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Will Technology Help Us All Get Along?

The SSC Team July 5, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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In a world that seems more divided with every passing day, the thought of finding a way to minimize conflict is incredibly appealing.

 

In the recently published Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? MIT scientists Henry Lieberman and Christopher Fry examine why there are wars, mass poverty and other social ills. Their main thesis is that our world is oversaturated with a competitive spirit and this is holding people back from cooperating and working toward solutions to the world’s major problems. But the authors also believe they have found a possible way to turn everything around — by using modern technology to address the root of the problem.

 

Lieberman and Frye believe that scarcity drives the world’s competition, but thanks to recent technological advances — think 3D printing and artificial intelligence — widespread scarcity could come to an end.

 

If so, a post-scarcity world, premised on cooperation, would emerge. Sure it sounds great, but is it actually possible?

Unfortunately we believe there are a few issues that make this concept infeasible. While new technologies can be incredibly beneficial in many ways, they are usually only available to consumers as finished products that must be exchanged for money. Lieberman and Fry’s principle ignores the fact that many of these technologies exist at the expense of other humans and environments in our global economy. The intuitive belief that technology can manifest from money alone, anthropologists tell us, is a culturally rooted notion that ignores the fact that the scarcity experienced by some is linked to the abundance enjoyed only by a few.

We have had a few decades to experience some pretty dramatic technological advances and during this time it has become clear that super-efficient technologies typically encourage an increased use of raw materials and energy, not a reduction in them. Data on the global use of energy and raw materials indicate that absolute efficiency has never occurred: both global energy use and global material use have increased threefold since the 1970s. Therefore, efficiency is better understood as a rearranging of resources expenditures, such that efficiency improvements in one end of the world economy increase resource expenditures in the other end.

 

So if we aren’t on the verge of solving the problem of our competitive society, what are the next steps we need to take in order to improve the way we take care of the global economy and the natural world?

Within each of us are two “beings:” the self-interested being that has been programmed to maximize profit and the more altruistic being who loves to communicate, work for the betterment of others and share. As Lieberman and Fry highlight, our current society is geared toward the first being and our idea of a good life is centered on monetary power. But for the betterment of all society — and our natural resources — we have to move toward the power of our inner altruist.

When it comes to this focus on technology as a way to connect in this global economy, companies need to make a better effort to recognize the environmental cost of technology. Our “digital society” is based on a material- and energy-intensive infrastructure and we must work toward minimizing the negative impacts on the lives of current and future generations by unwittingly encouraging serious environmental instability and associated social problems.

And as more interconnected commons-based businesses continue to emerge around the world, we can work to creating new forms of businesses that empower individuals. As members of this global community it is vital that we become more aware of how the abundance of some is dependent on the work of others, as well as the stability of our natural environments.

While our solutions might not be the same as Lieberman and Fry, we are heartened to think that many among us want to figure out a way to live in a less competitive, more inclusive society. It’s clear that we are connected with our fellow citizens of earth — near and far — and the only way forward is together.

TEDTalk 7 Principles for Building Better Cities

The SSC Team March 15, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites

Let’s face, we are an urban world. With more than half of the world's population living in cities, and another 2.5 billion people expected to move to urban areas by 2050 we need to be giving a lot of though to the way we build. From climate change to economic vitality to our very well-being and sense of connectedness, Peter Calthorpe is at work planning these cities of the future and advocating for community design that's focused on human interaction. In his talk, he shares seven principles to help us solving sprawl while also building more sustainable cities.

The Four Big Social Media Mistakes Your Company Is Probably Making

The SSC Team February 20, 2018 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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While the vast majority of large and mid-sized businesses have been engaging in social media outreach as part of their marketing strategy for at least five years, nearly half are unable to pinpoint any impact this marketing has had on their bottom line.

Recently the Harvard Business Review ran The Basic Social Media Mistakes Companies Still Make, which notes that although 97% of Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn, 84% are on Facebook, and 86% are on Twitter, many brands entered the social media realm without a clear strategy. And without any strategy, you’re going to end up with a lot more mistakes than success. You may not be running at Fortune 500 company, but your sustainability business can certainly learn from their mistakes.

MISTAKE #1: Creating a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account and setting goals for increasing “the numbers of likes, comments and shares.” It may seem promising, but “likes,” comments and shares are probably not worth much to your income. If you don’t connect your social media actions to broader business goals from the beginning, your return on investment (ROI) becomes elusive, and social media becomes an end unto itself.

MISTAKE #2: Limiting brand preference. This means focusing entirely on Facebook or Instagram or whatever social media channel you feel is the most popular instead of implementing a multichannel outreach strategy. Looking back to the Fortune 500 companies, only 66% are using YouTube, 45% are on Instagram, 36% have corporate blogs, and even less are on Pinterest (a mere 33%). If your business choses not engage other platforms, you could miss out on valuable business opportunities.

