- Lower-level employees on a volunteer green team, trying to steer their companies down a greener path
- Newly appointed Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) charged with the momentous task of integrating sustainability into the C-Suite
- Sustainability consultants that have buy-in from the client’s leadership, but are struggling to push it down into individual departments
Retail OperationsEnvironmental sustainability extends to all aspects of a company, including their retail operations. Whether it is a store or corporate offices, a company should be putting in effort to make these areas as sustainable as possible, such as having facilities be LEED certified. Other ways to make your retail operations more "green" can include incorporating green standards for all new warehousing and participating in the ENERGY STAR program. The Retail Operations sector has three different dimensions:
- Store/Corporate Offices
- Data Center & Applications
Supply ChainSupply chain sustainability might not be the first aspect of a company's sustainability plan to come to mind, but it is no less important than any other aspect. To be a leader in the retail industry when it comes to supply chain sustainability, a company must demonstrate the reduction of environmental impact through the optimization of transportation, work closely with suppliers to help improve their sustainability metrics, and be more transparent when it comes to audit statistics (e.g., percent of non-compliant factories). The Supply Chain sector has three different dimensions:
- Supplier Engagement
- Supply Chain Transparency & Traceability
ProductsWhen someone thinks of a retail organization and sustainability, often times their first thought is "how sustainable is the product?" RILA recognizes that product sustainability is a key component in a company's overall environmental sustainability and offers some suggestions on how to be a leader when it comes to making a company's product more sustainable. Some examples are using renewable energy sources during manufacturing, offering take-back services, and designing products with a "cradle to cradle" outlook. The Products sector has three different dimensions:
- Product & Packaging Design and Development
- Owned Manufacturing/Production
- Product & Packaging End-Of-Life Stewardship
Environmental IssuesAnd finally, true environmental sustainability cannot happen if a company does not focus on the environmental issues at hand. How a company addresses these issues - energy, waste, recycling, etc. - in the context of the retail sector is telling, and some industry leaders are already paving the way. Some of these companies are implementing leading waste technologies and policies, establishing green chemistry programs that helps reduce toxins, recycling and reusing water, using alternative energies, and more. The Environmental Issues sector has four different dimensions:
- Energy & GHG Emissions
- Water & Wastewater
- Waste & Recycling
- Chemical & Toxics
Strategy and CommitmentBefore a company can begin their sustainability journey, they must first have some sort of sustainability strategy, right? And if that strategy is weak, how strong will a company's goals be? How well will the company show executives that sustainability is necessary? What this section hopes to capture is how well a company is addressing environmental sustainability at a governance level. A leading company in this sector will have a sustainability strategy that is aligned across departments and integrated into corporate strategy, has defined comprehensive and aggressive goals, incorporates executives from all relevant parts of the business, and more. The Strategy and Commitment sector has five different dimensions:
- Materiality/Risk Identification
- Governance & Executive Engagement
People and ToolsSustainability cannot happen without people. Whether the people are stakeholders or employees, sustainability is a collaborative process that needs to have everyone involved from the beginning. While the people involved in your sustainability process is important, so are the tools you use. If you don't have the right set of tools and the right people, your company might be falling short in terms of their sustainability. According to RILA, in order to be leading this sector, a company must demonstrate that they have a dedicated team to creating and investing in sustainable innovations, incorporate feedback from key stakeholders into sustainability strategy, provide a collaborative forum for employees to engage in, and more. The People and Tools sector has four different dimensions:
- Stakeholder Engagement
- Employee Engagement
- Funding Mechanisms
- Business Innovation Mechanisms
VisibilityYou have your sustainability strategy in place and have assembled a team of employees that have the right set of tools to tackle sustainability, so what's next? Choosing sustainability metrics focused on all material aspects. Using 3rd-party standards in your sustainability reporting. Having sustainability be a focus in marketing campaigns. Partner with other organizations to continue to identify room for improvement. These are just some of the ways RILA says companies can become better sustainability leaders while promoting their sustainability. The Visibility sector has five different dimensions:
- Metrics & Measurement
- Reporting & Communicating
- Point-of-Purchase Consumer Education
- Marketing Campaigns
- Collaborative Involvement
By: Alexandra Kueller
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) recently announced their brand new Retail Sustainability Management Maturity Matrix. The Matrix, which is based on Deloitte and RILA’s knowledge of the retail industry and its sustainability programs, hopes to be a tool that will be used by sustainability executives, individual companies, and industry-wide.
