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C&I Report: From Data to Action: Bridging the Gap on Three Best Practices for Sustainable Resource Management

The SSC Team January 15, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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For more than 20 years sustainable resource management leader ENGIE Insight has watched as businesses of every size and across every industry have been facing increasing pressure from customers, employees, shareholders, and governmental entities to develop sustainable practices. As businesses evolve in their efforts, they are also developing plans that incorporate sustainability and resource management into their operations. In order to track their efforts, sustainable resource management programs are being implemented more often and are becoming more complex.

ENGIE Insight believes the process has been driven by three forces impacting companies around the globe: digitization, decarbonization, and decentralization.

In an effort to explore how businesses see these global forces influencing the creation, expansion, and complexity of their sustainable resource management plans as well as their greatest opportunity for growth and their biggest challenges ENGIE Insight partnered with Zpryme, a market-research firm, to survey 250 representatives from commercial and industrial businesses and get their perspective. You can check out their findings in From Data to Action: Bridging the Gap on the Three Best Practices for Sustainable Resource Management.

https://www.greenbiz.com/whitepaper/ci-report-data-action

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 Angel Hsu: How China is (and isn’t) fighting pollution and climate change

The SSC Team November 15, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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.

Companies Collaborating Could Mean Everyone Wins

The SSC Team August 14, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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. 

TED Talk: To Eliminate Waste, We Need to Rediscover Thrift

The SSC Team July 19, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

Andrew Dent is hitting all the right notes in this talk about reducing our waste creation. Dent believes there should be no such thing as throwing things away because no matter what it is — used take out containers, broken toys or an old pair of undies — it inevitably ends up in a landfill if we dump it. It’s time to get smarter about the way we make, and remake, products. Dent’s focus is centered on the idea of thrifting, basically avoiding the purchase of anything new. His talk also explores advances in material science, like electronics made of nanocellulose and enzymes, which can help make plastic infinitely recyclable.

Big Businesses Making SMARTER Sustainable Choices

The SSC Team July 12, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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When it comes to sustainability, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to focus on making choices that benefit the community if you don’t actually care about the people in it. So the recent announcement by Hershey that it will be launching a Shared Goodness Program aiming to make a positive impact on people’s lives, while also meeting the demands of customers and investors, is admirable.

 

Here’s the thing, anyone can talk the talk, but when companies show that they can actually walk the walk it’s a call for other major corporations (and smaller businesses, too) to take note that focusing on people over profit can work.

 “[We] believe – and prove – that you can be a fierce competitor in the market while operating in a compassionate way…,” said Michele Buck, Hershey’s CEO. With the Shared Goodness Promise, the company pledges to be successful in a way that makes a positive difference.

This desire to improve sustainability isn’t simply driven by wanting to be a good corporate citizen, it is also inspired by other needs such changing consumer preferences in terms of help AND sustainable knowledge. Transparency toward supply chains, packaging and responsibly sourced ingredients are also motivating companies to adjust their methods. For example, Hershey is reimagining some of its core snacks while also working to use more sustainably sourced ingredients – such as cocoa, palm oil, sugar and coconut – and providing consumers with more information by utilizing QR codes on their packaging.

And Hershey is not alone. A recent post from GreenBiz highlighted the ways in which General Mills, McDonalds and Kering are also setting credible, courageous sustainability goals

 

Making bold choices when it comes to sustainability goals is not only a wise business strategy, but also a positive stewardship policy. And there are a lot of ways that businesses can move toward making more sustainable choices.

While many companies have been focused on establishing SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based), Jon Dettling the US Director for Quantis, believes that the corporate world should re-evaluate this process and instead creating SMARTER goals (Science-based, Moving the pack, Ambitious, Relevant, Timely, Earth-bound and Reaching out).

Dettling believes that meaningful sustainability goals shouldn’t be focused simply on the individual companies, but also all the partner organizations that they do work with. That means inspiring your suppliers and clients to make changes, too.

McDonald’s announced its first science-based target this year, covering restaurants, offices and supply chain. The commitment covers franchisees, which account for the bulk of McDonald’s-branded restaurants. Since McDonald’s doesn’t produce goods, they can only achieve these goals by working with supply chain partners.

General Mills’ Jeff Hanratty said, "It’s scary to share a goal with someone, and in the same sentence tell them you’re not sure how you’re going to achieve it. But this is science. We didn’t pull it out of the air, it’s what Mother Nature needs from us."

Scientific understanding and data evolve and can be relatively fluid, which means targets must be as too. McDonald’s Rachael Sherman agreed, noting that once people understand the concept, they are much more comfortable with shifting goals.

As big businesses start to embrace these sustainable movements and encourage their partner organizations to do the same, it’s a powerful opportunity to inspire other companies to make meaningful changes to the way they operate. It’s not just about saving money, it’s also about saving the world around us.

Taking the Trash to a Whole New Level

The SSC Team June 28, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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While we have been recycling certain products for a long time, there have been some pretty amazing innovatinos when it comes to building products on the market. These new materials are taking the idea of a sustainable approach to building to a whole new level. Take for example the creation of luxury building materials from waste. One truly great feature of this upcycling trend is that the new materials are being developed by designers who will use them, which means that they are actually attractive as well as useful.

 

These new materials are being used as substitutes for conventional woods, plastics and stone, and often come in sheet or tile form that are ready to be cut, shaped and manipulated by architects and designers.

 

Really, a Danish company at the forefront of this movement is focused on taking used textiles and transforming them into a sheet material similar to plywood.

 

In fact, companies around the world are coming up with some pretty clever new building materials turning items as basic as bottles and as strange as dirty diapers and sanitary products into materials that can be used for construction.

 

When it comes to embracing sustainable living, those are thinking well outside the box and turning products — like the notoriously hard to recycle plastic grocery bags — into building materials are making incredible strides.  In Building with Waste, which compiles these unique new materials, the authors speculate that, in future, we could end up re-using pretty much everything. This would be pretty darn helpful since we are on track to double municipal waste output by 2025. That’s a pretty terrifying thought.

 

And it isn’t just building materials, there are products being made with carbon dioxide. Collecting CO2 from the world’s smokestacks is hard, but once it has been collected what can be done with the carbon? To address this problem, people have invented technologies that convert captured CO2 into new products — crazy in a great way, right?

 

Solutions so far have included a lot of creative ideas such as converting carbon dioxide into carbon fibers which can be used as lighter-weight alternative to metal to make products like wind turbine blades, race cars, airplanes and bicycles. A company in Calgary is combining CO2 with waste products, such as fly ash left over from burning coal or petroleum coke, to create nanoparticles that can be used as additives for concrete, plastic and coatings to enhance performance and increase efficiency.

 

These innovations and more prove that many in this world are working toward a more sustainable future. We must continue to find creative solutions for reducing waste in order to take care of our most precious resource — the earth.

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.