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Why “Going Green” is Worth the Effort

The SSC Team May 26, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC archives.

SSC President, Jennifer Woofter, was featured in an article about the corporate benefits of sustainability.

“As manufacturers begin to unravel the complexities of corporate social responsibility, they’re finding that it’s made up of much more than simply going green.'...Despite this, many manufacturers are taking CSR seriously because of the litany of influences they do face — not least of which is pressure from their big customer and business partners, who are increasingly viewing CSR programs as an expectation, not an option. And from a consumer standpoint, transparency and accountability has become a significant factor in improving brand loyalty, no matter the industry.”

Woofter weighed in on the sustainability discussion by offering some key components of sustainability practices and why it’s worth the effort.

"Most suppliers and customers simply want manufacturers to take some steps forward in reducing the way their businesses infringe upon the environment or the rights of others. People don’t want, or expect, perfection,” she says. “What they want is to believe that you are doing your part to solve the problem.”

Woofter believes that, although any company can benefit by the improved reputation that comes along with a CSR program, she cautions businesses to be certain they understand the FTC guidelines on green marketing.

“While the FTC rules on green marketing can seem overwhelming, the message to manufacturers is simple: don’t make vague claims that you can’t back up,” explains Woofter.

If you're just getting started in sustainability, we have the experience and resources to ensure your programs are meaningful, manageable and strategically aligned. Contact us to talk about a green audit, the first step toward sustainability strategy.


Sustainability Strategy Isn’t a Checklist

The SSC Team February 9, 2016 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

There are a lot of business books out there that provide templates for business plans and checklists. And having a plan and a checklist is important for any project or start-up, but developing a business strategy or incorporating sustainability into a business strategy isn’t a series of items to check off of a “to-do list.”

Even if you went through and commissioned and then checked off an annual sustainability report, a carbon footprint, a life-cycle analysis, et cetera, there is no guarantee that your organization would even be close to executing a true sustainability strategy.

Sustainability strategy should be based on an organizational understanding of why you need to invest in assessing and reducing your environmental impact. Without understanding why, you risk wasting time and money on projects that don’t align with the overall business strategy and stakeholder needs.

After determining why sustainability is important to the organization, you should focus on materiality, or what are the most important or impactful steps the organization can make inside of a realistic timeframe or budget or deadline.

Finally, look to experts to develop a proven path forward that speaks to both the materiality and the underlying corporate strategy on this issue.

For example, if your company is a small manufacturing firm held accountable to demanding suppliers or upcoming environmental regulations, but you have no clear idea on your environmental impact, then your why may be “we need to know what we are facing so we can answer questions of our stakeholders with honesty and confidence.”

Next, is materiality – are suppliers or regulators more important? Can they be addressed through the same sustainability tool or report?

If you determine through a materiality assessment that your suppliers are the most important stakeholder group to address first, next, consider what information they are demanding, in what format, and by when. In the example case of manufacturing, this may be be collecting LCA data for a supplier scorecard or more pulling together even more thorough data for a third-party environmental or human product declaration (EPD/HPD) report.

Essentially, sustainability strategy should be tailored as carefully as marketing strategy or pricing strategy.

Company leadership should clearly understand why the sustainability efforts are integral to the success of the company, how important they are to the stakeholders who drive that success to help prioritize efforts, and which strategic path forward to take to meet stakeholder needs best.

SSC not only delivers excellent sustainability consulting services, we are focused on ensuring our clients choose the service, and level of service, that will meet their real business goals.


How Do Sustainability Reports Change Over Time?

The SSC Team January 19, 2016 Tags: , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC blog archives. 

At Strategic Sustainability Consulting, we’ve been doing sustainability reporting for TEN years – one for each year that we’ve been in business. We’ve also helped a variety of clients produce their own sustainability reports. So we know the joys and pains involved – from both sides of the experience.