(Although this matrix is designed with the retail industry in mind, we think that it has a wide applicability beyond just the retail sector.)
While there are many aspects of sustainability, the Matrix focuses specifically on environmental sustainability. The Matrix has seven sectors that helps break down the different components of environmental sustainability:
- Strategy & Commitment
- People & Tools
- Retail Operations
- Supply Chain
- Environmental Issues
Each sector is then broken down by dimensions, and each dimension is ranked by five categories: starting, standard, excelling, leading, and next practice. RILA acknowledges that only a few companies are in the “leading” category, but hopes that over the next few years more companies can get to that level. The main goal of the Matrix is to identify all of the possible pathways to strong environmental sustainability.
Here are some of the ways the Matrix can be useful:
- Identifying and assessing the maturity of your sustainability program and opportunities for improvement
- Helping to facilitate conversations about your sustainability program’s development
- Finding ways to access for funding for your sustainability program
- Training employees to have more sustainability responsibility
- Allowing internal, external evaluation of your program’s perception, gaps it might have
It’s RILA’s goal to use the Matrix to benchmark the industry in 2015, while annually updating the matrix.
Over the course of the next two weeks, we will be further breaking down the Matrix by sector to get a more in-depth look at how the Matrix will work.
Last fall we took an in-depth look at SSC's peer benchmarking system that we used against the athletic wear industry. Catch up here.
This article was written as an expansion of our white paper “Choosing Sustainability Management Software for your Business” published in July 2011. Enjoy:
As part of your decision making process, you need to make a business case – in financial terms (and maybe some softer measures) – in order to make sure you that you are on the right track. The outline below should help guide your thought process in fleshing out what the benefits might be for your firm.
1. What’s your overall strategy?
Is it a cost savings approach? Do you want to just provide better reporting to stakeholders? Or are you generating revenue from a green product line and therefore need to track how green it is?
2. What can you actually measure?
Are you saving labor/time? Do you have fewer errors and better data quality? Is it a reduction in risk of losses due to litigation? Or are you able to increase sales revenue by having better data on your environmental impact?
3. What are the baseline values for those metrics?
It might take a 100 hours per month of staff time to produce your current report. Maybe you average $50K in legal fees yearly. Or you are currently selling $100K per month in your new product line.
4. What supporting research do you have?
This could be clear internal documentation of your baseline metrics as well as competitive research on your competitors, your region, your industry, etc. This research will tell you how your data in number 2 and 3 above stacks up against a larger pool of data.
5. What incremental percentage change do you expect to drive in your metrics?
You should be able to estimate this based on your answer to number 4. Are you going to be 5% better yearly? 10% lower yearly? 50% higher monthly? Just make sure you document your assumptions on how big a percentage change you are going to drive, which direction that change is in and what time period that change will cover – i.e. monthly metric, yearly metric etc. Does the change all happen in the first year or does it happen steadily for the entire period of your business case?
6. What volume change in your metrics results from the incremental percentage change?
Does a 5% decrease in labor hours equate to 5 hours a month or 500 hours a month? You need to be able to convert from percentage to number.
7. Translate your percentage/number value into a monetary amount.
Now you have to put on your quantitative hat as you churn through the numbers. This is where you weed out the quantitative benefits from the qualitative benefits. Both are desirable, but you want to be able to show the monetary value that you are going to save or earn as a result of your purchase.
8. Decide how you are going to measure it.
You know what you are measuring, how much it is going to change and what your end result is expected to be. Now you need to determine how you are actually going to measure your progress from start to finish. If you can’t put a firm description around how you are going to specifically measure the change – i.e. maybe your product revenue will increase for reasons besides its greenness – then you’ve found a soft benefit. It’s still worth tracking, but you may need to share some of your business case benefit with another department or project. If you’ve got a very specific way to track your benefit realization, then you’ve found a hard benefit. The hard benefits, are the kinds that your accountants will like – try to get as many of these on your list as you can.
