Ever thought that sustainability is like football? No? Think about it, a good game plan is the basis of helping you win. If players were running in all directions performing random actions on their own a team would not stand a chance! The same concept can be applied to your sustainability plan. Magnin uses football as a metaphor to present a 5-level approach for your sustainability plan. This framework can be very useful for gaining perspective and having structure as you analyze an organization, write a report, answer questions, and help people avoid picking random actions from a list of best practices. Having a game plan will establish a course of action that is more effective with the resources available in order to make maximum progress on a sustainability journey.
In order to make sweeping environmental changes, companies are going to have to step it up and work together to inspire the movement. Take the coordinated efforts that emerged when 17 of New York's top marketing, advertising, and communications agencies came together during the summer with leading climate scientists to launch an effort that would encourage urgent and collective action addressing climate change.
Through this meeting of the minds, Potential Energy emerged. Their mission? To put the full force of the creative industry behind the need to rapidly accelerate active support for clean energy as a cultural norm. This is not a small task, as those of us in the sustainability industry know after butting heads with folks who don’t even believe we have a problem.
So what was the motivation behind this campaign? Perhaps a little built of guilt about the constant narrative that consumerism and a more, more, more culture with no concern for the environmental impact is at play.
John Marshall, chief strategy officer at Lippincott and president of Potential Energy, hit the nail on the head — the current green narrative simply isn’t connecting with a broad enough base to drive the urgency of these efforts.
“We're going to need a new narrative, one that de-polarizes and de-liberalizes the issue and moves beyond traditional messages of the environmental community and broadens it.”
Marshall’s team at Lippincott conducted a market segmentation based on querying 6,000 U.S. voters. They found that only 13 percent of the voting population is connecting with the traditional environmentalist message. So now we need to figure out how to create climate or clean energy or renewable energy messages that actually connect with and motivate the other 87 percent. In order to do that there are lots of questions to answer: How do they think? What do they value? What motivates them? What tribes do they live in? How do we make this relevant?
We know that this is nothing if not timely, in fact our citizen’s desire for efforts to address climate change seem to be moving in reverse with a Gallup poll from March noting that the percentage of Republicans who believe climate change is caused by human activity dropped over the past year, from 40 percent in 2017 to 35 percent.
The New York Times also featured a lengthy look at how we could have solved climate change in the 1980s, but here we are with intensely polarized — and, arguably, misinformed — opinions. All this means that changing minds is not going to be an easy task.
In the past, advertising has not simply promoted consumerism, but also the idea that the more you have the happier you will be. Only recently that people have begun to embrace the concept that we can live well — perhaps even live better — if we have less stuff.
So Potential Energy hopes that their efforts can resonate with those who aren’t on that page yet. They are working to bring some of the most creative people on the planet together in order to come up with crazy, weird, new ideas, to test those ideas, and try to launch them. At this point, we simply don't have time for the existing messages to continue to not work, Marshall said.
Here’s hoping we can find a message to reach that 87% and get everyone on board to help our world. We don’t have a back up, so we’ve got to find a way to make this one last!
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!
Spend 12 minutes with data scientist, Angel Hsu, and learn about how China, the most populous country on earth (and the world's biggest polluter) is now one of its largest producers of clean energy. Which way will China go in the future and how will it affect the global environment? Hsu explores the ways that China is creating a future based on alternative energy while also facing up to the environmental catastrophe it created when it rapidly industrialized.
This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.
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 October.
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.
Looking for some inspiration that will help you set bold sustainability goals? Check out this webinar on Greenbiz.com. It focuses on how going big when it comes to sustainability goals can be a smart business strategy as well as good stewardship. The panel is composed of sustainability professionals from big businesses — General Mills, Kering, McDonald’s and Quantis — and discusses topics like science-driven goal setting, the Science-Based Targets initiative, planetary boundaries, Sustainable Development Goals and more. The talk also provides concrete business cases from diverse organizations so you can see how they're working through this transition.
Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:
If you have ever been into a restaurant kitchen, you've likely seen how much food, water and energy are wasted on a daily basis. In his talk, Chef Arthur Potts-Dawson shared his vision to drastically reduce restaurant and supermarket waste. His plan involves creating recycling, composting, and sustainable stations that will benefit the environment and allow for the creation of great food!
This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.
Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.
In today’s marketplace, sustainability consulting is a catch-all term, used to describe multiple professions. It is important for readers to pay careful attention when an author predicts the growth of the “sustainability consulting industry” since it can be defined in so many ways.
We believe that many of the firms that claim to offer sustainability consulting services are, in fact, offering something quite different. Sometimes it is a narrower subset of services (like energy auditing); in other cases it is simply traditional services (like public relations) focused on sustainability initiatives.
So how do we define sustainability consulting?
In general, organizations purporting to offer sustainability consulting services fall into the following broad categories.
Sustainability Strategy: these consulting firms provide planning and strategy services—usually for an entire organization or division. Sustainability strategy firms help businesses use sustainability as a lens through which to make good business decisions. Their goal is to help clients innovate, gain competitive advantage, satisfy stakeholders (especially customers), and empower employees to integrate sustainability into their day-to-day jobs. This type of firm usually has staff with extensive training in management, business administration, organizational development, and/or change management. Example: Strategic Sustainability Consulting.
Technical Support: these firms focus on one or more technical aspects of sustainability, such as green building design and construction, renewable energy and energy efficiency, waste diversion and recycling, and water and wastewater services. Rather than help the company integrate sustainability into its overall business decision-making processes, these firms tend to tackle discrete projects within a facility or division. Their staff generally has engineering or other technical degrees. Example: ERM.
Testing, Auditing and Verification: these firms provide third-party review of sustainability data—either on a corporate/facility level or a product level—and may provide assurance, auditing, or verification services. A firm in this category may exclusively cater to sustainability data (e.g. third-party assurance of a sustainability report), but will often provide non-sustainability services as well (e.g. third-party assurance of annual reports). Example: UL Environment.
Visioning and Facilitation: these firms focus on the “big picture” of sustainability, working with clients to brainstorm and create new mental models for companies, communities, and societies. These firms tend to be smaller and more radical, since the market for their services is smaller and their goal is to push the boundary of “business as usual.” The principals of these firms come from a variety of backgrounds, but often have training in facilitation techniques like Open Space, World Café, and the Art of Hosting. Example: The Natural Step.
Sustainability Marketing: these firms help clients tell their sustainability story. They range from public relations firms to graphic designers, and have varying involvement in the crafting of the story versus the delivery of the message. Staff at these firms usually has marketing, advertising, design and communications degrees. Many smaller firms in this category will focus exclusively on sustainability marketing, but larger companies will often have only one division devoted to sustainability and focus most of its effort on other communication areas. Example: J. Ottman Consulting.
Sustainability Software: one of the fastest growing areas of the sustainability marketplace is the development and sales of sustainability software—including carbon accounting, EHS management, and sustainability reporting platforms. Many of these companies offer some kind of consulting support, but it is generally related to the set-up and implementation of the sustainability software. While there is some overlap between this category and the Technical Support category, we distinguish the two because the Technical Support companies generally provide a service (e.g. an energy audit) while Sustainability Software companies generally sell a distinct product. Example: Credit360.
Check out our past blog “State of the Sustainability Consulting Industry” to learn more on the background for these findings.
Are you searching for ways to make your office more environmentally friendly? Before declaring a moratorium on plastic bags and forcing your co-workers into a carpool schedule, take some time to look in the mirror and reflect on your own habits.
We are, quite literally and biologically, creatures of habit and repetition, so creating a new pattern of behavior is far from easy. Our brains love saving time by making some actions automatic, even if those actions are ultimately harmful to us or our planet. If you’re trying to get your colleagues on board with a few new, positive sustainability habits around the office, start first by taking stock of your own bad habits and serving as a role model for change.
Global CEO coach Sabina Nawaz stresses the importance of frequently tracking and reviewing your goals and progress when trying to form a new habit. In order to track and measure your progress, your goals must be exactly that: measurable. Trying to attack too lofty or broad of a goal can be overwhelming and may ultimately lead you to slip back into negative behaviors.
