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TED Talk Johan Rockström: 5 transformational policies for a prosperous and sustainable world

The SSC Team December 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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.

A 6-Minute Guide to Better Sustainability Decisions

The SSC Team December 18, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

This video from Harvard Business Review introduces a methodology for helping you choose the best decision-support tool for your specific business situation. While the tool is not sustainability-focused, we found it fascinating to think about how to use a decision-tree model like the one presented for thinking about high-stakes decisions like:

  • Accounting for climate change impacts on capital investments.

  • Introducing new "green" products into the marketplace.

  • Rolling out a new telecommuting program.

  • Planning new freight routes for global distribution.

Watch this 6-minute video and let us know if you think this tool helps identify better ways to make high-stakes sustainability decisions?  Leave a comment or join the conversation on Twitter!

Sustainability Consulting Round-Up: Best of Our Blog from November 2018

The SSC Team December 6, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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 November.

 

Welcome to the New Normal- Sustainability as a Requirement

 

Don't Insult Employees with Sustainability "Nudges"

 

Marketing Giants Take On Climate Change Message and There is No Time to Waste

 

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Marketing Giants Take On Climate Change Message and There Is No Time To Waste

The SSC Team November 27, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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!

Don’t Insult Employees With Sustainability “Nudges”

The SSC Team November 22, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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 Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

Just a few years ago, everyone seemed to have a signature block pleading for the trees – “Don’t print this e-mail for our planet” or “Think before printing this email.”

And then those tree-loving messages mostly disappeared.

Marketing and behavioral research may be indicating that “nudge” marketing, or deliberately manipulating choices to change behavior, may backfire.

Nudges can be condescending If your employees need to print a report, then they need to print the report. Using an email signature line to signal to one another that individuals aren’t capable or committed enough to make green choices without constant reminders can come off as condescending and put employees on the defensive about sustainability communications.

Even when nudges “work,” they may not achieve the ultimate goal To print or not to print, that isn’t the question. When the formerly ubiquitous email signature became popular, maybe companies did see a decrease in paper use for a time. But did the nudge truly make a difference over the long term? Was there a paper use policy in place to create lasting institutional behavioral change? Were employees motivated and engaged enough to carry the behavioral change over to their home lives or their next job? That’s sustainability. Nudge marketing is a blip in the radar.

Nudges may backfire! Imagine putting up a sign in the office restrooms over the paper towel dispenser (100% post-consumer recycled paper towels, mind you) that reads: “Remember: Paper towels were trees once.”

Although you’re trying to nudge employees into using less, thus landfilling less, you may immediately find that employees not only aren’t using less paper in the restrooms, but they’re also not participating in any other office sustainability efforts. What went wrong?

Look at the bigger picture. Employees may be infuriated that the air conditioning is still set at 60 degrees and the building lights are on all night, but “you want us to walk around with wet, clammy hands all day so you can save a few dollars on paper towels?”

Just stop nudging altogether in sustainability efforts. Don’t rely on a potentially condescending, ineffective tool to alienate employees. Instead, try educating employees, involving them in the process, and using motivational tools to create lasting change.

Have you seen workplace or marketing “nudges” that backfired? Let us know in the comments

The Science of Setting Credible Courageous Sustainability Goals

The SSC Team October 30, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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.

https://www.greenbiz.com/webcast/science-setting-credible-courageous-sustainability-goals

How Sustainability Practitioners Should Give Feedback

The SSC Team September 27, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives.

In the same way that hungry rats learn to navigate the blind alleys of a maze in their search for food, coaches, consultants, and other change agents learn that punishment most often follows their constructive criticism. Conversely, when they stroke the egos of clients, rewards come raining down. Managers fall victim to the same temptation: it’s much more fun (and in the short term, rewarding) to praise your direct reports than to deliver negative feedback. The bad news is that if you’re a consultant or coach, folks will tire of having smoke blown at them and, sooner or later, react negatively. They’re paying for reasoned critiques, and chronic evasiveness eventually gets on their nerves. And if you’re a manager, you can’t only rely on praise. 

Steven Berglas, Harvard Business Review

As consultants, it's our job to deliver feedback to our clients throughout the sustainability consulting engagement--and we've gotten pretty good at identifying, refining, and delivering news (both good and bad) about a company's "state of sustainability" and roadmap for action. But when we read the article, Don’t Sugarcoat Negative Feedback, in Harvard Business Review, we realized that the art of providing feedback has a much broader application to companies pursuing sustainability initiatives. Here are some of our takeaways:

Use Facts in Your Feedback

Berglas: Deliver constructive feedback rapidly in its raw form. This doesn’t mean harshly; there’s a way to soften blows without delaying them if you strive to be empathic. Just never make it seem like you’re avoiding hard cold facts. All that does is make the facts seem worse than they are.

