can we motivate companies to take that next step and actually walk the walk when it comes to making sustainable changes?

 

After interviewing more than 100 people ranging from CEOs to shop floor workers, CB Bhattacharya found that most companies fail to help the members of their team — at all levels — take ownership over these changes. In order to successfully implement sustainable solutions everyone has to believe that this is OUR problem, not someone else’s. So Bhattacharya developed a 3-step model that will help companies move away from just talking and into action.

 

Incubate

In this first phase requires examining your company’s goals and determining how your business impacts the world. In this step, businesses often gain perspective on ways they could make sustainable changes through action, but typically need further help to move their plan into place.

 

Launch

During phase two, the sustainability plan must be presented to stakeholders which helps set the element of ownership into motion. You need to determine what will be the strongest selling point for your team to get committed — focusing on financial benefits or the positive feelings of making a difference. Most likely you will need a bit of both to encourage the feeling that these efforts are for the long-term betterment of your company and the community.

 

Helping members of the team see that their efforts have a real impact can make a huge difference to their willingness to commit to changes.


Entrench

Once people have really gotten on board with the plan and sustainable changes are in place, they will (hopefully) become routine. Making sure to measure the impact of your changes so you can report back will make it clear to everyone what a difference is being made. Being able to really see the changes — say water use reduction — can be highly motivating, instilling pride in the good work and inspiring people to want to do more.

 

 

In Leveraging Corporate Responsibility: The Stakeholder Route to Maximizing Business and Social Value, Bhattacharya and fellow authors Sankar Sen and Daniel Korschun note that the social and environmental responsibility movement doesn’t seem to show any signs of fading away.  As more and more companies commit to making real changes, there are also indirect effects of the efforts — employee retention, customer loyalty, and investor reaction and support.

 

If you can get your team to go all in with you, we know the benefits will be worth the effort.

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

 

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How Sustainability Practitioners Should Give Feedback

The SSC Team September 27, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

In the same way that hungry rats learn to navigate the blind alleys of a maze in their search for food, coaches, consultants, and other change agents learn that punishment most often follows their constructive criticism. Conversely, when they stroke the egos of clients, rewards come raining down. Managers fall victim to the same temptation: it’s much more fun (and in the short term, rewarding) to praise your direct reports than to deliver negative feedback. The bad news is that if you’re a consultant or coach, folks will tire of having smoke blown at them and, sooner or later, react negatively. They’re paying for reasoned critiques, and chronic evasiveness eventually gets on their nerves. And if you’re a manager, you can’t only rely on praise. 

Steven Berglas, Harvard Business Review

As consultants, it's our job to deliver feedback to our clients throughout the sustainability consulting engagement--and we've gotten pretty good at identifying, refining, and delivering news (both good and bad) about a company's "state of sustainability" and roadmap for action. But when we read the article, Don’t Sugarcoat Negative Feedback, in Harvard Business Review, we realized that the art of providing feedback has a much broader application to companies pursuing sustainability initiatives. Here are some of our takeaways:

Use Facts in Your Feedback

Berglas: Deliver constructive feedback rapidly in its raw form. This doesn’t mean harshly; there’s a way to soften blows without delaying them if you strive to be empathic. Just never make it seem like you’re avoiding hard cold facts. All that does is make the facts seem worse than they are.

Focusing our feedback on facts is a great way to create some space between participants, so that no one feels blamed, guilty, or shamed. It also allows everyone to (more) objectively assess the situation--including whether the feedback being provided is correct, how a solution should be constructed, and how responsibility and accountability for change should be allocated.

Wrong: [After 20 minutes of praise and exultation about everyone's awesome sustainability work.] "Look, even though we're all doing our best, it's not enough. We're falling behind on our performance data, and that's shown up in some recent press. We can't let our industry leave us in the dust. Come on, guys, we've got to improve!"