A few years ago, Jennifer Woofter looked back on how SSC's own sustainability report has changed over time, we thought it might be valuable to share some of those reflections based on six years of sustainability reporting. 

While each company’s experience will be different, there are some common threads that are shared among reporting organizations.

Are you interested in writing your first, sixth or tenth sustainability report? We can help.


Three Steps to a Credible Sustainability Strategy

The SSC Team January 5, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the SSC blog archives. 

Strategic Sustainability Consulting was invited to participate in a trade association's annual board meeting a while back to discuss what they could do on the sustainability frontier.

SSC President Jennifer Woofter gave a short presentation called, “Three Steps to a Credible Sustainability Strategy.”

Since the presentation was so well received, we've put together a short recap in a series of three X minute videos. 

Step 1: Create a clear strategy statement:

Step 2: Develop realistic and substantial programs: 

Step 3: Reporting! Share performance metrics:

If your company would like to talk with a sustainability consulting expert about carbon footprinting, please contact Strategic Sustainability Consulting today!

Don’t get caught – Create a calendar to manage sustainability deadlines

The SSC Team December 29, 2015 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Another new year is fast approaching. Soon it will be time to start looking back on last year's sustainability performance, assessing, reporting, and making plans. But now is the time for looking forward, and the time for making those New Year's resolutions. Here's one: work smarter in 2016. Check out this post from the SSC archives with one smart idea. 

In March 2012, 29 companies got caught shirking their sustainability commitments. Could you be next?

In this 3-minute video, SSC President Jennifer Woofter explains the challenge of managing corporate sustainability obligations, and an easy solution for keeping abreast of all the sustainability deadlines that loom throughout the year.

If you'd like help cataloging your company's sustainability obligations into an effective project management format that will keep you ahead of the deadline, please contact Strategic Sustainability Consulting today. One of our sustainability consultants will walk you through the options that will work best for your situation.

If your investors are assessing your climate risk, shouldn’t you be?

The SSC Team November 12, 2015 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

This summer, the World Resources Institute and the UNEP Finance Initiative consulted with more than 100 energy, climate, and finance experts to create a discussion framework for investors to weigh exposure to the risks of climate change.

Essentially, it is a toolkit for investors to evaluate a company based on climate risk factors not directly related to physical risk. Most investors can already pick out obvious physical risks, i.e. investing in coastal property as sea levels rise. But non-physical, climate-change effected risks are also important.

The WRI discussion framework addresses those risks, called carbon-asset risks. They include public policy, regulation, technology, unpredictable market conditions, and shifting public opinion.

This discussion framework is an excellent tool for investors to weigh risks as they choose to make investments, but we argue that companies themselves should be looking at this tool to discover their own carbon asset risks and then engaging in some deeper-level analyses and audits.

For example, the assessment recommends that investors look beyond carbon footprinting and delve deeper into company supply chain audits that may uncover risks. For example:

  • Geographic location (are too many of your suppliers in the path of a super-typhoon?),
  • Local regulations (are the countries your source your raw materials from looking to legislate and increase your costs?),
  • Diversification in operations or production (are your products and services too dependent on fossil fuels?).

This discussion framework, while absolutely useful for investors, can also be used as a cheat sheet for your own business. Next step: Start auditing and taking action now to mitigate your climate risk.

Reducing exposure to risk is crucial, not only to become more attractive to investors, but also to become a more sustainable organization overall!

If you’re ready to start looking more deeply at your carbon asset risk, contact us to learn more about sustainability assessment and supply chain analysis.

More evidence that you should wait to act on sustainability

The SSC Team October 22, 2015 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Enjoy this post from the blog archives. 

We wrote, “Why You Should Wait to Act On Sustainability” for Environmental Leader. The comments were...interesting, and showed that there was a lot of disagreement about the premise to move more slowly and thoughtfully on corporate sustainability initiatives. But we're sticking to our guns- and we’re very pleased to see more evidence that supports our position.

