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TED Talk Katharine Hayhoe | The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Fight Climate Change: Talk About it

The SSC Team March 1, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:

Even feel backed into a corner trying to talk to someone about climate change who doesn’t believe in it? Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe says the way to approach those who don’t think this is a pressing issue isn’t by rehashing data and facts. In fact, Hayhoe believes the key to engaging in an actual discussion is making real connections through shared values like family, community and religion. Then you can prompt people to realize that they actually DO care about our changing climate. “We can't give in to despair,” she says. “We have to go out and look for the hope we need to inspire us to act — and that hope begins with a conversation, today.”

Are Green Bonds Really Making an Impact?

The SSC Team February 26, 2019 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Corporate green bonds, which are issued to fund climate-friendly projects, have grown incredibly since their inception in 2013. That year investors purchased $3 billion green bonds, but in 2017 that amount had sky rocketed to  $49 billion. A wide-range of companies issue these bonds including Apple, Unilever, and Bank of America and it doesn’t look like the trend will end.

 

But what are green bonds? And do they really contribute to creating positive results for the environment? A review analyzing the 217 corporate green bonds issued by public companies globally from January 1, 2013 to December 31, 2017, demonstrated that they are not only getting a positive reaction from the stock market, but also leading to improvements in financial and environmental performance, increased green innovations, and an increase in stock ownership by long-term and green investors.

The growth in the environmental performance of these companies as well as their increased green innovation is certainly encouraging.

Several measures suggest that after issuing green bonds, companies improved their environmental performance. When it came to the Thomson Reuters’ ASSET4 scale (based on more than 250 performance indicators like CO2 emissions, hazardous waste, and recycling), these green bond businesses environmental score rose by 6.1 percentage points. They also reduced their emissions by 17 tons of CO2 per $1 million of assets and increased their green innovations―measured by the ratio of the number of “green” patents filed to the total number of patents they filed in a given year― by 2.1 percentage points

All these positive response to such a relatively new innovation in impact investing shows that there is significant promise when it comes to fighting against climate change on a global scale. Big businesses are willing to step up and take the lead when it comes to making changes even if the government is not.

Sustainability By and For Kids

The SSC Team February 21, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Created by a group of third grade students (8 and 9 year olds) from Paris, this video explains what sustainable development means to them and works to inform other children about the issues. Focused on waste, food and transportation, the video focuses on a superhero (Ecoman) and a villain (Dump-it-man), making it perfect for kiddos (or anyone who loves comics).

TED Talk Chad Frischmann | 100 Solutions to Reverse Global Warming

The SSC Team January 24, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:

Chad Frischmann believes that if we can take more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than we put in is our only hope of averting climate disaster. In this TED Talk he explores current solutions for climate change including the traditional concepts like using renewable energy as well as some lesser-known approaches, such as changes to food production methods, better family planning and improvements to the education of girls. Take a listen and learn more about ways we can work to reverse global warming and create a better world.

Purpose Driven Companies Gain Consumers’ Hearts and Minds

The SSC Team January 8, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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It’s not a new concept, but it does seem to be a growing one — the general public’s desires for greener offerings are driving more businesses to use product certification. While branding has long played a big role in decision making when it comes to making a purchase, the rise of “purpose-driven” brands is heartening.

 

Whether it’s groceries, coffee, clothing or home products, there is a growing awareness among consumers that making more ethical choices when spending money can actually make an impact.

 

Although we’ve discussed the concept of consumer desires driving the ambitions of a business to “go green” for their clientele in the past, there has been tremendous growth in this area since 2013.

 

Iaian Patton recently pointed out that during this is a time of intensified feelings about the environmental challenges and climate change issues we are facing as a society it’s clear that consumers are differentiating brands by their authenticity, values and sustainability credentials at an unprecedented rate.

 

In fact, this rise in mindful buying shows that when it comes to the world of sustainability, customers can be a part of the solution and not just the problem.  Recent research by Deloitte showed that nearly 90 percent of millennials believe that a company’s success should be measured not only by it’s financial performance but also by its social and environmental impact.

