By: Alexandra Kueller
You’re a member of your company’s sustainability team, and you just thought of a brand new sustainability project for your company to undertake. This project will not only help better the environment, but also help save the company money! But what’s the hold up? Often, like many other new projects and ideas, sustainability-related projects get lost in the shuffle.
In a Harvard Business Review article called “A Guide to Winning Support for Your New Idea or Project", author Rebecca Knight discusses several ways you can win support and get people on board for your new project. We decided to add a sustainability twist to her idea and help you find new ways to gain momentum for your new sustainability project.
1. Understand What’s Motivating You
If you want to successfully pitch and sell your new idea, be sure you are able to explain why. If you want your company to undertake a carbon footprint, it’s a good idea to have a response that goes beyond “it can help the environment in the long run.” Identify why you think your company should invest resources into a carbon footprint and be able to articulate those thoughts.
2. Think Small
Sure, it would be great if every company could have a top-to-bottom sustainability makeover, but unfortunately that’s not the reality. Business still have actual businesses to run and can’t throw an endless supply of resources to the sustainability team. Think small, and try to get as specific as possible. The more precise you are with your goals and outcomes, the better chance you have to get people to respond. It’s much easier to dismiss a large, lofty goal than something that seems more tangible.
3. Gather Feedback
You might think that proposing a materiality assessment is a great idea, but what do your coworkers think? If you find yourself with colleagues who might have interest in the idea, present it in an informal manner, such as “What do you think of our company going through a materiality assessment?” You’ll be able to quickly hear any concerns or questions they might have, allowing you to tighten up your plan to make sure it is a sure-fire success.
4. Sell, Sell, Sell
As Knight mentions in her article, selling your idea is more of a campaign than a singular event. If you want your company to undergo a life cycle assessment, bring up the idea – often. This is when you need to market your idea and get as many people on board as you can. Make your coworkers understand what a life cycle assessment is and why it’s important for your company to complete one; try to get as much agreement as you can.
5. Propose a Pilot
Perhaps you have initial support for your idea of publishing an annual sustainability report, but there’s still some pushback. Instead of having an “all or nothing” mentality, suggest writing a rough skeleton outline of a sustainability report. This way people can get a better sense of what a report would look like, and it’s a fairly low time commitment. And if the sustainability report isn’t approved, minimal resources were wasted.
6. Don’t Get Discouraged
No matter what type of work you are doing, any time someone doesn’t approve of a new project or idea you suggested, it’s easy to get discouraged. Instead, gather feedback. Was your idea for a waste audit shot down because of budgeting reasons or rather your bosses needed some more time to think on it? Just because your project wasn’t accepted initially doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance to complete your waste audit in the future. Keep your head up and continue to advocate for sustainability projects within your company.
Are simple mistakes holding back your sustainability? Find out how to correct those mistakes here!
- By removing distractions, companies can focus on what really matters.
- By searching for patterns and finding common elements, companies can spot opportunities earlier and streamline decision-making.
- By removing product features, companies can drive innovation and reach new audiences.
- Conduct a materiality assessment to identify and prioritize your (internal and external) stakeholders and what they care about. This will give you a short list of sustainability topics that are the most important, and a longer list of "nice to have" activities to tackle as time permits.
- Assess each of your existing sustainability activities against a materiality matrix. If you find that activities are falling outside of the "must have" sustainability priorities, you should consider redirecting resources to more important places.
- Develop guidelines to help you address the importance, effectiveness, and urgency of any new activities under consideration. This will keep you on the straight and narrow going forward.
Data IntegrationData Integration is one of the most difficult of the activities covered in this series because it involves most of the different activities working in concert with each other. For example, it is implicit in Data Movement between systems where the Data models are different. Suppose we have data in our Accounting system that will be used in a cost calculation algorithm (method) in our Sustainability Software. To do this, we need to copy the Accounting data, then reshape it to conform to the load utilities for our package and proceed with the load. This setup entails numerous subtleties including the cross referencing of the source data model in the Accounting System with the format of the import utility. This is called Field Mapping and it’s not just an easy matching question where you can get the first few right and guess the rest. Examples will help us here.
- Suppose we need to deal with quantity shipment data and the target model is asking for unit prices and volumes. We might need to deduce the carbon content per gallon from the available carbon content per fifty five gallon barrel, or just divide by 55.
