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

The SSC Team May 1, 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 April.

 

Guests, Properties Need to Coordinate in Minimizing Food Waste

 

5 Ways You can Promote Sustainability by Instilling Values In Your Organization

 

Listen Up: Companies Should Not Be Afraid to Get Political

 

Becoming a Better Sustainability Consultant: Understanding Your Client’s Industry

 

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TEDTalk 3 Creative Ways to Fix Fashion’s Waste Problem

The SSC Team April 26, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

We may all have too many clothes in our closet that we keep meaning to sort through and donate, but did you ever think about the clothes that never make it to anyone’s closet? If you thought that last season's unpurchased coats, pants and tops ended up being put to use, you’re wrong. Sadly, most of it (nearly 13 million tons each year in the United States alone) ends up in landfills. Clearly the world of fashion has a massive waste problem, and Amit Kalra wants to fix it. Here are some creative ways that he believes the industry can evolve to be more conscientious about the environment —and gain a competitive advantage at the same time.

 

Free Learning Resources for Aspiring Sustainability Professionals

The SSC Team March 22, 2018 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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 Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives

Sustainability consulting is about so much more than caring about mitigating the effects of climate change. We often hear about the passion and energy aspiring consultants hope to bring to the field, but what a good consultant really needs is business knowledge, a solid understanding of the sustainability field, consulting skills, and change management skills.

Of course, growing into the role is part of the process of developing into a senior consultant. And growing requires learning.

If you have a solid background in business or consulting, maybe you need to focus on your sustainability knowledge. If you are a science and data expert, maybe you need to brush up on your strategic management and leadership skills.

Whatever your skill gap is, whatever your job status is, whatever your goals are, you should always set aside some time to learn something new.

We came across this ridiculously good article from Inc. featuring 21 awesome places to learn skills online, and we highlighted a few good ones to illustrate how easy it is to brush up on key sustainability and consulting skills for free.

 Go forth and learn.

· MIT OpenCourseWare – MIT has offered courseware, learning resources, and syllabi up online for free for a number of years now. Review lecture notes, find the best textbooks, follow along with lab demos on courses ranging from climate studies, change management, leadership, and sustainability policy.

· Boundless – A company shaping the way textbooks are written and sold, Boundless offers great overview information on dozens of topics to help students quickly understand the basics of any field. From accounting to biology to business, Boundless is a solid place to brush up on a topic you don’t need to know tons of detail about.

· UReddit – Reddit surprises with some really interesting courses on things that you might not be able to find anywhere else online. Think “Advanced training on Microsoft Excel” or “Starting your own business.”

· Future Learn – A private company owned by The Open University offering free coursework from professionals in the UK and partners around the world.

· Free course: Make an Impact: Sustainability for Professionals. Find out how to integrate a sustainable development strategy into your company with this free online course. University of Bath.

· Supply Chain Innovation: How Technology Can Create a Sustainable Future. University of Twente.

Once you’ve built your foundational knowledge, come back and get certified as a green auditor or connect with our CEO for personal job coaching based on your newly developed skills.

TEDTalk 3 Thoughtful Ways to Conserve Water

The SSC Team February 22, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

Lana Mazahreh grew up in Jordan where people have been living with absolute water scarcity since 1973. It was there that she learned to conserve water as soon as she could write her own name. The United Nations say one in three people around the world live facing a water crisis and Mazahreh’s practical talk shares three tips from water-poor countries on how to conserve water and address this global crisis.

The Obstacles with Sustainability Strategy

The SSC Team January 4, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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After you set up a sustainability strategy for a client, does it feel like they end up standing in their own way? Here you have a business that asked you to create a plan, but when it is presented they are hesitant to take the necessary steps to implement one or all of your ideas?

 

Talk about frustrating! Recently the Harvard Business Review talked about the challenges of navigating the politics of innovation and honestly the same concepts can be applied to sustainability strategy. So how can we leap over those hurdles that are getting in the way of a positive end result?

 

Here are the tips Brian Uzzi shared:

 

1. Anticipate Resistance
While the client may be clamoring to “be innovative” or incorporate “creative, new ideas” they may also not actually have the resources necessary to implement them in the long run. While the need for funds or time (or both) may cause resistance initially, you can present how your idea(s) is new, creative and won’t be stealing resources from an on-going project. This should help encourage clients to be more willing to implement your plan.

