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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!

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.

Social Sustainability: Satisfying Human Needs

The SSC Team September 25, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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This month’s video about social sustainability from Alexandre Magnin, examines what is behind the fundamental human needs we must to satisfy in order to make sustainable decisions and to design sustainability products and services.

This is focused on the theory of human needs developed by Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef and can be used for social sustainability because being sustainable is about meeting needs within our ecological constraints. Max-Neef’s concept explores finding ways to satisfy human needs by using fewer resources and provides a new lens that helps us look at the system we are trying to change. This is a crucial component to stimulating innovation and avoiding superficial solutions.

https://sustainabilityillustrated.com/en/portfolio/social-sustainability-satisfying-human-needs/

Taking the Trash to a Whole New Level

The SSC Team June 28, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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While we have been recycling certain products for a long time, there have been some pretty amazing innovatinos when it comes to building products on the market. These new materials are taking the idea of a sustainable approach to building to a whole new level. Take for example the creation of luxury building materials from waste. One truly great feature of this upcycling trend is that the new materials are being developed by designers who will use them, which means that they are actually attractive as well as useful.

 

These new materials are being used as substitutes for conventional woods, plastics and stone, and often come in sheet or tile form that are ready to be cut, shaped and manipulated by architects and designers.

 

Really, a Danish company at the forefront of this movement is focused on taking used textiles and transforming them into a sheet material similar to plywood.

 

In fact, companies around the world are coming up with some pretty clever new building materials turning items as basic as bottles and as strange as dirty diapers and sanitary products into materials that can be used for construction.

 

When it comes to embracing sustainable living, those are thinking well outside the box and turning products — like the notoriously hard to recycle plastic grocery bags — into building materials are making incredible strides.  In Building with Waste, which compiles these unique new materials, the authors speculate that, in future, we could end up re-using pretty much everything. This would be pretty darn helpful since we are on track to double municipal waste output by 2025. That’s a pretty terrifying thought.

 

And it isn’t just building materials, there are products being made with carbon dioxide. Collecting CO2 from the world’s smokestacks is hard, but once it has been collected what can be done with the carbon? To address this problem, people have invented technologies that convert captured CO2 into new products — crazy in a great way, right?

 

Solutions so far have included a lot of creative ideas such as converting carbon dioxide into carbon fibers which can be used as lighter-weight alternative to metal to make products like wind turbine blades, race cars, airplanes and bicycles. A company in Calgary is combining CO2 with waste products, such as fly ash left over from burning coal or petroleum coke, to create nanoparticles that can be used as additives for concrete, plastic and coatings to enhance performance and increase efficiency.

 

These innovations and more prove that many in this world are working toward a more sustainable future. We must continue to find creative solutions for reducing waste in order to take care of our most precious resource — the earth.

Are Architects Hurting Manufacturers’ Sustainability Progress? Sustainability Lessons from ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX)

The SSC Team December 15, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Last month, we headed out to ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX) to get the pulse on sustainability from the perspective of architects, engineers, builders, contractors, manufacturers, and other AEC professionals. We spoke to dozens of representatives from the more than 400 exhibitors about sustainability programs, sustainability strategy, and what they think of it all.

Our conversations resulted in two really great questions:

  • Are Architects Hurting Manufacturers’ Sustainability Progress? and
  • Future of the FSC: What Happens When Manufacturers Reject Certification? (Check back on Dec. 22 for our thoughts!)

Additionally, we took extra time and conducted a survey specifically targeted at companies that manufacture products (as opposed to service providers and distributors) used in the AEC field to delve deeper into what types of companies are doing what types of sustainability programs and why. We'll post our survey results in early January. 

So, are architects hurting manufacturers’ sustainability progress?

Talking to small-to-mid sized manufacturing companies, the most common strategic sustainability headache cited is being asked either directly or through the RFP process by an architecture firm, project management team, and/or developer whether or not they “have” or “can get” a specific certification, accreditation, or report to be competitive on the bid.

Some pressure is good

For example, most mid-sized companies (15-50 employees) we spoke with are aware of and able to offer LEED credits, at a bare minimum. And some have done and EPD or HPD reports. And others track specific sustainability metrics.

But nearly all of the smaller companies (1-15 employees) and start-ups told us that they wanted to figure out how to be able to offer LEED credits (and most hadn’t even heard of an HPD or EPD or LCA), but the certification process was unclear at the time – especially considering they are generally running a small, lean firm. To the folks we talked to, chasing certifications that don’t really mean much to them at this phase of their business wasn’t a smart financial choice right now, but they have it on the list.

This is where the pressure can be good. Even small companies are looking ahead to some of the industry’s most recognizable program – LEED – which, we believe, will eventually push them to open their eyes to why LEED exists, what consumer and regulatory pressures are driving “green” buildings, and to ask themselves “what’s next?” in terms of sustainability strategy and certifications.

After LEED, it gets hard

With all of the mid-sized companies offering LEED credits, we asked them “what else are you doing in sustainability? Some said nothing. Some said tracking waste or water or something relevant to their own corporate mission.

