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4 Tips for Getting Closer to Zero Waste

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

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

Zero waste is a lofty goal, but it generally pays off because most of the time less is actually more in sustainability planning. Here are a few helpful hints about waste and recycling to push your waste strategy to zero.

1. Choose “single stream.” By allowing employees to sort recyclable material into a single receptacle, you can expect to see an increase in recycling of up to 50%. Make it easy for employees, and they’re more likely to participate!

2. When crafting a zero-landfill strategy, don’t just focus on recycling. Be sure to include options like: closed loop solutions (reuse), composting, and supply chain management.  Remaining materials that can’t be recycled or reused can be converted to energy through conversion technologies: waste to energy, plasma gasification, and anaerobic digestion.

3. Think about waste conveyance design during new construction. Make sure you consider the following:

  • Internal areas for collection, storage, and separation of materials
  • External space for multiple container sizes and service areas
  • Design for ease of use

4. Cover all of the bases when reviewing recycling, sorting, composting or other waste stream management programs

  • Signage
  • Bin size
  • Bin type
  • Tenant education, key component to gain buy-in maybe have a kick-off meeting and continuous reminders with metrics and goals
  • Space constraints
  • Service area

If your organization wants to get a better handle on its waste, a great first step is conducting a waste audit. We’ve developed a toolkit (webinar, guidance, and templates) all around How to Conduct a Waste Audit. If you find that your team doesn’t have the gumption to sort through all that trash, contact us to arrange a waste audit done by sustainability professionals!

 

Is Vanpooling a Good Choice for Your Business?

The SSC Team August 25, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

We’ve found that vanpooling is a great option for companies located in rural areas when employees live in many directions. It’s particularly valuable for companies with a growing headcount, because it’s relatively easy to add a new van (while adding a new bus route is a significant commitment in terms of time and money).

There's lots of good evidence that vanpooling is good for employees and good for companies. According to Enterprise RideShare:

Vanpooling drastically reduces commuting and maintenance costs by up to $800 a month* (based on AAA mileage). Also, employees who vanpool are eligible for tax incentives  (IRS Tax Code 132(f)) and local government subsidies... People who share a ride aren't subject to the daily traffic grind, which means they arrive at work happier, more relaxed and, in turn, are more productive. Also, vanpoolers are found to be more punctual than those that drive alone. So employees who vanpool are more likely to arrive to work on time.

Check out these resources for more information.

Vanpooling: A Handbook to Help You Set Up a Program at Your Company - a PDF guide from the US Department of Transportation. While the handbook is a bit old, it is a great roadmap for setting up and managing a vanpooling program.

Vanpool Benefits: Implementing Commuter Benefits - a PDF guide from the US Environmental Protection Agency's "Best Workplace for Commuters" program. While written with an American audience in mind, all companies will find it useful for considering the financial costs and benefits of a vanpooling program.

Curious about how different commuting patterns affect your company's carbon footprint? Download our free white paper, Reducing Your Organization's Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions.  

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.

 

Best Practices for Virtual Teams

The SSC Team June 16, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives. 

A growing number of companies allow employees to work from home some or all of the time. That's great for many reasons (less time spent in traffic, lower commuting emissions, happier workforce!), but also presents challenges. Today, we're inspired by three articles on how to create, manage, and inspire the best virtual teams. Enjoy!

Tips for Transitioning an Office-Based Company to Remote Work: This Fast Company article includes an interview with an organization that recently went virtual (4 days a week) and 10 tips for companies considering a similar move. (Our favorite is #7!)

How to Be a Family-Friendly Boss: This Harvard Business Review article is focused on ways that bosses can help staff be great employees and great parents. Not surprisingly, allowing some form of virtual work, or telecommuting, is high on the list of recommendations. Our favorite part about this piece is the discussion about how to measure job performance.

How Virtual Teams Can Create Human Connections Despite Distance: This Harvard Business Review article provides great ideas for developing and maintaining highly effective teams when members are in different offices around the world (or just working from home a couple miles away). 

Curious about the environmental benefits of commuting (and how much telecommuting can help)? Download our free white paper, Reducing Your Organization's Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions to learn more about it!