Right: "Our three-year carbon emissions are up 4.3%, while Competitor A is holding steady and Competitor B actually decreased its emissions by 1.1%. A report, which is getting press coverage this week in the New York Times and a number of "green blogs", calls us out for poor energy and climate performance in our industry. Let's talk about what that means in light of last month's board meeting where there was consensus about aiming for the top 25% of our industry across all sustainability issues."

Don't Predict the Outcome

Berglas: Resist the urge to prophesy. The absolute worst thing a CEO, coach, or consultant can do when offering constructive criticism to someone is to provide a timetable for the process that a person who must change should be expected to conform to.

While goals and targets are critical elements of effective sustainability planning, changing people (and institutions) is an uncertain process. When you need to address employee engagement and organizational culture issues, don't make promises that you can't keep. Yes, you can get a new Code of Ethics in place by the end of the year, but can you put a clear time line on when your emerging-market suppliers are going to really *get* the concepts of anti-bribery and corruption? You can provide a clear road-map, but putting calendar dates down for personal and organizational change is a dangerous proposition.

Be Honest about the Effort Required to Change

Berglas: Don’t minimize the challenge. When you critique someone with a history of success you have to assume that the flaws you see in them are (a) entrenched, and, (b) something they have long grappled with to suppress or get past. Saying, “No big deal” to that sort of issue can scare the socks off someone who knows that what you’re targeting for change is an issue they have battled unsuccessfully for years.

Sustainability is probably the biggest, most complex challenge that the world has ever faced -- and individual organizations trying to navigate a highly interconnected system in which it has limited leverage and resources is not an easy task. (Hah, understatement!) So don't portray the journey as all rainbows and kittens. It's going to be hard, and there are going to be really tough decisions. People need to understand that the road is going to be long, and the challenges are going to be scary--but that all great, epic adventures start with a seemingly insurmountable mountain to climb.

If you liked this article, you'll want to download SSC's free white paper on Sustainable Change Management. And if you're looking for a sustainability coach, check out our coaching and mentoring services. Or, join the conversation on Twitter, where SSC President Jennifer Woofter tweets at @jenniferwoofter. Did we get it right, or would you add something to our takeaways?

Are You Getting the Real Truth from Your Employees?

The SSC Team August 21, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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We know that lying is a part of life. All of us have told the occasional white lie, even at work. But when it comes to managing a business how often are your employees lying and more importantly, why are they bending the truth?

 

First, let’s take a look at how often employees lie. Harvard Business Review says that according to research “20% of people tell 80% of the lies, and 80% of people account for the remaining 20%.” So, the good news is that most of your employees are probably not lying; at least not very often.

 

Let’s get to the bottom of why employees lie. The 20% telling most of the lies often don’t see anything wrong with their deceit. Normally, things are going well for our deceitful employees when they lie and they “…do it when they are feeling good or in control of things – because they get a kick out of it.” Our frequent liars are also more likely to admit their deceitful ways if confronted.

 

But what about the majority of employees who make up the remaining 20%? Frequently their lies stem from stress, poor work/life balance, pressure to fit in with peers, or a lack of timely opportunities to tell the truth.

 

If we are able to acknowledge that our employees are going to tell lies (as are we) the next question is how to eliminate, or at least minimize harm. As we know, not all lies are negatively affecting business. If two employees don’t care for each other but claim to ‘like one another’ and cooperate, well, what’s the problem?

 

If you suspect you aren’t getting the truth slow down and take a closer look at the situation. Are you being honest with employees? Do employees have frequent opportunities to offer the truth and do leaders value that feedback? Are transparency and feedback a regular part of the day-to-day operation?

 

Feedback is essential to creating highly effective teams and thriving companies. But how can you ensure you are getting truthful, constructive feedback from your employees?

 

The simple answer is to just ask them. From using Survey Monkey to utilizing regular check-ins to hear how things are going, there are many ways companies solicit feedback

 

Additionally, you need to determine how much feedback you want. There is quite a spectrum of feedback out there. We’ve all likely been solicited for feedback by our leadership only to have it fall on deaf ears as more of a formality. Additionally, we’ve all probably been asked to provide feedback only to be met by a staunch defense that leaves us feeling, somehow, in the wrong for doing what we were asked to do.

