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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. 

Triple Bottom Line: The Science of Good Business

The SSC Team June 14, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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We couldn’t wait to share Alexandre Magnin’s Triple Bottom Line: the Science of Good Business. Check out Magnin’s idea of looking at the triple bottom line from a scientific angle. This viewpoint can provide businesses with more insight into why integrating sustainable efforts into business operations can be a great thing for more than one reason. And it’s less than 5 minutes! Check it out.

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

The SSC Team May 31, 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 May.

 

Sustainability Strategy Isn't a Checklist

 

Data or Your Gut? Understanding Your True ROI

 

3 Questions to Make Sustainable Decisions

 

5 Minute Video: Making Your Business Case for Sustainability

  

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Managing a Remote Workforce 101

The SSC Team May 22, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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You may have thought about the pros and cons of from home, but there is a lot for someone managing a remote workforce to think about when a company expands their telework policy. You may not be certain that this would be the best choice for your company, but the truth of the matter is having a remote workforce is a green solution. Think about it, no more long commutes for your team members just so everyone can sit in the same office. We’ve pulled together some guidelines that will help make managing a remote team work for your company.

 

First as a sustainability company, you know that employees who switch to telecommuting impacts carbon emissions—as soon as a person stop driving into work they reduce their carbon footprint in a big way. Multiply that by a larger population of the workforce and that impact increases dramatically. Sara Sutton Fell highlighted how a few large corporations who were encouraging workers to telecommute had a major impact in her piece, How Telecommuting Reduced Carbon Footprints at Dell, Aetna and Xerox, for Entrepreneur in 2015. It’s been a few years, so think about how much more we can do remotely!

 

Fell pointed out that Global Workplace Analytics had determined 50% of the American workforce had telecommute-compatible jobs. If those individuals all worked from home half the time it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million metric tons annually, the equivalent of taking almost 10 million cars off the road. It would also reduce annual oil consumption by 640 million barrels. You know that these changes would be an incredible boon for the environment.

 

Speaking of oil,  the U.S. Energy Information Administration notes that the U.S. uses approximately 19 million barrels of oil every day. If people worked from home part-time, 1.75 million of those barrels—almost 10 percent—would be eliminated. Plus, a CoSo Cloud study suggested that 77 percent of the remote employees it studied were more productive than office-bound employees. Clearly companies implementing wider work-from-home policies are seeing positive impacts in three big ways:

 

• the company benefits thanks to cost savings, higher productivity and employee retention

• the environment benefits due to the reduction of carbon footprints

• and the individual team members benefit because they have a better work-life balance (and can feel good about positively impacting the environment).

 

Who can say no to such a win-win-win situation?

 

Okay so all of that sounds great, but you might not be sure how to best manage your team from a distance or how to keep them engaged with their peers and their projects. William Morrow offered some insight into the challenges of managing an off-site team in his recent article Don’t Even Try Managing a Remote Team Without These Tools

 

What are the main challenges to a remote work force? Different time zones or communication and collaboration issues among team members can be a hindrance to productivity. It can also be more challenging to build up strong relationships within your team if they are never in the same place at the same time. To help you combat these challenges, Morrow highlights some of the top tools that will keep your team on the same page, starting as soon as they onboard. He suggests utilizing ClickMeeting for this process. It is a platform built for webinars that is commonly used as a virtual conference room. It also enable your organization to deliver presentations that allow remote workers to engage in real time as well as share documents, illustrate information with a whiteboard feature, and run Q&A sessions for your remote attendees, keeping everyone on the same page.

Morrow also suggest finding a platform that that will allow your new employees to gain skills from hands on training while they work (particularly if they are working in a tech capactity). Setting up a virtual lab environment, like MicroTek, allows team members to experiment and make mistakes without negative consequences to your company.

But on top of the hiring and initial workflow, you also need to think about HR and technology issues. Whether they are in the office or working remotely, all members of your team will be more productive if their computers and other devices are running smoothly and they feel invested in the company as individuals. Check out the BambooHR suite, which provides a valuable employee-appraisal platform, and TeamViewer to help you deal with remote tech issues.

 

Then, and this is perhaps the trickiest part, you need to find a good solution to support communication and collaboration among the team. There are a number of tools that can help your team continue to be cohesive, but Slack and Google Drive are definitely among the top performers in this area.