In the Inc. article, “How to Make Better Decisions: Slow Down”, author Jessica Stillman provides a great round-up of some of the best thinking and ideas regarding fast vs. slow decision-making. Here are some of the highlights:

In their new book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, brothers and academics Chip (of Stanford Graduate School of Business) and Dan Heath (of Duke) explore how to eliminate biases and improve the quality of our decisions. One of the biggest decision-making mistakes they tackle is our tendency not to waffle but to decide too quickly. Stanford's Re:Think newsletter explains that the authors devote a considerable portion of the book to the idea of widening your options, advice that may seem at odds with the very definition of decision making. 

This is huge insight for sustainability practitioners, who should remember that one of the best ways to widen your options is to engage with stakeholders along the value chain. Don't just ask your green team to come up with great ideas -- ask your suppliers, your customers, your contractors, and your investors. 

The goal, in other words, isn't to go fast and eliminate options. It's to slow down and add them. So how do you accomplish this? The key, the authors say, is taking the time to gather information and alternatives. Using devil’s advocates, asking people who have solved similar problems, gathering relevant statistics, and soliciting the advice of friends and family members can all help.

While you're gathering all of this information, it can be helpful to have a structured process in order to capture insights for later review. After all, it's easy to lose track of who said what, emerging themes and where they are coming from, and ideas worth following up on. So take some time BEFORE you begin your decision-making process to think about how you will engage, and how you'll manage the inflow of information.

You might object that today's market moves too fast for such lollygagging. But Heath replies that considering less information rarely actually saves time, either because we make bad decisions (and then stick with the path we've chosen long after we should abandon it) or because we waste time anyway waffling over limited data and alternatives.

Yes! Based upon our sustainability consulting experience, we have found that taking the time to gather lots of options has allowed our clients to make confident decisions and execute them fully -- rather than make half-cocked initiatives that get only partial support or just lip service.

The Heath brothers aren't the only people warning leaders not to be seduced by quick decision making, of course. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman wrote a whole best-selling book on the limitations of quick thinking called, appropriately, Thinking, Fast and Slow. If you haven't picked it up yet, it's well worth a read in full and is packed with examples of how our knee-jerk decision-making machinery can lead us astray, as well as techniques to short-circuit bias. But for the quick-and-dirty summary, look to Harvard Business Review, which offers this article on one technique, the premortem, and another article by Kahneman himself outlining the basics of why quick decision making is often bad decision making

So what do you think? Leave a comment here, or join the conversation on Twitter 

7 Ways to Get Attention for Your Sustainability Plan

The SSC Team March 12, 2015 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

By: Alexandra Kueller

Your company has just put the finishing touches on their sustainability plan, and they’re ready to publish it and show the world. Just one problem: it’s now becoming commonplace for companies to only publish their annual sustainability reports, but also publish their sustainability plans. How do you make sure that your company’s sustainability plan sticks outs from the rest of them?

Harvard Business Review published an article focusing on how people can capture someone’s attention by using 7 different triggers. We thought that these triggers could not only apply to people in the workplace, but also a company’s sustainability plan. Below we explain how to take these triggers to help bring attention to your sustainability plan:


People like the familiar, and there is a certain familiarity to sustainability plans. There are certain words that a lot of companies put in their plans, such as “materiality” or “life cycle assessment” or “2020 goals”. By putting in these sustainability “trigger words”, they act as a jump starter for the brain and help the reader have a most instant, automatic focus on that section.


At their core, sustainability plans are similar: they help layout what a company intends to do about sustainability, but since no two companies are the exact same, neither are their sustainability plans. By framing your plan, you can help highlight what you company wants to focus primarily. If it’s a heavy focus on waste and recycling, try and tie in this theme throughout your plan.


Yes, you want people to read your company’s sustainability plan, but how can you make sure you sustain your reader’s attention? If your plan is the same format throughout with little variance, chances are someone might not make it to the end. If you sprinkle disruptions in your sustainability plan, like a mini case study or an anecdote from someone, it will help keep people engaged.