 

“One of the biggest tragedies of mankind is people holding their opinions in their heads… they’re not dealing with the things they need to deal with,” Ray Dalio, Founder and CIO of Bridgewater Associates, told Adam Grant on his podcast Work Life.

 

Bridgewater is one of the biggest hedge fund firms in the world. Its culture is founded on something Dalio calls “radical transparency,” where all employees, from top to bottom, put “every criticism, every opinion, out in the open.” The newest, lowest ranking employee is encouraged to provide feedback as high up as the CEO.

 

So, is radical transparency right for your company? Probably not to the extent Bridgewater takes it. But according to Grant “… if we want to get better at something, we should go and learn from the extreme.”

 

At the end of the day, employees lie for a variety of reasons. It is not our responsibility as leaders in the organization to discover the origin of each lie and punish the instigator.

 

Instead, we can take a closer look at ourselves as leaders and our organizational culture. This can help us to discover the optimal level of transparency that motivates our teams to be more truthful and productive. 

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

  

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

The SSC Team July 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 June.

 

Mining Companies Can Care

 

Triple Bottom Line: The Science of Good Business

 

Keeping Your Sustainability Team Engaged- Words to Live By

 

Taking the Trash to a Whole New Level

  

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Straight Talk with the CEO to Get Better Sustainability Results

The SSC Team June 26, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives. 

 

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!  

Keeping Your Sustainability Team Engaged — Words to Live By

The SSC Team June 19, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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These days, in all industries, people find themselves filling leadership roles without a lot of leadership training.

 

For some, a leadership position is a perfect fit, but it seems like so many people have horror stories about managers that have no idea how to lead a team.

 

While we focus a lot of the sustainability of our client’s workspace, products and delivery methods, it’s also important to think about the sustainability of your office environment. No one wants to go to work every day somewhere that they do not feel welcome, accepted ,or believed in.

 

With that in mind, we found this advice for increasing your employee engagement really helpful.  Whether you are managing a team of sustainability consultants or looking for ways to better communicate with clients, here are some words to try and use every day. They will help your employees feel heard, making them feel more invested in their work. Win-win!


Help. Do you ever say this? Just because you are the boss doesn’t mean you intrinsically know everything about everything. If you aren’t certain about something, ask someone. They’ll feel valued and respect that you are open enough to seek help.

 

Along the same lines as needing help, instead of just expecting your employee to do something for you, why not ask them to show you? You are still valuing their knowledge but it means you will probably be able to do it on your own next time. You will make your team member feel good about their skills and also appreciate that you want to take the time to do it yourself in the future and not expect them to handle it for you.

 

Everyone makes mistakes. If you are willing to own up to it than say sorry. Remember when you make your apology you do not want to add any caveats. Just own it.

 

Sh#t. Maybe you think a leader should never curse, but in the right circumstances, tossing in a rare swear word can show your team that you get frustrated too. And also instill that there is urgency to dealing with the issue at hand.

 

If your employees come up with new ideas you should say yes. Maybe not all the time, but if you constantly stifle their creativity they will stop making suggestions. And an office where the team doesn’t feel heard isn’t a very pleasant one to be a part of for anybody. On the flip side, you can’t say yes to everything. You are the leader of this crew and if you really don’t think something will work say no.  Don’t tell people “maybe” if you know you will eventually say no. Your job is to make decisions — and to explain those decisions so that everyone understands the reasoning behind your choice.

 

Praise and thanks are the easiest, and most encouraging gifts you can give your employees. If you are truly pleased with their work, you should offer up a note of how great their idea or follow through on a project was. And remember that saying you’re welcome if someone thanks you lets them know you appreciate them just like they appreciated you. Being courtesy shouldn’t be a lost art in the world of business.

 

If you appreciate your team and value their ideas — even if you don’t always utilize every one of them — they will work harder and better for you.