- A more complex example involves translation from the English System to the Metric System (raise your hand if you can do this without a calculator).
- Another example would be the rules concerning the potential for rounding errors for large quantities.
- A final classic example is how to deal with Asian names (commonly listed with the surname first) being transferred into a system with a European paradigm (where the surname is listed last).
Data MiningData Mining is the last major topic to be introduced. It also involves smatterings of the others, but has a unique ad-hoc character at its essence. Suppose we have a database that describes product production events in a manufacturing setting. Suppose also that we wish to learn more about root causes of some recurring problem that has escaped previous attempts to solve it and choose to “look at all the occurrences at once”. Someone who is expert in the data itself, as well as all the business processes it describes could attempt to construct queries that will reveal common conditions that led to the problem occurrences. For example, he might notice they all tend to fall in the first half hour of their respective production runs. Further drill down might reveal they all involve late shipments from the same raw material vendor, while production runs with timely shipments from the same vendor seem to go without mishap. This would lead us to suspect potential spoilage or lack of maturity in the late arriving material. Data Mining is a spiral learning discipline. One spirals in to a common cause, or spirals out to learn the nature of the Cosmos.
ConclusionWe hope that as a result of this information, albeit somewhat high-level, you’ll find a greater degree of ease in approaching Data Management problems and their solutions with any Sustainability Software package that you may be considering. As with the rest of this series, our goal is to guide you through each of these complex topics and bring them safely toward a solution that will provide you with robust and accurate data and data management practices that will last for years to come. Now that you’ve read this article, tell us what you think! And be sure to check out the full white paper.
Data MovementData Movement is one of the silent cost areas of Data Management. This entails the replication of data into a system and then out of it on to another system. For example, suppose you have selected the ideal Sustainability Software offered in a SaaS-based contract by a reputable vendor. A qualified consultant is hired to mastermind the installation and the ideal algorithms are determined, tested and approved. All we need now is to move the company transaction data into it and let it do its work to produce the outputs we desire. What can be so hard about that? Strong vendors of Sustainability Software will provide robust utilities to import data into their system and to export data from it. These must receive special attention from your Consultant and from your IT staff who will need to know how they work, at least for diagnostic scenarios. We list some additional considerations below.
Data InSuppose your consultant determines your current operational control systems can supply the data your new Sustainability Software needs and a prototype has proven this to everyone’s satisfaction. It seems like all we need to do is to rerun the prototype code every day and everything will work. Axiom of Design: Everything needs to be designed at least three times: Once to see if we even really want what we had in mind, once more to learn how to build the ongoing system, and once more to really build what we imagined. Then Continuous Improvement kicks in. You are in the process of building what is called a Data Movement Application. Any process that is repeated will fail often in new ways not anticipated. Yes, computers can break and humans make mistakes frequently, but tornadoes and blizzards happen too. We want repeating processes to repeat as planned, and this is why the first design of any software will be replaced. Moreover, you are probably required to prove to an auditor that all your data is being transmitted and received with very few errors that are themselves being analyzed and accounted for. This is motivation for an Automated Balance and Control system that manages your Data Movement and assures its accuracy and timeliness. If you intend all the work to be “outsourced”, be sure to consider these factors in your negotiations. At minimum, be prepared to self-ensure for these events—they will happen.
Data OutThere are two main reasons to move data out of your Sustainability Software.
- To provide a report for approved readers
- To supply calculated data to another system
This fabulous eco-luxury hotel was the first renovated hotel in New York City to obtain LEED Gold Certification and was one of NYC’s three hotel properties with top LEED credentials upon certification in 2013.