 

Now remember all of these helpful platforms require a password and since you should be creating unique and complex passwords for everything, consider an option like LastPass or 1Password to help you keep track of these. A site like these allows you to store every password associated with your online accounts which means you only have to remember one master password — the one that logs you in to the password-manager application. Bonus: administrators can select which remote employees can log in to which online accounts, and set expiration dates for access.

 

You’ve got all your processes in place — great! — but you still need to help keep your employees engaged with their jobs and each others.  While your team is likely to be more productive at home where they can avoid all the office distractions, Ryan Gellis notes that you have to make sure your workforce has a sense of cohesion. To create this positive team culture from a distance you need to make sure to use the right technology (as Morrow mentioned), plan for in-person activities ranging from a coffee hour to happy hour to fancy dinner out. It is clear that meeting in person, when possible, boosts a team’s connection even if that meeting is purely a social outing.

 

Another key to keeping your staff members engaged is inspiring communication among everyone — yourself included. If you are available, your staff is likely to be more tuned in. Also set core hours — even if it is just 4 or 5 hours midday —because having a set time where everyone is available via email, phone or chat will help keep the projects progressing in a timely fashion.

 

So if you are thinking about expanding your remote workforce — you can do it! It’s great for the environment, your employees, and likely, your company’s bottom line.

Data or Your Gut? Understanding Your True ROI

The SSC Team May 8, 2018 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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When it comes to business there will probably never be an end to the discussion of return on investment talk. But it’s important to remember that while financial returns may be easier to document and demonstrate, there is a lot of "data" that's simply subjective, part of the institutional knowledge, or coming from the expert you've hired that you clearly expect to trust. When all these issues are floating around the world of statistics, here’s why going with your "gut" isn't wrong.

 

In the world of sustainability measuring your ROI cannot be based on stats alone. Sure, if you reduce your energy and water usage it’s great to watch your bill go down. However the bigger savings is the enormous — and less immediately clear — impact that these efforts are having on the environment. What’s more important? Saving $50 or reducing your carbon footprint? Hopefully it’s the second one.

 

Paul Marushka adds to the narrative by examining how a “prove it” mentality challenges the value that environmental health and safety bring to the workforce. Despite our obsession with being able to use data to prove the worth of an initiative, sometimes we simply know the intrinsic value in something. Even if there aren’t stats to back it up. Marushka uses the former CEO of Alcoa as an example of what significant results can be achieved without having data to support the efforts: After he challenged the company to become the world’s safest, Alcoa saw an increase in earnings of 600 percent with sales growing by 15 percent per year during a 5-year period. Seems pretty clear that you can prove to leadership the value of investing in environmental health and safety — even if you don’t have software to examine everything and back you up.

 

Because when it comes to sustainability you have to look past the simple dollar value of your business efforts. There may be other ways to measure ROI. Although these efforts may be less tangible immediately, as a business owner you should start trusting your instincts. In a piece for Inc., Peter Kozodoy brought up a unique concept: how trusting your instincts over hard data could help you make better business decisions. And science is supporting the notion that your intuition is there to help you.

 

In a report published in Psychological Science Joel Pearson, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New South Wales, and his research team found evidence that people can use their intuition to make better, faster, more accurate and more confident decisions. Considering how much we tend to cling to data in the business world, this may seen like an unreliable option, however Pearson’s study showed that surrounding ourselves with more positive, subliminal inputs not only helps us make better choices, but it helps us to trust those choices. Engaging in this concept of picking up on other’s subconscious messages could explain why some folks get "luckier" than others — they always have the uncanny ability to spot exceptional business ideas, or seem to find the best people to work with. Individuals who are more in tune with their intuition over what statistic might tell them may be coming out ahead.

 

As you continue forward in your sustainability efforts, remember that your decisions shouldn’t be based on stats alone. There are a little of elements to consider and numbers don’t always tell the full story. 

Sustainability and Data Management — They Do Go Hand in Hand

The SSC Team April 17, 2018 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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It seems like everything is online these days. And sure, you may be thinking “I am a sustainability consultant, what do I know about data management?” The answer is: probably not enough.

 

While a lot of good comes from “the cloud,” there are a number of factors we need to address as business consultants. You have a responsibility to protect your client’s data, your own materials, and also the best way to advise your clients to take their social responsibility to protect their business, employees and customers, too.

 

Most of us are working with a content management program to help manage workflow. It’s easy! Everyone on the team can get into the same projects! As the number of platforms expands, so too does our need to protect the information that we store in those platforms.

Questions to consider about data management:

·       Do you always know where your content and data are?

·       Do you know where data is being stored processed?