 

2. Unmask Political Motives

While it may seem clear to you that some kind of internal, political factors are getting in the way of sustainable changes, often the real reasons may not come to the forefront. The clients may present issues —cost, time, complexity — that are publically acceptable but are just covers for underlying factors. Maybe the client sees that the change may impact them in a way they don’t find positive. Or they feel like there isn’t enough data to support making adjustments. To move past issues that may not even be made clear to you, might require expanding your network and bringing more people on board to gain support to move forward.

 

3. Find the right champion

That’s where tip three comes into play. You may need another player within the organization — perhaps someone very senior — who will buy into the sustainable efforts you plan to implement. With them on board, it will likely be less challenging to convince others that there is merit to what you are proposing. However, you may need more than management support to seal the deal.

 

4. Secure social proof

So people wanted to make their office more sustainable, but they haven’t seen hard data that supports it will be effective. But since that evidence won’t be available until they implement the plan what are you going to do? Here’s where social impact can come into play. At the end of the day if enough people believe something, it doesn’t really matter how many facts we have, that social pressure is likely to be enough. If you can inspire some support within the larger team it is likely to lead to more support and implementation of your plan from the higher ups. If people in the office want to reduce waste and lessen their footprint, their desire is likely to impact others in the office.

 

Implementing your strategy may end up taking as much (or more!) work than creating it. But if you can approach the challenge with awareness, hopefully each project can be accomplished without a lot of added stressors. 

Using sustainability to avoid risk

The SSC Team February 21, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

The evidence that sustainability can be good for business is overwhelming. Most of the case studies, examples, and analysis that has been done show positive links between a sustainable approach to environmental and social issues, and corporate profits, Thus far, the research has been primarily focused on direct operational efficiencies (like retrofitting your office lighting to save money and reduce your carbon footprint), innovation (using biomimicry to drive new product development), and productivity (ie. more engaged employees take less sick leave).

Over the past few years, there has been an increasing amount of discussion about the nexus between sustainability and risk management. And for corporations operating in complex supply chains in a globally-connected economy -- well -- effective risk management can be the difference between success and failure. Below, we take a look at three articles that shed light on why companies still struggle to incorporate sustainability into their risk management practices (and vice versa).

Has sustainability become a risky business? This GreenBiz article by John Davies reviews a report by Ernst & Young. The key takeaway: While more companies are concerned about increased risk and the proximity of natural resource shortages, corporate risk response appears to be inadequate to address the scope and scale of some of these challenges. The free report looks at six corporate sustainability trends with a strong focus on the internal influencers of corporate performance (CEOs and boards), as well as external forces ranging from governments to shareholders and investors.

Playing It Safe Is Riskier than You Think by Bill Taylor in the Harvard Business Review makes the case that "difficult and uncertain times are often the best times for organizations to separate themselves from the pack, so long as their leaders are prepared not to stand pat." While not directly about sustainability, this article certainly supports the notion that economic turmoil is no reason not to be ambitious about tackling big sustainability challenges.

Research: Why Companies Keep Getting Blind-Sided by Risk by Mary Driscoll in the Harvard Business Review presents fascinating insight into why companies (and their executives) are not succeeding at identifying and mitigating risk. Survey findings indicate that most organizations’ leaders did indeed express concern about the impact of political turmoil, natural disasters, or extreme weather. But the findings also show that the people at the front lines of the business were hamstrung by a lack of visibility into risk. Nearly half said they lacked the resources needed to adequately assess business continuity programs at supplier sites. Many relied on the suppliers filling out perfunctory, unreliable checklists. There are some big lessons here for sustainability practitioners! 

We are focused on helping companies use a "lens of sustainability" to spot risk earlier, broaden risk response options, and more effectively mitigate risk within their operations and all along their supply chain. If this work strikes a chord with you, please get in touch with us. We'd love to hear from you!

 

TEDTalks Sustainability: To Solve Old Problems, Study New Species

The SSC Team February 14, 2017 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk, and here is one of our favorites. Enjoy!

Developmental and regeneration biologist Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado delivers a talk about how the limited number of species involved in today's medical and scientific research studies are harming innovation. Advocating for the use of nature's wonderfully abundant, diverse and mysterious features to explore new solutions to old problems, Alvarado hopes to see biological breakthroughs.

Because research focuses generally on just seven species, including rats, chickens, fruit flies and humans, scientists end up studying an astonishingly narrow sliver of life. By expanding our view, Alvarado hopes  it'll be enough to solve the oldest, most challenging problems in science, like cancer. In this visually captivating talk, Alvarado calls on us to interrogate the unknown and shows us the remarkable discoveries that surface when we do.

What are you watching? Share with us in the comments. 