- Occupancy sensors for lighting and HVAC in hotel rooms to reduce energy when rooms are unoccupied
- Sustainable reuse of the existing building’s exterior walls and floors
- Reclaimed wood flooring in the guestrooms
- High efficiency windows and HVAC equipment
- Water loop heat pumps that condition the rooms
- Dual-flush toilets in guest bathrooms
- A green roof and outdoor space that contribute to a high ratio of open space to development footprint
- Implementation of a Green Operations and Maintenance Plan to reduce toxins and chemicals introduced into the building after completion
In addition, the Hotel is implementing many of AGPOM’s Green Behavioral Plan for Hotels and Resorts. The following provides an example of their commitment:
- Reusable linen program for guests to reuse towels and linens during their stay
- Relying on natural daylight in restaurants and common areas for as much of each day as possible
- Keep window coverings closed in unoccupied guest rooms to combat extreme temps
- Incandescent light bulbs have been replaced with CFLs
- Recycling programs are used and encouraged
- Purchases locally, when possible
- Un-used and/or no longer used items are donated to charities
Data ModelingThis term is most commonly associated with Data Warehouse design, but is relevant to the construction of any database. If you elect to design and build your own Sustainability Software you will find the design of its underlying database (Data Modeling) to be one of the most labor intensive steps in the process, and because Sustainability is a rapidly evolving concept, it will seem that the database changes are boundless. Data Modelers are not only IT-savvy, but are required to be subject matter experts in the business functions of the company. Data Modeling usually starts with vocabulary lists which are organized by a discipline called Taxonomy. These lists are then translated into abstractions called Logical Data Models which ideally constitute the rigorous definitions of, and relationships among all the data elements required for the enterprise to function. Then magic happens and database administrators interpret the Logical Data Models into real databases in software products such as Oracle, DB2 or SQL Server. There are software tools like ERWin and ERStudio that assist both the modelers and DBA’s in doing this. These are lofty goals indeed and can be expensive to implement especially if you purchase expensive tools. Additionally, in a rapidly changing environment it can be difficult for the Modelers to keep pace with the Entrepreneurs, but if your Business requires databases to function, their models (designs) must either be purchased from vendors or created by the home team. Since Analysis Paralysis can be costly, we encourage you to “buy” vs. “build” the database for your Sustainability Software, especially given the wide variety of SaaS solutions available in the market today. For small to midsized companies, this is by far the most cost effective option. If you elect a SaaS approach, all these issues will be completely hidden from view and their expenses will be shared among all the system’s users as part of the overall licensing cost.
Data Storage & ArchivingThis is where the ongoing cost kicks in. Hardware for data storage is at an all time low and trending downward, but the software licenses required are costly to buy and to maintain going forward. Both must be periodically patched and upgraded which requires a sophisticated IT Infrastructure team. These costs and hassles furnish more strong arguments for SaaS. There are also potential standards clashes with bringing in special purpose software. For example, SQL Server is an excellent database platform for a small to midsized company, but the Sustainability package you love most might be based on DB2 and Cognos. The benefits of the new system could easily be outrun by the cost of this big company software alone. Remember the notion of Total Cost of Ownership, wherein it often turns out that ongoing costs exceed the installation costs dramatically. This is the area of Data Management concerned with backups, disaster recovery, test environments, complex operational change control, etc. Bear in mind that Sustainability is an emerging venture and that commercial and governmental influences are afoot to undermine your investment, no matter which way you start out. It’s best to adopt the conservative approach unless your industry has specific special needs that package software has not yet addressed. If you feel you must support your own Sustainability Software on your own premises with your own team, then make platform compatibility one of your highly loaded criteria. If you have a SQL Server shop, try to adapt to a SQL Server-based package if possible. One final significant consideration: regardless of who maintains the data storage servers, you will be at least partly responsible to assure all data privacy and audit best practices are followed. If these are not contemplated in the initial setup, it is possible you will enjoy fines and audits that will eventually motivate the re-design of the storage systems (or migration to a SaaS solution!) (TO BE CONTINUED…) Now that you’ve read this article, tell us what you think! And be sure to check out the full white paper.
Data ManagementThe definition provided in the Data Management Association (DAMA) Data Management Body of Knowledge (DAMA-DMBOK) is: "Data Management is the development, execution and supervision of plans, policies, programs and practices that control, protect, deliver and enhance the value of data and information assets." This term is the most general description of the collection of activities involved with data and broadly includes all the areas that we’ll introduce in this article. If you’re really interested in more detail, check out the DAMA site at http://www.dama.org.
Data ProcessingThis is another very broad term representing the collection of plans, processes, people and technology tasked with the collection of transactional data (e.g. item sales in a company's retail outlets) and the subsequent calculation of summary data that has meaning to your business such as periodic sales reports. This includes the routine computational work performed by your company's people and computers that generate output like your monthly customer invoices or accounting reports, for example. Your Sustainability Software, in the ongoing state, would be supplied with data such as rigorous measurements of weights and volumes of raw materials and products (Collected Data) and the software installation will calculate the various indicators and reports for their respective uses (Calculated Data). When discussing Data Processing, it is always a good grounding exercise to distinguish the Collected Data vs. Calculated Data being considered. The two have different types of rules around them, which brings us to the next category of Data Management.