·       Is it secure/encrypted in-flight?

·       Who handles it?

·       Is it copied, shared, stored, archived?

·       Are your chosen third-party services available locally?

·       Do you have contract terms about data location?

It’s time we revisit our cloud practices, making sure we know where our content and data are going and where everything is being processed.

If you aren’t thinking about these issues and how they impact your business and your client’s data, you aren’t alone.

But you can take steps to improve the issues.

Platform ecosystems are ever evolving and if this area seems outside your realm of expertise, perhaps you should look to another consultant who can help you get a better handle being able to answer these questions for your own business, and help clients develop sustainable data-management policies.

You aren’t alone in this complex world, but don’t wait until your data — or your client’s data — is compromised before you get a handle on it.

Listen Up: Companies Should Not Be Afraid to Get Political

The SSC Team April 10, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Over the past two years, it seems like everything is political, from coffee makers to the color red, and as sustainability experts we desperately need to be advocates for climate change policy.

 

You might think jumping into the world of politics isn’t a good move if you’re not in an advocacy industry, but just “selling good products to good people.” Concerns about alienating some of your clients are real, but here’s the thing: fighting for what your business values likely won’t be offensive to your core clientele.

 

Here are some tips to help you commit to your goals so you can make a difference in the long term and continue doing important work in your day-to-day life.

 

A recent piece about how getting political has impacted companies following the Parkland shooting outlined some valid points for any industry or organization that intends to take a stand. The benefits that come with making your opinions known can be greater than sitting on the sidelines.

 

Time has shown that corporate responsibility can actually have a positive impact on business, including political advocacy and issue alignment.

 

Understanding the values and motivation of a company can deepen the relationship a business has with its customers, employees, and other stakeholders.

 

The four elements of sustainability consulting that we center our own work around — transparency, consistency, materiality, and leadership — are the same elements that frame a company’s plan to “go political.”

 

Relationships between companies and their stakeholders are based on trust — and transparency when it comes to areas that you feel your business should take a stand. If you are forthright with your ideas, clients are likely to accept them long term.

 

This is where consistency comes in. You can’t change your mind over time. For example, Patagonia has long been a vocal supporter of environmental legislation. When President Trump noted that he would eliminate federal protections for national monuments in Utah, Patagonia’s clear message that they opposed this decision was what customers and other stakeholders expected to hear. In fact, they likely would have been disappointed in Patagonia if the company had not responded in this manner.

 

Organizational leaders worry that speaking out might damage the bottom line, but consumers actually expect companies to be driven in part by profits —“Rent-seeking is not only tolerated, but admired, so long as a company is transparent, consistent, and shows leadership in its industry.”

 

And leadership plays a vital role. Stakeholders are more likely to purchase from, work for, and invest in companies that have social and environmental impact where leaders are genuine and firm in taking sides.

 

While it may seem like avoiding the political spotlight is the best choice, companies that are transparent, consistent, and can make a business case for political positions are sometimes better off standing out in the crowd.

 

And it’s true, sometimes a company might regret making their values known. But maybe that’s because the company needs to take a hard look at its values.

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

The SSC Team April 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 March.

 

The Importance of Creating a Diverse Work Team

 

How to Earn the Respect as a Sustainability Leader

 

How Does HR Fit into Sustainability?

 

Free Learning Resources for Aspiring Sustainability Professionals

 

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How Does HR Fit into Sustainability?

The SSC Team March 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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If you work in Human Resources, you may not have spent a lot of time thinking about sustainability. It is someone else’s responsibility, right? Wrong. Ellen Weinreb recently wrote that being an ‘employer of choice’ is synonymous with sustainability. She believes that the HR team plays a critical role in forming “green teams” and encouraging employee engagement on environmental and other sustainability issues.

 

In his piece on the role that HR plays in sustainability strategy, John McGuire outlines a few starting points for strengthening the relationship between HR and sustainability. For example, McGuire notes that an HR professional must help to embed and operationalize a sustainable strategy into the workplace culture. This can mean a number of things such as providing trainings and development sessions to get team members to understand and invest in green changes; offering incentives and recognition for sustainability achievements; setting policies that encourage employee cooperation and involvement with the company’s environmental objectives — the list goes on. But a stumbling block for some HR employees — and other members of your company — can be a lack of understanding when it comes to the term sustainability.