 

And to help demonstrate to consumers that a product is working toward being sustainable, many businesses are pursuing  more rigorous, industry-recognized certifications, which serve as a tool for those in the same industry to work toward unified standards.

There is simply no doubt that companies have the opportunity to change and influence consumption habits. And this is where corporate responsibility really comes into play. 

Patton notes that from a long-term perspective, certification can help ensure the future viability of farming and agriculture, which likely will confront increasing pressures from climate change and socio-economic factors. By applying best practices related to environmental management, worker health and safety, and farm productivity, certified farms are preparing to be able to deliver high-quality, sustainable produce in the future.

Whether it’s in agriculture or another industry, it is never too late to implement your brand’s purpose driven ethics into the marketing strategy.

For many consumers these days, sustainability is basically the same thing as quality. So push your company to make long-term decisions, and we bet your consumers are going to be more apt to buy in.

Exploring Innovative Solutions to Plastic Recycling

The SSC Team January 3, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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A new year is around the corner, and it’s important to make the time to take stock of sustainable efforts that are working, as well as those that can be improved. Without much effort, it is clear that we need to continue making global changes to reduce the world’s plastic obsession and subsequent clogging up of our streams, lakes, and oceans with the unrecycled waste.

 

According to Euromonitor, in 2016 about 480 billion drinks in plastic containers were sold but fewer than half of the containers were collected for recycling. Where did more than 240 billion bottles end up? In landfills, being burned for energy, and being dropped when the user was done with them – ending up making their way to the watershed.

 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, of all the plastic made in the U.S. in 2015, less than 10% made it to a recycling center.

 

Clearly we need solutions.

 

While the idea of embracing an alternate substance for single serving use items can be appealing, it can also be cost prohibitive. We need a multi-faceted approach to disposable plastic waste reduction that might include:

 

·       Reducing single use plastic consumption as much as possible. Think straws, bags and to-go food containers – they gotta go. Paper, reusable container incentives, and simply figuring out a new way to tote things around can’t be that hard, albeit inconvenient at times.

·       Incentive Reverse Vending. Like a traditional bottle deposit, people return plastic bottles into a machine in exchange for things like cash refunds, donations to charity, discounted tickets for movies, paid phone cards, etc.

·      Plastic as Currency. Another interesting approach is The Plastic Bank. The Plastic Bank’s founder, David Katz said, “We have built out the largest chain of stores in the world for the ultra-poor, where everything in the store is available to be purchased using plastic garbage. Most proudly, we offer school tuition, medical insurance, Wi-Fi, power, sustainable cooking fuel, high-efficiency stoves and everything else the world needs and can't afford.” While most efforts are focused on getting plastic out of the ocean, Katz hopes that The Plastic Bank will encourage people to keep their plastic waste from going in the ocean in the first place. How does it work? People go door-to-door or through the streets collecting plastic, which they then bring to a Bank locations, where it's weighed and checked for quality, then the value of the plastic is transferred into a personal online account. Plastic becomes money. No one wants to throw money away.

What other innovative plastic reuse and recycling ideas have floated across your Twitter feed? Share them in the comments!

Increasing Supply Chain Transparency Through Federal Oversight

The SSC Team December 25, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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In our growing global economy, there are so many risks to be considered when a company establishes their supply chain. From forced labor to human trafficking it is vital that those in the sustainability industry make every effort to address these atrocities if they arise.

 

On January 1, 2012, California enacted the Transparency in Supply Chain Act, requiring retailers and manufacturers with annual sales of $100 million or more conducting business in California to disclose their efforts to eliminate human trafficking and slavery from their supply chain. Ensuring disclosure of "to what extent if any" a company engages in the five following activities: verification, auditing, certification, internal accountability, and training are required.

In October, the US House of Representatives introduced H.R. 7089: Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2018, in an effort to amend the Securities Act of 1924. This resolution, like the Transparency Act, would require certain companies to disclose information describing any measures they have taken to identify and address conditions of forced labor, slavery, human trafficking, and child labor within the company’s supply chains. In 2014, the Department of Labor identified 136 goods from 74 countries around the world made by forced labor and child labor. That information, and the current challenges of prosecuting the perpetrators of such crimes, are the driving force behind this legislation which states “the United States is the world’s largest importer, and in the 21st century, investors, consumers, and broader civil society increasingly demand information about the human rights impact of products in the United States market.”