 

 

 

 

Developmental and regeneration biologist

Incorporating 30 Elements of Consumer Value to Maximize Sustainability Returns

The SSC Team December 1, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Occasionally we run across an article that is so jam packed with information and application to the world of corporate sustainability that we don't want to summarize a single word.

Instead, we recommend you stop what you're doing right now and read every single word of the recent article, The Elements of Value, from the September issue of the Harvard Business Review.

The article's implications for how B2C companies can position their own sustainability activities to generate consumer value are invaluable ways to approach sustainability strategy in product and service design and development. 

Yes. Mind. Blown.

Now that you're really understanding how this can truly transform your business, contact us so we can help get you on the path. The hardest part is usually the first step. We're here to help.

 

Don’t “Adapt” to Environmental Trends, Changes and Regulations, Prepare for Them

The SSC Team November 22, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Was Microsoft ready for mobile computing? Nope. But they didn’t need to be because they were busy preparing for cloud computing. Was Google+ the next gen social media powerhouse. Nope. But it didn’t need to be because they were preparing to pretty much become synonymous with “the Internet” through unprecedented search, advertising, subscription, and cloud-based tools (not to mention Google X).  

Business analysis often write snappy articles about how certain giants “failed” to take advantage of market opportunities, but they’re often looking at the short term view. Companies like IBM, Google, Microsoft, Union Pacific, Disney, Wal-Mart and so many others, are already thinking about their next thing, not just “the next big thing.”

“The truth is that once you find yourself in a position where you need to adapt, it’s usually too late,” said business consultant Greg Satell in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review.

Build a Better Business

Take the focus of being “agile” and “ready for the next trend,” and start focusing on developing a product, system, or service that is better than anything available – and be absolutely certain to be a leader on sustainability issues today. Don’t wait, or it’s too late.

Lead on Sustainability

Many firms approach sustainability as a checkbox. Don’t. Even if the pressure to develop a policy is coming from clients or regulators, develop a strategic sustainability policy and then just do one extra thing to advance beyond the baseline.

Maybe that one extra thing is writing in a lobbying effort toward an environmental regulation that will help give your firm a competitive advantage because you’re already doing so well in that area. Maybe that one extra thing is, not just reporting on emissions, but taking a small step in reducing them – lighting retrofits, solar panels, telecommuting programs. Maybe that one extra thing is engaging in a peer benchmarking study to see how far your organization needs to reach to get to the front of the pack.

As climate change effects become more acute and the global community begins to coalesce around ways to work together to make progress on combating it, don’t get caught playing catch up.

“Business that focus on solving big problems and are willing to invest in them for years —or even decades — can get a lot of other things wrong,” said Satell.

Climate change is a “big problem,” so get to solving it. It will be profitable for your firm and the planet itself. 

Integrate Total Cost of Ownership with Your LCA to Make Sustainable Choices

The SSC Team November 17, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Sustainability professionals speak the language of quantifying carbon emissions. Most other business professionals, however, speak the language of currency. Budgets. Market fluctuations. Stock price. Cost of materials or labor.

For most procurement professionals, pricing out goods and services generally means looking at the bottom line cost per unit over time. For example, a restaurant chain looking at cloth versus paper napkins is factoring in the annual cost of purchasing and disposing of paper napkins versus the prorated annual cost of purchasing, laundering, and replacing cloth napkins over their useful life. It’s dollars and cents.

Where natural capital accounting is a way to present the balance sheet of an organization by factoring in environmental impact, total cost of ownership, or TCO, helps firms better integrate sustainability information into the procurement process.

By taking the LCA data and drilling into each stage in the life cycle and calculating an environmental “cost,” a firm can create a TCO framework for a product or service. Or, better yet, can create better procurement guidelines based on optimal TCO variables that balance environmental and financial choices.

A Big Leap

TCO work is not easy. It requires firms to “dive deep into the value chain, and look at factors including manufacturing time, costs of parts, research and development, and environmental sustainability. This includes emissions from suppliers as well as those of consumers using the products and services.”

However, by using TCO purchasing practices firms are finding new business opportunities by meeting the increasing demands of consumers seeking “green” goods and services, decreased overall costs as waste reductions are targeted, and helps firms focus on the long term benefits of spending more up front, for example on energy efficient or renewable energy technology, resulting in a net decrease in operational costs over time.

Just like natural capital accounting, TCO work is difficult, not quite standardized at the level of most carbon emissions calculators, and underutilized. We hope to see more firms take up both practices, further integrating the bottom line dollar with the bottom line for the environment.