Focusing our feedback on facts is a great way to create some space between participants, so that no one feels blamed, guilty, or shamed. It also allows everyone to (more) objectively assess the situation--including whether the feedback being provided is correct, how a solution should be constructed, and how responsibility and accountability for change should be allocated.

Wrong: [After 20 minutes of praise and exultation about everyone's awesome sustainability work.] "Look, even though we're all doing our best, it's not enough. We're falling behind on our performance data, and that's shown up in some recent press. We can't let our industry leave us in the dust. Come on, guys, we've got to improve!"

Right: "Our three-year carbon emissions are up 4.3%, while Competitor A is holding steady and Competitor B actually decreased its emissions by 1.1%. A report, which is getting press coverage this week in the New York Times and a number of "green blogs", calls us out for poor energy and climate performance in our industry. Let's talk about what that means in light of last month's board meeting where there was consensus about aiming for the top 25% of our industry across all sustainability issues."

Don't Predict the Outcome

Berglas: Resist the urge to prophesy. The absolute worst thing a CEO, coach, or consultant can do when offering constructive criticism to someone is to provide a timetable for the process that a person who must change should be expected to conform to.

While goals and targets are critical elements of effective sustainability planning, changing people (and institutions) is an uncertain process. When you need to address employee engagement and organizational culture issues, don't make promises that you can't keep. Yes, you can get a new Code of Ethics in place by the end of the year, but can you put a clear time line on when your emerging-market suppliers are going to really *get* the concepts of anti-bribery and corruption? You can provide a clear road-map, but putting calendar dates down for personal and organizational change is a dangerous proposition.

Be Honest about the Effort Required to Change

Berglas: Don’t minimize the challenge. When you critique someone with a history of success you have to assume that the flaws you see in them are (a) entrenched, and, (b) something they have long grappled with to suppress or get past. Saying, “No big deal” to that sort of issue can scare the socks off someone who knows that what you’re targeting for change is an issue they have battled unsuccessfully for years.

Sustainability is probably the biggest, most complex challenge that the world has ever faced -- and individual organizations trying to navigate a highly interconnected system in which it has limited leverage and resources is not an easy task. (Hah, understatement!) So don't portray the journey as all rainbows and kittens. It's going to be hard, and there are going to be really tough decisions. People need to understand that the road is going to be long, and the challenges are going to be scary--but that all great, epic adventures start with a seemingly insurmountable mountain to climb.

If you liked this article, you'll want to download SSC's free white paper on Sustainable Change Management. And if you're looking for a sustainability coach, check out our coaching and mentoring services. Or, join the conversation on Twitter, where SSC President Jennifer Woofter tweets at @jenniferwoofter. Did we get it right, or would you add something to our takeaways?

Social Sustainability: Satisfying Human Needs

The SSC Team September 25, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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This month’s video about social sustainability from Alexandre Magnin, examines what is behind the fundamental human needs we must to satisfy in order to make sustainable decisions and to design sustainability products and services.

This is focused on the theory of human needs developed by Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef and can be used for social sustainability because being sustainable is about meeting needs within our ecological constraints. Max-Neef’s concept explores finding ways to satisfy human needs by using fewer resources and provides a new lens that helps us look at the system we are trying to change. This is a crucial component to stimulating innovation and avoiding superficial solutions.

https://sustainabilityillustrated.com/en/portfolio/social-sustainability-satisfying-human-needs/

What “Sustainability Consulting” Is (and Isn’t)

The SSC Team September 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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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.

VERGE: Where Technology Meets Sustainability

The SSC Team September 11, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Summer is over and it is time to get ready for the VERGE 18 conference and expo in Oakland this October. The conference is the platform for accelerating a clean economy and convenes a high-powered audience of more than 2,500 leaders who will explore scalable solutions at the intersection of technology and sustainability within three dynamic and influential markets: clean energy, transportation and mobility and the circular economy.

This year, there are three concurrent VERGE 18 conferences: VERGE Circular, VERGE Energy and VERGE Transport. Each one offers deeper, focused learning opportunities and networking experiences. 

 https://www.greenbiz.com/events/verge-conference/oakland/2018