Someone has just read through your entire sustainability plan, but then what comes next? Find a way to reward the people who have read through your plan; give them incentive to still care what your company is doing. Maybe you’ll send out condensed quarterly updates on your sustainability initiatives, or maybe you’ll allow them to make comments or suggestions about the plan.


Experts are trusted for a reason: they are extremely knowledgeable in their field of study. If you’re making certain claims or statements in your sustainability plan from experts, don’t just cite their names, let the readers know that they’re highly knowledgeable.


What’s great about sustainability plans is that they are just the beginning of a new journey. As much as people like to plan for long-term goals, you’ll never exactly know how much carbon you’ll reduce or how much your company will increase their recycling. Invite people to join you on this mystery as no one knows what the ending will look like!


Give credit where credit is due. Sustainability plans aren’t easy to compose, and they require a lot of help from a wide variety of people. Have a page at the end of your plan that gives thanks to everyone that has helped you along the way. It shows that you care and value those people, and who knows how they’ll repay you in the future!

Now that you have your sustainability plan, what about creating your sustainability report? Learn about the brutal truth about sustainability reporting.

A Tale of Two Sustainability Reports – Part 2

The SSC Team February 17, 2015 Tags: , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

By: Alexandra Kueller

Two weeks ago, we featured an article that highlighted sustainability reports from two of our clients: Chicken of the Sea and PureCircle. Both companies made great strides towards their 2020 sustainability goals and we wanted to feature their achievements.

This week, we wanted to do more of a comparison between the two companies. With both companies operating in the food industry – Chicken of the Sea with canned fish products and PureCircle with stevia – we thought this would be a great opportunity to see how close the companies (and the reports) compare within the same industry!

Chicken of the Sea 

Chicken of the Sea specializes in…

…producing a wide variety of seafood that ranges from frozen to refrigerated to cans, pouches, and cups. While Chicken of the Sea is known for their tuna products, they also produce other seafood items that include oysters, crabmeat, clams, salmon, sardines, shrimp, and more.

Their services relate to sustainability because…

…over-fishing in oceans is becoming a more prominent issue, especially regarding tuna. Chicken of the Sea is doing their best to make sure they are not only responsibly harvesting tuna, but also making sure that their production line is as sustainable as can be. 

These were their sustainability goals:
Chicken of the Sea has five main focus areas for the 2020 goals (against 2012 baseline):

  • Energy – reduce electricity and natural gas use by 20% each
  • Waste – reduce landfill waste by 30%
  • Water – reduce water use by 15%
  • Health & Safety – maintain/reduce safety incidents
  • Supply Chain – audit 90% of seafood procurement spend

 In 2013, Chicken of the Sea saw major strides towards a lot of their goals, but there were three focus areas that really stood out: waste, water, and health & safety. Chicken of the Sea saw a 27.8% reduction in waste, a 12.8% reduction in water use, and a 40% lower incident rate than the previous year, staying on par with their goal.


PureCircle specializes in…

…producing and innovating the next generation of stevia to be used as sweeteners for the food and beverage industry that help support a natural and healthy lifestyle, such as low and no-calorie sweeteners.

Their services relate to sustainability because…

…even though this is PureCircle’s first sustainability report, sustainability has been engrained in their businesses practices since the beginning. From their operations to their social commitments, PureCircle has made sure to be socially and environmentally responsible by having sustainability policies in place. 

These were their sustainability goals:

On the environmental side, PureCircle has four main 2020 goals (against 2011 baseline):

  • Reduce carbon intensity across the product life cycle by 20%
  • Reduce energy intensity across the product life cycle by 20%
  • Reduce water intensity across the product life cycle by 20%
  • Eliminate waste across farming and processing operations with zero waste to landfill

So far, PureCircle is on course to meet all of their goals, with one goal – energy intensity – already exceeding the original goal by reducing intensity by 42%.

