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Reducing Waste Doesn’t Always Equate to Sustainability: Start Calculating the Impact of Tradeoffs in Sustainability Strategies

The SSC Team March 29, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

For years, organizations have been buying into the “waste less to be green” strategy. Sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – i.e. save some stuff for future generations.

So, it is natural to assume that by using fewer resources today, we are saving them up for our children’s children’s children. Sometimes this pans out, sometimes not.

Many industries would like the definition of sustainability to end here, because it means they can focus entirely on innovating production around using fewer resources, yet still producing profitable goods and services.

Win for the planet. Win for the pocketbook.

However, not all industries can use even come close to really being sustainable, just by virtue of existing at all (ahem, coal). We all know about these industries, and scientists and engineers everywhere are working to reduce our dependence on them.

But what about other industries? Does using less waste always correlate to an environmental “win?”

Research by Jason Jay, a senior lecturer at MIT, and his colleagues are suggesting that it is time to place some serious focus on the temporal tradeoffs in sustainability.

Let’s just say you have a product that is two pounds of plastic, but you innovate and reduce that amount to one pound – and customers love it because they love green products, so you sell twice as many. Sustainable? That is the question.

Consumers really wrestled with this issue back when we were having the paper-or-plastic debate. It seems we may have resolved that one with reusable bags (unless you keep losing them and buying new ones every time you shop).

Now the issue is popping up again and again with retailers like IKEA questioning its own business model and product longevity, making headlines with a recent joke about “peak curtains.”  Allegations that technology companies like Apple are hooking users with upgrades and software that results in a cycle of planned obsolescence and waste and generating backlash. And consumers are coming out against the $5 throwaway t-shirt, cheap plastic trinkets, and a culture too willing to plow through resources to stay on trend.

Startups like Buy Me Once are pushing back on consumer culture, attempting to shift purchasing habits from disposable to durable, and investment in products that last. Begging the question, Why don’t they make ‘em like they used to?”

The tide may be shifting among consumers, and it may not be long until manufacturers are asked to deal with more critical, nuanced questions about consumption. It’s longer going to be about buying recyclable plastic cups for a dinner party, but not buying special cups to start with, shifting the emphasis from “recycle” to “reduce and reuse.” If you make disposable plastic cups, this could be a worrying trend, but if you are the planet, this could be the promise of progress.

Are you seeing changes in demand from customers or clients pushing for longer life-span built into product design? Do you feel that consumers will embrace the “pay more” for products with a longer useful life? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Reducing Waste Doesn’t Always Equate to Sustainability: Start Calculating the Impact of Tradeoffs in Sustainability Strategies

The SSC Team March 29, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

For years, organizations have been buying into the “waste less to be green” strategy. Sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – i.e. save some stuff for future generations.

So, it is natural to assume that by using fewer resources today, we are saving them up for our children’s children’s children. Sometimes this pans out, sometimes not.

Many industries would like the definition of sustainability to end here, because it means they can focus entirely on innovating production around using fewer resources, yet still producing profitable goods and services.

Win for the planet. Win for the pocketbook.

However, not all industries can use even come close to really being sustainable, just by virtue of existing at all (ahem, coal). We all know about these industries, and scientists and engineers everywhere are working to reduce our dependence on them.

But what about other industries? Does using less waste always correlate to an environmental “win?”

Research by Jason Jay, a senior lecturer at MIT, and his colleagues are suggesting that it is time to place some serious focus on the temporal tradeoffs in sustainability.

Let’s just say you have a product that is two pounds of plastic, but you innovate and reduce that amount to one pound – and customers love it because they love green products, so you sell twice as many. Sustainable? That is the question.

Consumers really wrestled with this issue back when we were having the paper-or-plastic debate. It seems we may have resolved that one with reusable bags (unless you keep losing them and buying new ones every time you shop).

Now the issue is popping up again and again with retailers like IKEA questioning its own business model and product longevity, making headlines with a recent joke about “peak curtains.”  Allegations that technology companies like Apple are hooking users with upgrades and software that results in a cycle of planned obsolescence and waste and generating backlash. And consumers are coming out against the $5 throwaway t-shirt, cheap plastic trinkets, and a culture too willing to plow through resources to stay on trend.

Startups like Buy Me Once are pushing back on consumer culture, attempting to shift purchasing habits from disposable to durable, and investment in products that last. Begging the question, Why don’t they make ‘em like they used to?”

