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 January.
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In the sustainability industry we clearly know that climate change is a huge factor impacting the future of our planet. So why does it seem like there are many people who would rather pretend we aren’t damaging our world each and every day?
In a piece last fall by Art Markam, he explored the reasons that people don’t seem to be motivated to address climate change. Perhaps if we can understand these issues it will be easier to find a way to get those who don’t want to make any changes to their behavior to truly understand the dangerous road we are on.
What Markam admits is so strange about this circumstance is typically people are pretty concerned about avoiding imminent danger in their lives. Need to walk down a dark alley? You are likely to move quickly. Passing an aggressive looking dog? You may cross the street. So why don’t people realize the magnitude of global climate change and how pressing it is to make a difference?
Because it is easier to ignore it. By pretending that climate change isn’t real or not that big of a threat, a person can continue to drive a gas guzzling SUV, buy an enormous home that they don’t really need or shop without regard for the impact their carbon footprint has on the environment. For companies, turning a blind eye could very well mean cheaper processes, despite the fact that investing in greener efforts would likely lower costs in the long run.
We are a right here, right now type of society that doesn’t seem to have a lot of concern for the long term. Markam notes that there are a few others reasons holding people back. Including that climate change isn’t a linear issue. Take spending money — if you go out to eat lunch every day, you are going to see a clear impact that this expense has on your bottom line. But by deciding to make changes to you routines in order to benefit the world around you, well, that impact isn’t as obvious.
Another reason people may have a hard time accepting that climate change is a real problem is that most of us aren’t directly feeling the impact in a tangible way. Even with extreme weather, it is relatively intangible so most people don’t make the connection to the bigger picture. As a society we also tend to view the future as less predictable than the present — so who knows what’s going to happen with the environment down the road?
Well, we do know what is happening and despite these challenges there is hope that we can influence change. Try exploring the values your colleagues or peers hold in terms of the world they’d like their children or grandchildren to experience. Or bring up a way in which human behavior is really is impacting climate change. Markam’s suggest that if your peer indicates a lack of regard for this human impact follow up with a specific question like “would you give something up today that would allow you to invest in research that could help your great-grandchild in the future?” they are likely to say yes. Using this logic, how can they continue to turn a blind eye to climate change?
By putting our values on the table, we can connect with those who continue to disregard their impact on the future of our planet and help them see the immense benefit in making changes to their personal live or business practices.
Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:
Chad Frischmann believes that if we can take more greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere than we put in is our only hope of averting climate disaster. In this TED Talk he explores current solutions for climate change including the traditional concepts like using renewable energy as well as some lesser-known approaches, such as changes to food production methods, better family planning and improvements to the education of girls. Take a listen and learn more about ways we can work to reverse global warming and create a better world.
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.
Feel like you don’t totally understand our ecological footprint and how we fit in on the planet? It seems so complex, but Alexandre Magnin explains it wonderfully in this six-minute cartoon. Check it out and see how we can work to reduce our footprint!
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.
Sometimes less is more, so we offer this brief video with a focus on explaining sustainability using simple natural science. Do you need a new way to make sustainability make sense to your clients? Try showing them this video by Alexandre Magnin, which also discusses the four root causes of unsustainability.
Everyone loves a good TED Talk! Here’s one of our favorites:
Got 12 minutes? Of course you do! Spend it with sustainability expert Johan Rockström as he explains the path for building a robust future without wrecking the planet. In his talk, he debuts the Earth3 model — a methodology bringing together the UN Sustainable Development Goals with the nine planetary boundaries, beyond which earth's vital systems could become unstable. Rockström examines five transformational policies that may provide inclusive and prosperous world development, while assisting the earth in a move toward being more stable and resilient.
Paul Polman has a lengthy and impressive history when it comes pushing the boundaries on sustainability strategy at a major global corporation.
As Unilever prepares for his retirement as their CEO at the end of 2018, we wanted to share his recent address from the CECP CEO Investor Forum and look at some of the remarkable changes he helped implement with his focus on sustainable efforts and embracing “long-termism” in the business world.
When Polman became the CEO of Unilever in 2009, he was committed to the notion that business has to be a force for good. However he knew that that wasn’t just going to happen without strong strategic leadership, demonstrating possible profitability alongside sustainable efforts, and ability to push back when required.
His team developed and introduced the Sustainable Living Plan early in his time with the company. This plan aimed to allow Unilever to grow while reducing their environmental footprint. Unprecedented at the time, the plan included significant changes, such as having 100% of agricultural raw materials be sustainable by 2020, developing a framework for fair pay, and investing heavily in hygiene promotion in developing markets.
Unilever became one of the classics in sustainability case studies – proving that profitability and sustainability can thrive with the right set of goals and directives.
As Unilever’s success grew, Polman has worked to promote sustainability and long-termism outside of Unilever as well. He has served as the chair of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and currently sits on the board of directors of the Consumer Goods Forum, leading its sustainability efforts. He is a member of board of the UN Global Compact and has also served as one of the 27 members of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The recipient of numerous awards for his leadership and efforts in the area of sustainable development, we can only hope Polman will continue being committed to promoting and developing sustainable efforts around the world in the new year. Thank you, Mr. Polman, for being a standard bearer for strategic sustainability throughout your accomplished career.