Research by Millward Brown Digital found that 93% of Pinterest users planned purchases on the platform and 87% actually made a purchase after seeing a product they liked. Utilizing a platform like Snapchat might be the ideal way to reach millennials and Instagram has played an integral role in helping to lift sales for multiple brands. Super important stat: business that have prioritized blogging are 13 times more likely to receive positive ROI.

MISTAKE #3: Only pushing information out.  While you need to engage your customers with stories that evoke emotions, solve their problems and help brighten their day, the best — and most underutilized tool — is responding to your customers. Replies to comments — even negative comments — can help bolster the image of your brand. And engaging lets your customers know you are listening.

So how do you make social media work for your business? Let’s start by basing your social strategy on business objectives — not just gaining more followers or “likes” — follow up on that by thinking about who your target market is, what social media platforms will best reach that group, and the tools and metrics that can help you achieve those goals. Focusing on increasing brand awareness for a certain age range during a specific time frame? That is an actual business goal, one you can achieve!

And when you are considering which platforms to utilize, remember more is not always better. If a social media outlet doesn’t seem to vibe with your business objectives, it might be better to post less or even close that account.

MISTAKE #4: Not tracking analytics. There are a number of social media options when it comes to analytics, so take the time to research those options and find what makes the most sense for your business. If you can see where your efforts are working (and where they are not making much impact) it will help you focus your attention in the areas that are improving your bottom line.

Social media and sustainability go hand in hand. Utilizing the right social media channels will give your company the chance to expand engagement, transparency, rethink societal roles, and more.

 

Looking for an example? Take Toms, the shoe company – Toms has utilized social media to promote initiatives such as One for One. And once a year they have a One Day Without Shoes campaign which last year provided shoes to over 27,000 children.

Establishing a social media strategy that is business oriented may seem overwhelming, but if you take a step back and remember to take your business goals and target market into consideration, it will be much easier to prove you are seeing ROI via your social media activities. Not just a few more thumbs up each day

4 of the Best Ways to Share Your Carbon Footprint Results

The SSC Team June 11, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
Enjoy this article from the SSC blog archives: Once you've gone through the trouble of gathering all of your data and crunching the numbers, many companies get stuck on how to most effectively communicate their carbon footprint results. Should you do a press release? Put it on the company website? Participate in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Report process? There are lots of ways to share the results of your carbon footprint. But before you jump into particular communication channels, it's essential to decide what aspects of the data you want to highlight. Here's our take on the four most critical elements to share:

1. Your absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

This is the total metric tons of CO2-e that your company is responsible for over a given time period (usually a year). Be sure to divide it up between Scope 1 (direct emissions -- like natural gas), Scope 2 (indirect emissions – like electricity), and Scope 3 (indirect emissions -- value chain activities such as employee commuting, business travel, and waste).

2. Your adjusted GHG emissions.

Absolute emissions are important, but they lack context. You should also choose a relevant way to adjust for your company's specific operations. This might mean looking at carbon-per-employee, carbon-per-revenue, carbon-per-sales, or carbon-per-production-unit.

3. Emissions over time.

For both absolute and adjusted emissions, it's helpful to show a track record -- three years is considered the minimum, while five years or more is considered the “best practice.” (Of course, if you've just started calculating your annual carbon footprint, you won't have a 3-year track record yet!). By showing how your carbon profile changes over time, you'll give stakeholders an idea of your future trajectory.

4. Your carbon footprint story.

Don't just put up the numbers…explain them. What boundary did you draw around your footprint (e.g. what operations and activities were included)? Why are your numbers going up (or down)? How have changes to your business operations (like acquisitions, mergers, divestments, layoffs, expansions, etc.) affected your emissions profile? What are you expecting to see in the future? A few paragraphs of explanation will make a world of difference in your communications. Once you have the pieces in place, what are the best vehicles for sharing your carbon footprint information? We've listed our favorite options below -- and we'd love to hear your opinions in the comments section!
  • Website -- great as an all-purpose communications vehicle, for internal and external stakeholders. Example: Nestle
  • Visual infographic -- more interesting than a simple chart (when done correctly). Example: Microsoft
  • Press release -- a traditional way to announce timely news and to drive readers to your website, your sustainability report, and other communications. Example: Green Century Funds
  • Employee all-hands meeting -- a personal touch can go a long way in generating enthusiasm and buy-in among all levels of staff. Example: Megamas Training Company
  • Sustainability report -- the standard “best-practice” way to share not just your carbon footprint, but also other social and environmental performance. Example: Coca Cola (and note their disclosure about carbon recalculation at the bottom!)
  • Social media – by making the dialogue related to carbon calculations more social, companies can take their disclosure to the next level. Example: SAP
Find out how you can become a better sustainability leader in one of our latest blogs.