Consider choosing 3 small tasks that you can concretely determine if you’ve completed or not. For example, bringing in your reusable bottle, unplugging your work station at the end of the day and printing less than 30 pages per day. The Nature Conservatory and Huffington Post also have some other great suggestions for small ways to decrease energy use and waste in the office.
Nawaz recommends using a simple chart called the “Yes List” to quickly track whether you’ve completed the new habit each day. You can make a hard copy or keep the tracker on your mobile device to make it even more convenient. If the chart is too complicated or cumbersome, you won’t use it, so make sure the chart is quick and clean like the one below.
Having a visual representation of your progress will keep you motivated and also help you determine which habits you may need to adjust or the ones you’ve successfully completed, so you can introduce a new habit.
After you’ve successfully tracked and started to shift your own habits for a few weeks, share your chart with your colleagues as motivation for them and a proof point that change is possible!
Invite them to join you on your sustainability journey and share resources so they can pick the habit that make most sense for them.
In a rapidly evolving, globalized world, collaboration between companies has become inevitable and necessary. Corporate partnerships can create many mutually desirable outcomes, like fostering innovative and lucrative ideas, lowering overhead costs, immediately increasing available capital for project expansion, among others.
While the financial benefits of corporate collaboration have long been touted, these partnerships also have significant potential to impact our world for the greater good. Recently, several companies have banded together to form formidable forces against various environmental threats.
For example, the Fazendas São Marcelo cattle farm in Brazil has collaborated with other supplier ranches to address the significant deforestation in their area caused by cattle farming. Violaine Berger of GreenBiz describes this as a “jurisdictional approach”, as it engages stakeholders across entire regions or landscapes, rather than individual farms or businesses. By working together, suppliers can co-create joint sustainable land-use plans, which can “balance economic growth, social development and environmental protection and can attract new sources of finance” in their distinct locations.
Instead of competing, the Fazendas São Marcelo cattle farm and other farms like it, can reap the benefits of new buyers interested in satisfying consumers’ heightened demand for sustainably sourced beef, all while ensuring a long term supply for each of their businesses and helping to preserve vital ecosystems.
Similarly, the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI) challenges CEOs of salmon production and distribution companies worldwide to work together to reshape the farming industry to address a growing population and necessity for sustained food sources. The aquaculture industry faces the delicate task of satisfying an increased demand for protein, as well as producing it in a way that minimizes damage to the natural world.
The GSI allows companies to share best practices and strategize around shared sustainability challenges. They recognize that success of an individual company can in turn bolster the reputation of the entire sector. Due to this partnership, 40% of the GSI’s members have reached the rigorous ASC standard, meaning they are certified as environmentally and socially responsible producers and retailers.
Even large companies like Borealis, the world’s 8th largest plastic producer, are jumping on the sustainability collaboration train. Recently, the company partnered with other European packing corporations like Henkel and Mondi, as well as the German recycling firm APK, in attempts to solve the problem of recycling multi-layer packing. Although they are extremely popular due to their light weight and ability to extend shelf life, multilayer packages consist of layers of polyethylene, making them difficult to separate in ways necessary for reprocessing, resulting in substantial waste.
APK has suggested its its newcycling solvent-based system to separate the layers, while Mondi
has designed a low-density polyethylene and is hoping to test it on commercial products, including Henkel’s Persil detergent pods as early as next year.
Consumers are becoming more and more attuned to the ways plastics are contributing to pollution and companies are beginning to respond to meet their demands for change. By teaming up, these European corporations are able to join the ranks of socially-minded businesses doing their small part to protect our oceans.
When it comes to saving the planet, there is so much work to be done and there is no reason any one company should be trying to do it alone. Collaboration just makes sense. But why should the work stop at the environmental level?
Just as these companies did, surely strategic partnerships in other sectors should be able to address world sustainability issues like poverty, access to clean water and health care disparities. Putting competition on the back burner and prioritizing collaboration just might be the solution to our world’s biggest problems.