With the impact that that this bill could have on business around the country in mind, we wanted to look back at the way the Transparency Act impacted midsize clothing retailer Eileen Fisher when it went into effect. The business was already committed to sustainability so they weren’t starting from scratch, but they aren’t a business empire like Adidas or Nike so their resources for these efforts were limited.

Shortly after the act was in place, the company’s Human Rights Associate Luna Lee spoke about what actions the business had taken to comply with the new law. What the team at Eileen Fisher did in order to implement efforts to meet the requirements of the Transparency Act will likely be applicable and beneficial to companies that would be impacted by HR 7089.

A key takeaway is that you might know all about your company’s sustainability obligations, but your suppliers may not. It’s vital that you take the time to educate them. And while you're at it, ask how they can help you. They may have great ideas, but believe you don’t really care. Let them know that you do!

TED Talk Johan Rockström: 5 transformational policies for a prosperous and sustainable world

The SSC Team December 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:

Got 12 minutes? Of course you do! Spend it with sustainability expert Johan Rockström as he explains the path for building a robust future without wrecking the planet. In his talk, he debuts the Earth3 model — a methodology bringing together the UN Sustainable Development Goals with the nine planetary boundaries, beyond which earth's vital systems could become unstable. Rockström examines five transformational policies that may provide inclusive and prosperous world development, while assisting the earth in a move toward being more stable and resilient.

A 6-Minute Guide to Better Sustainability Decisions

The SSC Team December 18, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

This video from Harvard Business Review introduces a methodology for helping you choose the best decision-support tool for your specific business situation. While the tool is not sustainability-focused, we found it fascinating to think about how to use a decision-tree model like the one presented for thinking about high-stakes decisions like:

  • Accounting for climate change impacts on capital investments.

  • Introducing new "green" products into the marketplace.

  • Rolling out a new telecommuting program.

  • Planning new freight routes for global distribution.

Watch this 6-minute video and let us know if you think this tool helps identify better ways to make high-stakes sustainability decisions?  Leave a comment or join the conversation on Twitter!

Thank You Paul Polman: Lessons in Leading-Edge Sustainability Leadership at the Fortune Global 500 Level

The SSC Team December 4, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Paul Polman has a lengthy and impressive history when it comes pushing the boundaries on sustainability strategy at a major global corporation.

 

As Unilever prepares for his retirement as their CEO at the end of 2018, we wanted to share his recent address from the CECP CEO Investor Forum and look at some of the remarkable changes he helped implement with his focus on sustainable efforts and embracing “long-termism” in the business world.

 

When Polman became the CEO of Unilever in 2009, he was committed to the notion that business has to be a force for good. However he knew that that wasn’t just going to happen without strong strategic leadership, demonstrating possible profitability alongside sustainable efforts, and ability to push back when required.

 

His team developed and introduced the Sustainable Living Plan early in his time with the company. This plan aimed to allow Unilever to grow while reducing their environmental footprint. Unprecedented at the time, the plan included significant changes, such as having 100% of agricultural raw materials be sustainable by 2020, developing a framework for fair pay, and investing heavily in hygiene promotion in developing markets.

 

Unilever became one of the classics in sustainability case studies – proving that profitability and sustainability can thrive with the right set of goals and directives.

 

As Unilever’s success grew, Polman has worked to promote sustainability and long-termism outside of Unilever as well. He has served as the chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and currently sits on the board of directors of the Consumer Goods Forum, leading its sustainability efforts. He is a member of board of the UN Global Compact and has also served as one of the 27 members of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

 

The recipient of numerous awards for his leadership and efforts in the area of sustainable development, we can only hope Polman will continue being committed to promoting and developing sustainable efforts around the world in the new year. Thank you, Mr. Polman, for being a standard bearer for strategic sustainability throughout your accomplished career.