On the social side of PureCircle’s sustainability goals, the company hopes to:

  • Support 100,000 small-scale farmers with sustainable agriculture policies
  • Ensure 100% traceability from gate to individual farm

PureCircle is working and engaging with small-scale farmers on issues such as food security, biodiversity, waste reduction, and fertilizer application to help improve not only the stevia plants, but to enrich the lives of the farmers as well.

Regardless of whether it was the first or third report, what makes both of these sustainability reports strong is the incorporation of a materiality assessment. By completing the assessment, both companies were able to see what is not only what is considered important to the company, but also to their stakeholders, allowing each company to tailor their reports to fit their needs the best.

Curious about how a SSC sustainability report might look like? Check out our previous reports here!

How to Engage Employees in your Carbon Management Strategy

The SSC Team February 10, 2015 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

Here is a blog post from 2013 that we think you would enjoy again:

If your CEO walked down the hallways of your organization and popped his or her head into a dozen offices, how many people would be able to answer these questions?

  • What are the key business activities driving our carbon footprint?
  • How has our carbon footprint changed over the last five years?
  • How is your department contributing to our corporate emissions profile?

If you're like 99% of other businesses, you probably have not been engaging employees on the issues of climate change, carbon emissions, and greenhouse gas reduction. At least -- not in a meaningful way. If the main answer you get from employees is, "we turn off the lights and shut down our computers at night," you are missing the boat. There is a much bigger role for employees to play and by fully engaging them on the topic, your organization can reap big benefits.

There are dozens of articles and guides on how to engage employees in sustainability -- and we've listed some of the best below. What we want to talk about today, however, are the three things that MUST be present in order for people to change their behavior. Want to get people on board with your carbon reduction goals? Can't figure out why staff can't remember to shut off the lights when they leave? Keen to encourage more "out of the box" thinking around carbon management? Here's what they need:

1. Motivation

Employees need to have a reason to participate. Because not all people are motivated by the same things, smart companies must provide multiple "motivators." Some of our favorites:

Create simple prompts -- put up signs, posters, and quick tips where they are highly visible. This can be in the hallways, on the company intranet, or in regular email communications.
Use social pressure -- studies have shown that people are more likely to participate in a workplace initiative if a colleague asks them to do it. Consider having "carbon leaders" spread throughout the company that can encourage engagement in a 1-on-1 setting.
Appeal to emotion and identity -- tie your plea into larger themes and values. For some companies, carbon management will be a natural fit with their core values (e.g. people at Google seem to naturally resonate with "green" themes). Other companies will make it more about the individual employee.

2. Ability

Staff needs the skills, confidence, and knowledge required to contribute. With any initiative, during the planning phase you need to ask yourself these questions:

Do people know what is expected of them? How will we ensure that employees are educated about the initiative and their role in it?
Do we need to provide training to specific personnel in order for this initiative to be effective? Who needs a higher level of knowledge to help it run smoothly?
Do people have the self-confidence to engage? What kind of encouragement or support do we need to provide so that people enthusiastically participate with the knowledge that they can do the job well?

3. Opportunity

Workers need the resources, relationships, and environmental conditions that allow their engagement to flourish. There are three general strategies that work here:

Empower employees: Involve them in project governance. Let on-the-ground employees determine project goals, strategies, and the tools needed to do the job. Be transparent through all areas of the project, so that everyone participating can see how it's progressing in real time. 
Strengthen social capital: Get people from different areas of the company together, both in large groups (i.e. weak ties) and smaller, more intimate ways (i.e. building bonds). When people build relationships across the organization, they are more likely to see opportunities to contribute to your carbon management initiatives.
Change the environment: Move people around, relocate the recycling bins, allow once-a-week telecommuting. Get people out of their usual workday rut and see what happens!

Want more?

Here are some of our favorite employee engagement resources:

Want to learn more about reducing your carbon footprint? Check out our white paper!