Best Practices for Virtual Teams

The SSC Team June 16, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives. 

A growing number of companies allow employees to work from home some or all of the time. That's great for many reasons (less time spent in traffic, lower commuting emissions, happier workforce!), but also presents challenges. Today, we're inspired by three articles on how to create, manage, and inspire the best virtual teams. Enjoy!

Tips for Transitioning an Office-Based Company to Remote Work: This Fast Company article includes an interview with an organization that recently went virtual (4 days a week) and 10 tips for companies considering a similar move. (Our favorite is #7!)

How to Be a Family-Friendly Boss: This Harvard Business Review article is focused on ways that bosses can help staff be great employees and great parents. Not surprisingly, allowing some form of virtual work, or telecommuting, is high on the list of recommendations. Our favorite part about this piece is the discussion about how to measure job performance.

How Virtual Teams Can Create Human Connections Despite Distance: This Harvard Business Review article provides great ideas for developing and maintaining highly effective teams when members are in different offices around the world (or just working from home a couple miles away). 

Curious about the environmental benefits of commuting (and how much telecommuting can help)? Download our free white paper, Reducing Your Organization's Carbon Footprint: Addressing Commuter-Related Emissions to learn more about it!

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Practice Persuasion Techniques to Get Your Sustainability Effort Launched

The SSC Team May 24, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Hearing “no” can be demoralizing, especially when you’ve worked hard to build a program that may not only bolster the organization, but, in the case of sustainability, can often also result in meaningful progress on reducing environmental and social impact.

So, when you get a firm negative, how can you persuade the decision makers to change their minds? Disrupt their foundation of belief.

Psychologists have determined that our “strongly held beliefs form a network of consistent concepts.”

If mind-changing were simple, one could present a single strong argument against a belief to disrupt the consistency of the network of concepts, but it’s obviously not that simple.

Individuals are able to hold inconsistent beliefs simultaneously, as well as disregard strong challenges to their beliefs simply by drawing on the network of concepts that has been built over time.

To truly change minds, one needs to attack the problem in multiple ways, simultaneously.

Develop counterarguments to their strongest positions

For example, if a decision-maker can’t see the value of investing resources in your sustainability effort, work to develop strong counterarguments to disrupt the foundation of their “no-ROI for sustainability” belief.   

Increase exposure to supporting evidence for the new belief

Your counterarguments should be consistent and frequent, such as case-studies of companies that implemented projects similar to the one you are proposing. Showcasing the positive results will continue to undermine the belief that your program “isn’t worth it” or “won’t work.”

Provide information from multiple sources

Deliver multiple bits of counter-evidence from a variety of sources that are both recognized as authoritative and respected by the decision-maker. Knowing that the decision-maker built his or her belief system through evidence, try and break down the belief further by presenting evidence from the same sources that he or she builds other belief systems from. Having evidence from a respected, trusted source helps further destabilize the belief.  

Address the emotional attachment

With strong counterarguments and solid evidence from trusted sources, the belief should be in a state of incoherence. But be cautious. It’s possible that the feeling of “being pushed in a corner” or a sense of being manipulated will cause a rebound from the boss where her or she doubles down on the original decision based on the discomfort of having a belief network shaken. Tread firmly, but don’t make it personal and don’t push too hard, too fast.

“What's key, at any rate, is to recognize that people's active resistance to efforts to change their mind doesn't mean that those efforts aren't working. Belief change is a war of attrition, not a search for the knock-down argument that gets someone to see things differently in one fell swoop,” said Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas, Austin.

Have you heard “yes,” but can’t get the team to act? Are you struggling to be assertive in your role as a manager? We’re always looking for ways to apply smart management principles to the sustainability field. Do you have a recent article that caught your eye? Let us know in the comments.

 

Practice Persuasion Techniques to Get Your Sustainability Effort Launched

The SSC Team May 24, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Hearing “no” can be demoralizing, especially when you’ve worked hard to build a program that may not only bolster the organization, but, in the case of sustainability, can often also result in meaningful progress on reducing environmental and social impact.

So, when you get a firm negative, how can you persuade the decision makers to change their minds? Disrupt their foundation of belief.

