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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. 

5 Ways You can Promote Sustainability by Instilling Values In Your Organization

The SSC Team August 7, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives. 

 

It's a common problem in sustainability consulting: how do you get employees to pay attention to sustainability and integrate social and environmental considerations throughout their job responsibilities and daily behavior? New research in psychology has some insight, and we're diving in for a closer look at how focus on values and virtues can help drive organizational success.

In 5 Reasons You Need to Instill Values in Your Organization, Jessica Amortegui outlines the connection between good intentions and effective transformation in the workplace. "It is an old truism: employees do not turn to written statements on the company intranet for clues about how to behave--they look to each other," Amortegui writes. "If your goal is to intentionally shape the actions and interactions of employees, you know the importance of creating a 'values-based' culture. However, you also know how difficult it is to implement one."

She further adds: "For companies to truly close the chasm between their stated and lived values, they must enter the human psyche to extract excellence from the inside-out, not dictate it from outside-in. This requires organizations to pivot their approach: rather than get people to live the values, they should focus on the values that live in the people. This taps into the innate qualities that exist across mankind: human virtues."

There a lot more great information in the article (read it in its entirety here) with many helpful links to additional studies and research, but what caught our eye was how Amortegui's thinking could easily be applied to the sustainability work we do with clients. Below, we take excerpts from her list (in italics) and add our own commentary on how it applies to sustainability-oriented change management.

1. Virtues Are a Workplace Game Changer

Amortegui: Employees who feel welcome to express their authentic selves at work exhibit higher levels of organizational commitment, individual performance, and propensity to help others.

Just as Walmart found with their Personal Sustainability Projects, allowing employees to identify a sustainability-related behavior that was personally relevant and valuable was instrumental in creating corporate-wide momentum. Consider how you engage employees -- are you making it clear how "green" opportunities and expectations in the office allow them to bring their most authentic selves to the job?

2. Virtues Lead To Growth Of The Whole Person

Amortegui: The ideal company makes its best employees even better--and the least of them better than they ever thought they could be. Employees are not just looking for the best places to work. They want to join the best places to grow.  

Find ways to tie sustainability goals into personal growth opportunities. Whether it's allowing employees to practice a hands-on skill (how to build a rain barrel or the basics of composting), develop speaking skills (hosting brown-bag workshops on green topics), or engaging with senior managers (participating on the Green Team), make sure that you cultivate a clear link between the initiative itself and the opportunity it provides for participants.

3. Virtues Lead to Greater Onboarding Success

Amortegui: When companies emphasize newcomers' authentic best selves, versus an organizational identity, it contributes to greater customer satisfaction and employee retention after six months.

Start talking about the opportunities for employees to exhibit their personal values by contributing to the company's sustainability efforts from day one. Include an overview of your sustainability goals and strategy in new employee orientations.  Find out how their personal interests and virtues align with the organization and invite them to participate accordingly.

4. Virtues Improve Engagement

Amortegui: Two of the most important predictors of employee retention and satisfaction are reporting to use your top strengths at work and reporting that your manager recognizes your top strengths. 

The more that mid-level managers understand and communicate sustainability goals and priorities to their staff, the easier it will be for employees to "get" how their individual job responsibilities play into the larger picture of organizational sustainability. Provide the training and leadership needed to get managers to 1) understand, 2) communicate, and 3) recognize sustainability potential in their departments. 

5. Virtues Increase Self-Awareness

Amortegui: Organizations that realize this potent potential for human excellence will transcend their current cultures and create a greenhouse effect: shining brightness on what is best about their people while cultivating the conditions for any organizational value system to live, breathe, and flourish.

There is great knowledge within your workforce about the practical realities of achieving sustainability in the workplace, within your industry, and in your community. Companies that tap into that knowledge on a regular basis will find that they reap a myriad of rewards: enthusiasm, morale, expertise, and engagement. Why not take advantage of it!

Want to read more about employee engagement? Check out another article we wrote on the subject for 2degrees, Three Ways to Engage Non-Wired Employees.

Thanks to 2degrees for publishing a version of this article!

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

The SSC Team August 2, 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 July.

 

Big Businesses Making Smarter Sustainable Choices

 

Motivate Your In-House Team to Meet Your Sustainability Goals

 

Why Standards Would Benefit the Green Finance Industry

 

Facility Managers: Putting Energy & Sustainability Practices to Work

  

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Why Standards Would Benefit the Green Finance Industry

The SSC Team July 26, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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It’s safe to say we all agree that green efforts in any industry should be applauded and the same is true when it comes to finance. But while a desire for green finance continues to grow worldwide, how can investors and issuers best identify and evaluate risk when the industry has no standards?