9. Write it up.
You’ll need to present your business case benefits to somebody – whether it is your bank when asking for a loan to purchase the software, or to your executives to convince them to support your purchase decision. Tell them why your purchase is going to be a big success for the company, how much it will contribute to their triple bottom line, and how you are going to come back in a year or three and show them how well things went.
10. Measure it.
After you implement the software, you have to go back and do the things you said you were going to do in number 9. Many companies don’t actually close the loop today with projects – they just move on to the next thing and go on their way. If you want successful business results, it all comes down to measuring it, if you want to manage it.
Now that you’ve read this article, tell us what you think! And be sure to check out the full white paper.
Here is a blog entry from the early days of the SSC blog. Enjoy!
To remain competitive in an increasingly global marketplace, companies of all shapes and sizes and from different industries and sectors are introducing sustainability programs to gain a competitive advantage. Companies are expected to react to these changing dynamics and to address the changing consumer preferences for environmentally and socially sustainable products and services. The ideas of corporate social responsibility and sustainability are no longer fringe issues or passing trends, but are topping the list of strategic issues of executive management at Fortune 500 companies. Most multinational firms have incorporated some sort of sustainability initiative within operations, such as ethical sourcing, measuring and reducing carbon usage and recycling initiatives.
However, small- and medium-size companies are in a unique situation when it comes to sustainability. These firms don’t necessarily have the time, money or other resources to lead a full-blown, comprehensive sustainability program. Because of these differences, it is important to realize that sustainability consulting cannot be a “one size fits all” approach. What works for a Fortune 100 company most likely will not be a good fit for a small business. This is why it’s so important to hire consultants that really understand the process of developing and implementing sustainability programs, the resources available and constraints to expect, as well as the stakeholder “buy-in” necessary to execute a successful sustainability strategy for a small- or medium-size company. With these pieces in place, professional sustainability consultants can successfully navigate companies through the sustainability arena.
Sustainability consultants must remain flexible and adaptable, and should be competent in assessing the feasibility of programs and identify long-term opportunities and constraints. Consultants should recognize that a company typically cannot make one isolated change without addressing the impact of that change on other issues in the business. This “results-oriented” thinking ignores the complexity of execution and implementation of programs and does not provide opportunities for the necessary reflection and evaluation of the sustainability initiatives.
One of the key factors contributing to success of a sustainability plan is the level of collaboration and engagement among employees and other stakeholders during the planning process. This balance of top-down and bottom-up planning increases the likelihood of the plan gaining support and advocacy from stakeholders during the implementation phase. Finally, consultants should work with companies to plan long-term sustainability programs that are tied into business objectives, which will deliver a more integrated approach to sustainability. This is critical, as most “knee-jerk” programs that are not well-thought out, planned or executed have not proven to be very successful or sustainable.
Feeling like your sustainability plan isn't getting as much attention as it deserves? Read about how to fix that here!
Carbon management is always important, so we thought this blog entry from 2013 was worth another share! Enjoy:
When it comes to managing your company's carbon emissions, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you send out an email reminding employees to turn off their computers each night? Start researching the more than 80 different carbon accounting software options? Gather your executive team around the board room table to talk about 5-year goals? Hire a consultant? Set aside three days to read through the international standards for carbon accounting and reporting?
If you're not careful, you can end up spinning your wheels and getting nowhere fast.
To help you avoid that ignoble end, we've put together a blog series that outlines our 6-step process for helping clients develop a carbon management program. While the level of time and effort required for each step will depend on the size of your organization and your industry, all organizations should follow basically the same path.
Clarify your goals. This is the very first thing you need to do, and often the most-overlooked. Being crystal clear on your goals for emissions management allows you to:
Be a more effective internal salesman.
When you need to convince your executive team to provide additional support (in terms of budget or simply more of their attention and encouragement), it will be essential to have a compelling "pitch".
Choose the appropriate team.
Carbon management will require support from facilities management, purchasing, finance, communications, and human resources. Knowing the scope and shape of your goals will help you decide who needs to be on your carbon management team.
Designate a carbon leader
Carbon management is a interdisciplinary effort, and you'll need to choose someone to navigate the intra-office politics, collect and vet the data, draft and edit communications, and prioritize competing initiatives. Seniority is not important (although it can be helpful) -- the key is that you need to choose someone with excellent interpersonal skills and a special affinity for juggling multiple projects at the same time.