 

Steve Wilkins, HR manager for FedEx Express, believes that “sustainability” is an overused and hard to define word, making implementing a sustainability strategy challenging. Wilkins does have some tips to help your HR department get past this hurdle when it comes to getting a sustainability strategy up and running. There are three key areas that he finds vital to the process — communications, education and motivation.

 

Communications is a huge factor in any office — whether in person or via email. Wilkins suggests connecting with the employees via an internal newsletter that highlights eco-achievements as well as setting up volunteer opportunities and encouraging small green changes like turning off unused lights. By highlighting your company’s commitment to innovative changes, you can show your team that you are focused on creating a positive impact on the workforce.

 

Clearly no one can be on board with a strategy they don’t understand, so you have to make sure you educate the members of your team about the impact your company has on the environment. And about the ways you want to reduce that impact and how they can be a part of it. A sense of common purpose will help keep your team committed and lead to a productive and empowered staff.

 

Susan Winterberg wrote earlier this year about how the highest-ranking factor of what makes a corporation just is providing employees with a good job. One of the central factors to making that happen is aligning a company’s values, commitments and actions. An increase in internal collaboration will greatly improve sustainable efforts, staff involvement in the process and commitment from your company to making green changes.

 

And as McGuire noted motivation is key so providing rewards, recognition and responsibilities to your employees can help them feel even more invested in the sustainability process. Remember, sustainability strategy is not a PR opportunity, but is something that needs to be incorporated into a business's overarching objectives. All organizations should be accountable for their actions and work to integrate environmental practices into everyday business life.

How to Earn Respect as a Sustainability Leader

The SSC Team March 13, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives

When trying to lead a sustainability program from the inside, you may find that getting internal buy-in from your peers, managers and executives is the toughest part of the job. This is especially true when sustainability and CSR don’t get a lot of respect as a corporate priority.

Consider the situation from nay-sayers perspectives, though, and you can begin to see why sustainability (and you) aren’t favorites at work:

  • The CFO may be thinking: why was sustainability “forced” on my, and why does it always seem to be spending more money than it saves?
  • The COO may be thinking: have CSR programs really delivered anything meaningful to the company, or is it just a feel-good initiative that’s taking people away from their “real” jobs?
  • Department heads may be thinking: Do sustainability people do anything except for harp about recycling all the time?
  • The Director of Communications may be thinking: I just want to tell a good story. Why do the sustainability managers always want to bring up our weaknesses?

The industry, the corporate culture, the history of the company’s performance, the physical location, and many other factors may contribute to how your co-workers, subordinates, and leadership view the role of the sustainability leader.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Jim Whitehurst, the CEO of Red Hat, a security software company, gives some solid advice about earning respect inside a corporate culture.

Sustainability leaders may want to pay special attention to Whitehurst’s advice.

  • Show passion for the purpose of your organization and constantly drive interest in it. Even though you may have a TON of ideas on how your company can quickly change and make significant environmental gains, you should frame those ideas and the positive change they can create in language that speaks to the purpose of the organization itself. If internal stakeholders see sustainability programs as strengthening the business as a whole, and not just some ancillary reporting department, they will begin to respect sustainability’s role in the organization.
  • Demonstrate confidence. You may be asking employees who are not under your direct supervision to make changes to purchasing habits, reporting protocols, and behavior. You need to ask them with respect and confidence. Conveying confidence for a program that is supported up the chain-of-command will help establish you – and the programs you are implementing – will encourage others to follow your lead.
  • Engage your people. One of the biggest complaints about sustainability may stem from the top-down approach to change. Of course, you’re gathering the data, interpreting the reports, and making recommendations – but those who have to change because of a recommendation may come to see your role as an arbitrary rule imposer. As you look at programs and policies that affect department function or employee behavior, ask for input, ideas, and thoughts about how to implement change. You may get some great ideas from unexpected places.
  • Don’t be a know-it-all. You may know a bit about sustainability, but you probably don’t know a lot about the detailed work of the different functional areas in your company. By showing passion for shared company goals and values, being confident in your own role, and engaging people in different areas of the company, you will begin to build a positive reputation. But, you may also misstep. By “owning up” as Whitehurst says, you should frankly address when something doesn’t go as planned and help the team build a work-around together.

Managing sustainability is a difficult role in many corporate systems as sustainability is not a supervisory, but more of an advisory, department. This makes it even more important to earn respect with internal stakeholders. By doing so, you will really see the full effects of sustainability programs and help integrate sustainability into the fabric of the company’s culture.

Working on a tough sustainability project where internal stakeholders are pushing back? Let us know in the comments.