It’s clear that the industry is seeing major growth. In 2017 the issuance of labeled green bonds (PDF) jumped to nearly $160 billion and the self-labeled U.S. green bond market more than doubled, powered by a mix of municipalities, states and large corporations. But as these new and innovative financing options are being established, it seems increasingly important that some mandatory standards be created to guide those working in the industry.

Standards in the world of green finance would be beneficial for both investors and for issuers. For investors who are building their green portfolios and need assurances of best practice and reliable ways to monitor the quality of green instruments — regardless of which geographies or industries they invest in — a sense of best practices and who is meeting them would clearly help with decision making. When it comes to issuers, common standards would clarify options in terms of issuance while also ensuring that deals are being appropriately structured and reaching the right investors for each project.

Standardization also serves to enable innovation because it establishes a level playing field. While ING was first to issue a sustainability rating-linked loan, they have since observed that other banks have embraced different set-ups. Five years ago, Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) and the International Capital Markets Association (ICMA) both set out to establish a voluntary set of guiding principles for participants.

The framework from both organizations was focused on the process that needed to be followed when issuing green bonds: how issuers should describe the allocation of proceeds to investors; how a second opinion should be obtained; and how they should set about reporting in a transparent way.

And as a way to help kick-start the market, these served as helpful principles that could reassure investors and facilitate the uptake of green bonds, without being overly prescriptive about the use of the finance.

But the market has greatly expanded since 2013 and questions related to the use of green bond proceeds — their so-called "content" — have inevitably arisen: Which projects will qualify in specific sectors? Where should the boundaries be set? Where should classifications lean towards green or social bonds?

While CBI and ICMA with the input of other banks and stakeholders have continuously refined their earlier standards, the fact that the principles remain voluntary means that issuers do not need to follow them. On the flip side, if the standards around the industry become too settled, it will be difficult for the market to support the wide range of investor who would like to participate.

Who are these investors? Well the green finance industry has groups coming from varying green backgrounds, including investors with dedicated mandates for green bonds, investors with diversified portfolios that include pockets of green, and investors who find green bonds attractive but don’t have a dedicated mandate in place.

Because of their varying levels of commitment to being green, the investors might have different standards. Those with a dedicated green mandate are going to put potential issuers under much higher scrutiny than others.

And this is where there is a fine line to maintain between what investors want and expect, and what issuers want and need. It’s simply a fact that different industries are moving at different speeds when it comes to sustainability and different industries will face distinct challenges along the way. Within the investor community, there are a range of perceptions about standards and the various investment opportunities available.

Chief executive of the Loan Market Association, Clare Dawson, summed up the need for green finance standards perfectly, "With any new market, establishing a general framework for the product such as the Green Loan Principles (GLPs), which we recently launched, is beneficial as it helps create a common understanding of what people are looking at. We will be seeking to develop the GLP further to accommodate a wider range of loan structures, including revolving credit facilities, to maximize the number of borrowers able to take out green loans."

While issuers and investors have managed admirably with a voluntary patchwork of existing guidelines this far, a fresh set of commonly adopted standards will be the key to allowing green markets to expand. If these standards put the emphasis on process over content, it should create better conditions for green markets to thrive in future. And that’s great news for everyone.

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

The SSC Team July 3, 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 June.

 

Mining Companies Can Care

 

Triple Bottom Line: The Science of Good Business

 

Keeping Your Sustainability Team Engaged- Words to Live By

 

Taking the Trash to a Whole New Level

  

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Mining Companies Can Care

The SSC Team June 5, 2018 Tags: , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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When it comes to the mining industry, we know that there is a lot at stake for the environment. However, we don’t often think about mining companies as business that care about sustainability.

While fossil fuels and mining companies tend to be dismissed as unable to create sustainable strategies, but many companies in the mining industry are trying to mitigate their impact.

At Strategic Sustainability Consulting we have worked with mining companies, like Teck Resources Limited and a global resource leader in Scandinavia.  

 

Through our work with natural resource companies, we helped to identify emerging sustainability trends and best practices in the mining industry. The result of which has been that Teck has garnered national and international attention for its sustainability performance. In fact, in 2017 they were recognized among the best of their peers for social and environmental responsibility.

 

Mining companies can care.