Psychologists have determined that our “strongly held beliefs form a network of consistent concepts.”

If mind-changing were simple, one could present a single strong argument against a belief to disrupt the consistency of the network of concepts, but it’s obviously not that simple.

Individuals are able to hold inconsistent beliefs simultaneously, as well as disregard strong challenges to their beliefs simply by drawing on the network of concepts that has been built over time.

To truly change minds, one needs to attack the problem in multiple ways, simultaneously.

Develop counterarguments to their strongest positions

For example, if a decision-maker can’t see the value of investing resources in your sustainability effort, work to develop strong counterarguments to disrupt the foundation of their “no-ROI for sustainability” belief.   

Increase exposure to supporting evidence for the new belief

Your counterarguments should be consistent and frequent, such as case-studies of companies that implemented projects similar to the one you are proposing. Showcasing the positive results will continue to undermine the belief that your program “isn’t worth it” or “won’t work.”

Provide information from multiple sources

Deliver multiple bits of counter-evidence from a variety of sources that are both recognized as authoritative and respected by the decision-maker. Knowing that the decision-maker built his or her belief system through evidence, try and break down the belief further by presenting evidence from the same sources that he or she builds other belief systems from. Having evidence from a respected, trusted source helps further destabilize the belief.  

Address the emotional attachment

With strong counterarguments and solid evidence from trusted sources, the belief should be in a state of incoherence. But be cautious. It’s possible that the feeling of “being pushed in a corner” or a sense of being manipulated will cause a rebound from the boss where her or she doubles down on the original decision based on the discomfort of having a belief network shaken. Tread firmly, but don’t make it personal and don’t push too hard, too fast.

“What's key, at any rate, is to recognize that people's active resistance to efforts to change their mind doesn't mean that those efforts aren't working. Belief change is a war of attrition, not a search for the knock-down argument that gets someone to see things differently in one fell swoop,” said Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at the University of Texas, Austin.

Have you heard “yes,” but can’t get the team to act? Are you struggling to be assertive in your role as a manager? We’re always looking for ways to apply smart management principles to the sustainability field. Do you have a recent article that caught your eye? Let us know in the comments.

 

Don’t Insult Employees With Sustainability “Nudges”

The SSC Team May 19, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Just a few years ago, everyone seemed to have a signature block pleading for the trees – “Don’t print this e-mail for our planet” or “Think before printing this email.”

And then those tree-loving messages mostly disappeared.

Marketing and behavioral research may be indicating that “nudge” marketing, or deliberately manipulating choices to change behavior, may backfire.

Nudges can be condescending If your employees need to print a report, then they need to print the report. Using an email signature line to signal to one another that individuals aren’t capable or committed enough to make green choices without constant reminders can come off as condescending and put employees on the defensive about sustainability communications.

Even when nudges “work,” they may not achieve the ultimate goal To print or not to print, that isn’t the question. When the formerly ubiquitous email signature became popular, maybe companies did see a decrease in paper use for a time. But did the nudge truly make a difference over the long term? Was there a paper use policy in place to create lasting institutional behavioral change? Were employees motivated and engaged enough to carry the behavioral change over to their home lives or their next job? That’s sustainability. Nudge marketing is a blip in the radar.

Nudges may backfire! Imagine putting up a sign in the office restrooms over the paper towel dispenser (100% post-consumer recycled paper towels, mind you) that reads: “Remember: Paper towels were trees once.”

Although you’re trying to nudge employees into using less, thus landfilling less, you may immediately find that employees not only aren’t using less paper in the restrooms, but they’re also not participating in any other office sustainability efforts. What went wrong?

Look at the bigger picture. Employees may be infuriated that the air conditioning is still set at 60 degrees and the building lights are on all night, but “you want us to walk around with wet, clammy hands all day so you can save a few dollars on paper towels?”

Just stop nudging altogether in sustainability efforts. Don’t rely on a potentially condescending, ineffective tool to alienate employees. Instead, try educating employees, involving them in the process, and using motivational tools to create lasting change.

Have you seen workplace or marketing “nudges” that backfired? Let us know in the comments.