Later on in the process, when you have to make tough decisions about which eco-initiative to prioritize, you will find it invaluable to be able to compare projects against your program goals.
Do you find your sustainability communications failing? Here are 9 reasons that might be happening.
By: Alexandra Kueller
Sustainability leaders have to talk - a lot. Sometimes they speak at conferences, other times they speak to clients, or they might even write a guest article for a website. Regardless of the audience or platform, if you're in sustainability, you have to communicate. But every so often communications can fail.
What happens when you do notice that you're not getting your sustainability message across? Fast Company published an article that highlighted 9 different ways a leader's communication might be stalling. We thought that the reasons mentioned in the article also work perfectly for sustainability communications.
1. Distrust Versus Trust
Have you ever found yourself talking to someone who is not 100% on board with sustainability, and you instantly go on the defensive? Instead of distrusting the person you're talking to right off the bat, try trusting them. When you open up, communications can go a lot further.
2. Monologue Versus Collaboration
You're speaking to a room full of people, and you find yourself talking non-stop. Take a moment and look at the crowd. How engaged are they? Do you see people doing head nods? It's very easy to get carried away when speaking, because you want to get your point across, but collaboration goes a long way. Engage with the audience and see what happens!
3. Complexity Versus Simplicity
The sustainability field loves their acronyms. GHG. LCA. GRI. CDP. SASB. IIRC. The list goes on and on. While many people within sustainability might know what you're talking about when mentioning these words, but you don't always know who is in your audience. Simplicity is key; don't get carried away with industry lingo.
4. Insensitivity Versus Tact
When talking about sustainability, the conversation can often mention climate change. Unfortunately, climate change is still a politically-charged topic, and people can get turned off when listening to someone speak about it. You don't have to avoid the topic completely, but be smart and tactful about how you approach certain topics.
5. Achievement Versus Potential
You might have a handful of published reports under your belt and a countless number of speaking opportunities, but that doesn't mean you can rest on your laurels. You might think you know the best way to deliver a presentation, but listen and look to the people around. There is always room to grow and improve the way you communicate sustainability.
6. Dilution Versus Distinction
You find yourself trying to convince a client that it's important to publish a sustainability report, and in order to prove your point, you keep going on and on with a variety of anecdotes and facts. Stop diluting your point and cut to the chase. If you keep dragging out your reason why, the client may lose interest! Clear through the clutter, and lay out the key facts.
7. Generalization Versus Specificity
It's very easy when writing sustainability plans, reports, etc. to become very generic with your statements. "X company cares deeply about the environment." "X company works very hard at recycling." Instead of just spouting off platitudes, get specific. How has a company achieved their recycling goals? What sets a company apart from others when it comes to environmental care? Make your communications meaningful.
8. Logic Versus Emotion
There is a time for logic and a time for emotion when it comes to communication, but what happens when you don't recognize the right place to use these two tactics? If you're trying to motivate a crowd at a conference to get excited about sustainability, tap in on emotion, but if you're speaking to a client about a potential project, use logic.
9. Distortion Versus Perspective
The sustainability field is ever-changing, and no one can remain an expert forever. Don't write an article acting like you know everything about sustainability, or don't give a presentation where you come off as being better than everyone else. With new information and research always being published, sometimes you should take a back seat and learn from your peers. After all, no one likes listening to a know-it-all.
Is your sustainability plan failing to get attention? Here are 7 different ways to improve that.
By: Alexandra Kueller
What are some of the qualities or behaviors you look for potential green team members? Dedication? Team player? Can see the big picture? These are all great reasons why someone should be on the team, but have you thought of reasons why someone should NOT be selected for a green team?
Entrepreneur wrote an article discussing some behaviors that could lead to trouble in the long run, and we thought that these 8 behaviors and qualities could be applied to selecting green team members:
1. They’re late
Being a member of a green team is rarely ever anyone’s only responsibility and people are always busy, so it is important to have members that will not be late to allow the team to maximize all of their time.
2. They see only problems
A good member of any team should not only be able to help find a solution, but also be able to identify the problem. It is NOT helpful if a green team member is pessimistic, because teams need to work towards solutions not just focus on all the problems.