Data GovernanceData Governance is the management aspect of Data Management and has to do with identification and life cycle management of Business Rules connected with Data Management. These rules might be driven by law, profit motivation, social norms or a myriad of other factors, but the establishment of definitions of terms and their existence in your company's soft assets is the foundation of Data Governance. Examples of such rules include the following:
- Meta-data Management is the collection of rules and definitions of the data elements used in your company. It could be stored in a rigorous set of spreadsheets, or in an exotic, purpose-built system like Rochade from ASG Software. Meta-data should have a dedicated team devoted to its maintenance and secure distribution to interested parties. This team should include representation from both the technical side and the business side of your firm.
- Business and technical ownership of data quality standards for things like customer mailing addresses and formulae used in reporting.
- The clear specification of things like sales transactions and revenue classifications in the company's data streams.
- The identification and lifecycle management of your company's master lists such as store locations, product names and their reporting rollups, and a consolidated customer contact list across all lines of business. This activity is referred to as "Master Data Management" and has taken on a life of its own by numerous software companies and consultancies but it is based on the common sense notion to "Keep your lists straight."
Enjoy this blog from the SSC archives:
Every company needs smart carbon goals -- and this is especially true if you are a Walmart supplier (or sell to a retailer with a similar sustainability scorecard). But what makes a good carbon goal? You don't want to be too ambitious and fall short, but you also don't want to set such easily attainable goals that you look lazy. What is the right middle ground?
Before we jump in, we want to mention that there is much disagreement in the sustainability industry about what an appropriate carbon goal is -- and what companies should be aiming for. So please take our opinion with a grain of salt. What works for you might be different that for another organization.
Ok, let's get into it.
Should you set a goal of carbon neutral?
Maybe. It's an admirable goal, and we love BHAGs. However, there are two main problems that we see with carbon-neutral goals. First, it's easy to slide from a meaningful effort to reduce carbon-generating activities into a focus on buying your way out of the problem with RECs and carbon offsets. Second, the challenge of zero carbon is so big that it can be overwhelming. Avoid these two problems by 1) keeping the emphasis on carbon reduction, and only purchase carbon offsets to mitigate truly unavoidable impacts, and 2) creating a year-by-year plan with shorter goals that get you to carbon neutral.
Should you set a goal aligned with IPCC guidelines?
Yes. The IPCC report is the go-to place for understanding global carbon thresholds. In it, scientists tell us we must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of 392 parts per million ("ppm") to below 350 ppm. That equates to a global reduction in carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 (against 1995 baselines). (Read more about the science here). In order to honestly say that you are "doing your part" to stop climate change, your company should be aiming to reduce its carbon footprint at this same rate. (If you're interested in learning more, please contact us -- we have access to tools that can help you figure out what IPCC guidelines mean for your company on a year-by-year basis!)
Should you set a modest 5% - 10% goal?
Maybe. It's better to have a modest goal, rather than no goal. But our general feeling is that these types of goals are mostly suited to extremely short timeframes -- like 1-3 years. And that's great, particularly if you are just starting out and need some quick wins to build momentum. But don't overlook the bigger picture. It's critical to understand where you need to be in the long run (20-50 years from now). Focusing on that horizon will help you consider the carbon implications of capital investments, supply chain development, mergers and acquisitions, and new product development.
Should you set goals beyond tons of CO2-e?
Yes. There are lots of ways to set carbon goals. And while an absolute reduction in tons of CO2-e is a vital element of a carbon management plan, it is not complete. Consider the following to round out your approach:
- Adjusted carbon goals (like carbon-per-production-unit, or carbon-per-$-revenue) will help you determine how your carbon efficiency is changing as you grow (or shrink) your organization.
- Employee engagement goals (like % of employees trained on carbon reduction initiatives) will help you measure how far into your organization you have embedded your mission.
- Supply chain goals (like % of suppliers reporting their Scope 1 and 2 emissions) will help you track how much of your Scope 3 emissions are covered, and how much you are leveraging your value chain towards sustainability.
Are simple mistakes holding back your sustainability? Find out how to correct those mistakes here!