But most of them essentially ended with: We try to do what the client, usually the developer or architect wants, in terms of certifications or data submissions with regard to our environmental and social impact, but almost every time, each architect and each developer want different things.

Essentially, a single mid-sized manufacturing firm supplying coatings or interior glass to multiple clients on multiple projects all at different times faces being asked for multiple things, and often not presented in the same format.

One mid-sized interior finishings company representative said (and I paraphrase), “After awhile, as a mid-sized manufacturer, we can’t keep going around spending money and time on a dozen different certifications to meet the needs of a dozen different clients all wanting a different type of certification from us. The architecture industry needs to really figure out what it wants to know about the sustainability efforts of the companies they use to supply goods and services, and standardize that better.”

The overall feeling, was that an industry association – whether it is architects or developers, or both together – needs to take a leadership role and start developing an industry-wide reporting tool that works for the AEC industry, tailored to the process of design-build-maintain. Similar to what the Sustainable Apparel Coalition is doing for clothing.

Buildings and the built space are unique in so many ways, so having their own sustainability reporting program that actually tells us what the total environmental and social impact of a given building is needs to be the future of the industry.

So, who will step up?

In the meantime, we are here to help companies figure out the certifications or reports or data sets that will serve their own business operations best as clients and customers increase their demand for sustainability information. If you’re just getting started, we can help you understand the smartest path forward to keep you one step ahead.

 

Webinar to Watch: A Next-Generation Solar Strategy for Commercial Operations

The SSC Team July 7, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

A Next-Generation Solar Strategy for Commercial Operations

July 19, 2016 @ 1pm Eastern

Presented by GreenBiz

Companies often find that the power grid is the leading contributor to their carbon footprint, but the barriers to sustainable energy for most businesses is way too high. Check out this free webinar about how companies can purchase solar energy and significantly reduce their impact from electricity use.

 

 

Webinar to Watch: A Next-Generation Solar Strategy for Commercial Operations

The SSC Team July 7, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

A Next-Generation Solar Strategy for Commercial Operations

July 19, 2016 @ 1pm Eastern

Presented by GreenBiz

Companies often find that the power grid is the leading contributor to their carbon footprint, but the barriers to sustainable energy for most businesses is way too high. Check out this free webinar about how companies can purchase solar energy and significantly reduce their impact from electricity use.

 

 

A Tool Worth Trying: “The Abundance Cycle” for Developing Your Sustainable Business Model

The SSC Team May 10, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Like a broken record, we continue to push out the message that sustainability cannot be a checklist or afterthought. Sustainability must be part of an organization’s core strategy, especially as regulators, stakeholders, and investors continue to push for meaningful progress on social and environmental impacts. 

Simultaneously, the idea that sustainability must continually justify its ROI is old news. Sustainability is profitable, check out the food and beverage industry for one example.

So why not just build the entire business strategy around a sustainability tactic? Good idea.

Building Profit Through Sustainability

We came across an interesting tool that may help existing organizations and entrepreneurs think strategically about sustainability – The Abundance Cycle, building virtuous cycles where solving ecological problems and building resilient communities opens new markets and strengthens competitive advantage.

Whether your organization needs to entirely re-think what services and products it offers, or you have experience in an industry but want to build a product or service that moves the meter on ecological or social problems, the Abundance Cycle exercise may help uncover new market potential.

Although some of the tactics, like reducing waste or increasing efficiency to reduce environmental impact are being widely employed, these and others applied in a new setting or industry may reveal truly disruptive solutions that may lead to meaningful, sustainable change.

People, Profits, Planet

We hate to rain on the parade, but in the event you do find a sweet spot through your Abundance Cycle exercise, be sure to think through the full impact of your idea.

Does your idea create a temporal exchange conundrum? Do you sacrifice one important metric in sustainability to take advantage of another. Creating a product from waste is good, but not being able to provide a safe work environment isn’t sustainable. Using biomimicry to build a better mousetrap is good, but what materials does it require? Are the materials sustainably sourced, produced, shipped, and disposed of?

Give The Abundance Cycle a try, and keep your eye on the big picture during the process.

What do you think the most and least “truly sustainable” brand case studies are in The Abundance Cycle, from a big-picture perspective? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SSC Releases Latest Case Study on Health Product Declarations for a Global Commercial Interiors Manufacturer

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

SSC is working with Stonhard/Liquid Elements, a global leader in the manufacturing and installation of commercial interior floor, wall and lining systems, to gather data to complete the company's Health Products Declaration (HPD). 

The reporting requirements for manufacturers in the building industry continue to demand more detailed information, as architects, engineers, and builders continue to design structures to meet the high standards of green design and gain LEED, USGBC, and other certifications. 

But many manufacturers do not have the in-house expertise to gather data used in HPD and/or EPD reports, use the industry tools required to submit and report data, and also ensure their proprietary information is protected.

Read our latest case study to see how the SSC team was able to help the client with its HPD and help them navigate the path toward accurate, secure and transparent product reporting. 

Contact us to talk about taking the first step toward navigating your industry-specific reporting requirements.