 

And in an industry this big, with heavy materials circling the globe and creating significant environmental impacts, it’s vital that those in the sustainability field continue to push for more companies to embrace changes like Teck.

 

While the traditional corporate responsibility agenda has required that mining companies work with greater transparency and coordinate with local communities during the life of their projects, the sustainability agenda for mining is getting broader. For example, the industry itself has so much to lose if they do not try to understand and manage global trends, including the intense pressure their business is putting on the world’s very limited natural resources.

 

With alternative energy solutions taking off, we might think there is less need for mining, but as the population continues to increase (we are closing in on 9 or 10 billion) — and more and more of us have disposable income, our demands on these resources just keep growing. Unfortunately at the same time the demand is rising, the richness of ores (the “ore grade”) has been in long-run decline for most elements. Copper ore grade is down from 4% a century ago to well under 1% now (and falling). Copper mining isn’t just affected by natural resource pressures; it embodies natural resource constraints.

 

With all this information available, we must continue to monitor mining companies and encouraging them to engage in more mindful practices that can lessen their negative impact on the world around us all. 

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

The SSC Team May 31, 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 May.

 

Sustainability Strategy Isn't a Checklist

 

Data or Your Gut? Understanding Your True ROI

 

3 Questions to Make Sustainable Decisions

 

5 Minute Video: Making Your Business Case for Sustainability

  

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5 Minute Video: Making your business case for sustainability

The SSC Team May 17, 2018 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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Enjoy this post from the SSC Archives. 

 

Warning: This short video is so loaded with details, you might want to watch it twice! 

Check out this excellent five-minute video from Sustainability Illustrated explaining the concepts, words that influence, and strategies for translate sustainable ideas into dollars and cents.

Instead of batting around vague promises about the “savings” an organization will realize by making sustainable change, put your plan into language that business leaders understand. Provide dollars-and-cents analyses based on real case studies to demonstrate the impact of sustainable business practices.

How did you make your business case for sustainability? Let us know in the comments. 

How Does HR Fit into Sustainability?

The SSC Team March 20, 2018 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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If you work in Human Resources, you may not have spent a lot of time thinking about sustainability. It is someone else’s responsibility, right? Wrong. Ellen Weinreb recently wrote that being an ‘employer of choice’ is synonymous with sustainability. She believes that the HR team plays a critical role in forming “green teams” and encouraging employee engagement on environmental and other sustainability issues.

 

In his piece on the role that HR plays in sustainability strategy, John McGuire outlines a few starting points for strengthening the relationship between HR and sustainability. For example, McGuire notes that an HR professional must help to embed and operationalize a sustainable strategy into the workplace culture. This can mean a number of things such as providing trainings and development sessions to get team members to understand and invest in green changes; offering incentives and recognition for sustainability achievements; setting policies that encourage employee cooperation and involvement with the company’s environmental objectives — the list goes on. But a stumbling block for some HR employees — and other members of your company — can be a lack of understanding when it comes to the term sustainability.

 

Steve Wilkins, HR manager for FedEx Express, believes that “sustainability” is an overused and hard to define word, making implementing a sustainability strategy challenging. Wilkins does have some tips to help your HR department get past this hurdle when it comes to getting a sustainability strategy up and running. There are three key areas that he finds vital to the process — communications, education and motivation.

 

Communications is a huge factor in any office — whether in person or via email. Wilkins suggests connecting with the employees via an internal newsletter that highlights eco-achievements as well as setting up volunteer opportunities and encouraging small green changes like turning off unused lights. By highlighting your company’s commitment to innovative changes, you can show your team that you are focused on creating a positive impact on the workforce.

 

Clearly no one can be on board with a strategy they don’t understand, so you have to make sure you educate the members of your team about the impact your company has on the environment. And about the ways you want to reduce that impact and how they can be a part of it. A sense of common purpose will help keep your team committed and lead to a productive and empowered staff.

 

Susan Winterberg wrote earlier this year about how the highest-ranking factor of what makes a corporation just is providing employees with a good job. One of the central factors to making that happen is aligning a company’s values, commitments and actions. An increase in internal collaboration will greatly improve sustainable efforts, staff involvement in the process and commitment from your company to making green changes.

 

And as McGuire noted motivation is key so providing rewards, recognition and responsibilities to your employees can help them feel even more invested in the sustainability process. Remember, sustainability strategy is not a PR opportunity, but is something that needs to be incorporated into a business's overarching objectives. All organizations should be accountable for their actions and work to integrate environmental practices into everyday business life.