3. They’re easily distracted
Focus is key. Green teams don’t always have the luxury of meeting often or for a long duration, so it is imperative that the members are focused so they can dedicate their time to the task at hand.
4. They criticize others
Teamwork is centered on the ability to work with others. If you have a member of your green team who is spending their time criticizing the other members, work will not get done and members of your team might start to doubt themselves.
5. They rush to make judgments
Projects take time, and the first idea isn't always going to be the right one or the best one. It is important to have people on your team that will listen to all options and work to find the best solution - NOT rush to make judgments on every idea that is put on the table.
6. They’re inflexible
Meetings and plans can change last minute. You want your green team members to be able to adapt to changes, because if they can’t, then you have a member of your team that could slow you down.
7. They don’t seem particularly enthusiastic
With green teams being an extra task a person might take on, it is important that they really care about the matter at hand. If you have a member that isn't enthusiastic about the work your team is doing, it can set back the progress of the group.
8. They don’t accept their mistakes
Being a good member of any team means accepting your mistakes, and if there is someone on your green team what won't own up to their mistakes, there is a chance that they’ll just repeat those mistakes down the line.
Are you a member of a green team or looking to start one? Be sure to check out our green team toolkit!
By: Alexandra Kueller
Imagine this: you want to start working on a new sustainability project for your company, but in order to get approval, you need to first convince your boss, who happens to be a sustainability naysayer. How many times has this happened to you? Once? Twice? More than you can count?
As much as we sustainability professionals like to think that everybody will hop on board with sustainability, we know that is not always the case. When dealing with sustainability opposition, the best strategy is probably not saying “listen to me because I know I’m right,” but to instead learn how to properly handle the situation.
Entrepreneur wrote an article talking about how to deal with a demanding, difficult customer, and we thought those seven strategies applied nicely to dealing with sustainability naysayers:
1. Listen patiently.
When talking with someone who might not be 100% on board with sustainability, let them explain why. Maybe there is a specific reason they’re not jumping for joy when it comes to sustainability, and if you hear them out, it creates a better chance of working through the problem.
2. Show empathy.
As you’re listening patiently, be sure to show empathy. Perhaps this sustainability naysayer has had a bad experience with a sustainability project, and that is what’s holding them back. Be attentive and empathetic; make it clear that you care about their concerns. Try to understand where their sustainability difficulties are coming from.
3. Lower the voice and slow down speech.
It happens all the time: when talking about something you love and care about with someone who does not see eye to eye, you can start to talk fast and your voice slowly creeps higher. If you’re trying to talk about a potential sustainability project with someone who just doesn't understand, remember to slow down and lower your voice. When you talk in a fast, hurried manner, you seem frantic and out of control, so now is your chance to demonstrate that you are in control of the situation and there is nothing to fear.
4. Imagine an audience.
If you find yourself getting frustrated when talking to a sustainability naysayer, imagine that you are talking to an audience. Picture that the room is filled with your sustainability team as your trying to pitch a potential project. How would you feel if your coworkers saw you get angry with someone because they didn't have the same view on sustainability as you? This tactic can help create a buffer to allow you to clear your mind.
5. Be wrong to be right.
Be open to what your opposition is saying. Yes, you might be trying your hardest to convince the sustainability naysayer to be open to a new sustainability project, but hear what they have to say about what is holding them back, and don’t be afraid to agree! If they say they are concerned about how much a potential project could cost, tell them you understand, and this can lead to a more open discussion of how to handle cost.
6. Demonstrate emotional control.
Emotions are contagious, and that’s why it’s important to demonstrate emotional control. If talking with someone who might not see eye to eye on sustainability, it is important to make sure everyone’s emotions stay in line. It’s hard trying to convince someone that is angry that sustainability is the way to go, so try and be as calm as you can and de-escalate the situation.
7. It's not personal.
At the end of the day, it is important to remember that someone who might not be excited about sustainability is not a personal attack on you. Often times, people aren’t 100% on board with sustainability because of other reasons, such as the way a company might be moving in another direction or there might not be enough money to fund all of the sustainability projects. Remember: you are dealing with a business issue, not a personal one.
How do YOU handle sustainability naysayers? Let us know in the comments below or on twitter!