The Importance of Creating a Diverse Sustainability Team

The SSC Team March 6, 2018 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
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We talk a lot about diversity these days, but how can we truly make it a priority in our workplaces? Sustainability is about striving for a better world and a better world is an inclusive one. So whether you are a start up or a Fortune 500 company you need to strive to build a diverse company. Here’s the thing — this is not just good for your team, it’s good for your bottom line.

 

Harvard Business Review surveyed more than 1,700 companies from eight countries and found that there was a statistically significant relationship between diversity and innovation outcomes in all countries examined. Also those innovative companies unsurprisingly turned out to be more profitable, too.

 

In her 2016 piece, The Challenges of Diversity in Sustainability Leadership, Anya Khalamayzer highlighted the need for green-focused businesses and nonprofits to rethink they way they build diversity in leadership positions. As Khalamayzer points out the goal of environmental stewardship is preserving a diversity of ecosystems, cultures and natural resources. So it only makes sense that organizations pledging to protect the planet’s resources should reflect the diversity needed to solve the world’s big, interconnected problems.

 

“We need diversity to happen at all levels of environmental efforts, starting with the hiring process," said Whitney Tome, executive director of Green 2.0, an organization advancing racial diversity across mainstream environmental foundations and government agencies.

 

Leela Srinivasan, Chief Marketing Officer at Lever, has six ideas that can help yield results when it comes to fostering diversity in your workplace. First you have to get real about how diverse and inclusive your company is. Look, you can recruit all the diverse talent you want, but if they don’t feel comfortable in the office environment it isn’t going to work out. Make sure you create conditions where employees from all backgrounds can feel empowered to do their best work.

 

To really get started in this process you need to objectively analyze your current situation — how diverse do you consider the last five individuals promoted in terms of gender, ethnicity and background? Ask the same question of your last five hires. If there haven’t been many recent promotions or new team members added to your organization consider the last raises, bonuses or rewards that were distributed. Then consider the last five people who left your organization — is there any commonality in their background? Any patterns that emerge when you evaluate these questions can provide you with a starting point and areas where you need to prioritize your focus.

 

Next make sure your team interviews people consistently and objectively. Here’s the thing, even though hiring is really important for success, most companies seem to spend little time, effort or resources to train employees about making objective hiring decisions. And here’s the thing, whether we want to admit it or not, each of us has some bias about the world around us. Implementing some thoughtful guidelines can help to minimize the impact of that bias, or at least make us more aware of it. We all know that you want people to join your team who feel like a good fit, but if you constantly select people “just like us” your workplace could become a monoculture and your creativity and ability to succeed will be stifled. So utilize an application tracking system, a standard questionnaire and/or interview kits to help candidates be evaluated in a consistent way.

 

Does the world outside of your office understand your commitment to a diverse team? If you have people on your staff who may consider themselves to be in the minority you should ask if they are comfortable being featured in a company blog or to share their positive feelings about working for your company on sites like LinkedIn or Medium.  If this isn’t an option yet, demonstrate your commitment to the community — attend local meetings that address diversity issues or arrange volunteer opportunities that will expose your team to a more diverse population. If your website includes people — one your team or clients — make sure that you highlight individuals who represent other groups.

 

Everyone has to participate. There are different ways you can do this, but your office environment will not be more diverse unless your team is onboard and open. You can engage in company-wide discussions to help foster inclusion and celebrate differences. You can create employee resource groups to provide networking and social opportunities to underrepresented groups, however you have to be careful that the dialogue remains open and doesn’t cause important conversations to be help behind closed doors. The end goal is that the most successful inclusion activities will foster a mutual sense of belonging amongst everyone — whether they are in the majority or minority. And remember, it isn’t just about special activities. You need to make sure that the everyday experience is inclusive. Here is Buffer’s guide to inclusive language for startups and tech companies, take a look and think about the language utilized in your company each day.

 

Here’s the thing, you may have to be proactive in building your diverse team. If you get 25 applications for a position and every one comes from a white millennial male, you may want to put in a little more work to garner a more diverse slate of potential candidates. However as you start approaching individuals you think may be a good fit, remember you are looking for a diverse AND talented team. Do not approach a potential candidate merely because they would increase the diversity at your company.

 

Most importantly? Don’t wait! The early you implement these strategies into your hiring process, the more likely you are to garner and maintain a diverse team. This is a commitment for the long term so get to it! There is no time like the present.