The tide may be shifting among consumers, and it may not be long until manufacturers are asked to deal with more critical, nuanced questions about consumption. It’s longer going to be about buying recyclable plastic cups for a dinner party, but not buying special cups to start with, shifting the emphasis from “recycle” to “reduce and reuse.” If you make disposable plastic cups, this could be a worrying trend, but if you are the planet, this could be the promise of progress.

Are you seeing changes in demand from customers or clients pushing for longer life-span built into product design? Do you feel that consumers will embrace the “pay more” for products with a longer useful life? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Reducing Waste Doesn’t Always Equate to Sustainability: Start Calculating the Impact of Tradeoffs in Sustainability Strategies

The SSC Team March 29, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

For years, organizations have been buying into the “waste less to be green” strategy. Sustainability is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” – i.e. save some stuff for future generations.

So, it is natural to assume that by using fewer resources today, we are saving them up for our children’s children’s children. Sometimes this pans out, sometimes not.

Many industries would like the definition of sustainability to end here, because it means they can focus entirely on innovating production around using fewer resources, yet still producing profitable goods and services.

Win for the planet. Win for the pocketbook.

However, not all industries can use even come close to really being sustainable, just by virtue of existing at all (ahem, coal). We all know about these industries, and scientists and engineers everywhere are working to reduce our dependence on them.

But what about other industries? Does using less waste always correlate to an environmental “win?”

Research by Jason Jay, a senior lecturer at MIT, and his colleagues are suggesting that it is time to place some serious focus on the temporal tradeoffs in sustainability.

Let’s just say you have a product that is two pounds of plastic, but you innovate and reduce that amount to one pound – and customers love it because they love green products, so you sell twice as many. Sustainable? That is the question.

Consumers really wrestled with this issue back when we were having the paper-or-plastic debate. It seems we may have resolved that one with reusable bags (unless you keep losing them and buying new ones every time you shop).

Now the issue is popping up again and again with retailers like IKEA questioning its own business model and product longevity, making headlines with a recent joke about “peak curtains.”  Allegations that technology companies like Apple are hooking users with upgrades and software that results in a cycle of planned obsolescence and waste and generating backlash. And consumers are coming out against the $5 throwaway t-shirt, cheap plastic trinkets, and a culture too willing to plow through resources to stay on trend.

Startups like Buy Me Once are pushing back on consumer culture, attempting to shift purchasing habits from disposable to durable, and investment in products that last. Begging the question, Why don’t they make ‘em like they used to?”

The tide may be shifting among consumers, and it may not be long until manufacturers are asked to deal with more critical, nuanced questions about consumption. It’s longer going to be about buying recyclable plastic cups for a dinner party, but not buying special cups to start with, shifting the emphasis from “recycle” to “reduce and reuse.” If you make disposable plastic cups, this could be a worrying trend, but if you are the planet, this could be the promise of progress.

Are you seeing changes in demand from customers or clients pushing for longer life-span built into product design? Do you feel that consumers will embrace the “pay more” for products with a longer useful life? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

White Paper Worth Reading: 2016 Global Energy Market Trends

The SSC Team March 24, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

It's shaping up to be an exciting year for the energy market as various environmental, regulatory, and marketplace dynamics continue to cause tumult. 

Organizations need to know which variables in energy will impact their businesses.

Check out this white paper about the six key themes that are critical to watch in 2016. 

6 for 2016: Global Energy Market Trends

How does your company's energy risk profile look like? Do you need help assessing your impact due to energy use? Contact us for information about capturing, analyzing and reporting energy use data. 

White Paper Worth Reading: 2016 Global Energy Market Trends

The SSC Team March 24, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

It's shaping up to be an exciting year for the energy market as various environmental, regulatory, and marketplace dynamics continue to cause tumult. 

Organizations need to know which variables in energy will impact their businesses.

Check out this white paper about the six key themes that are critical to watch in 2016. 

6 for 2016: Global Energy Market Trends

How does your company's energy risk profile look like? Do you need help assessing your impact due to energy use? Contact us for information about capturing, analyzing and reporting energy use data. 

White Paper Worth Reading: 2016 Global Energy Market Trends

The SSC Team March 24, 2016 Tags: , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

It's shaping up to be an exciting year for the energy market as various environmental, regulatory, and marketplace dynamics continue to cause tumult. 

Organizations need to know which variables in energy will impact their businesses.

Check out this white paper about the six key themes that are critical to watch in 2016. 

6 for 2016: Global Energy Market Trends

How does your company's energy risk profile look like? Do you need help assessing your impact due to energy use? Contact us for information about capturing, analyzing and reporting energy use data. 

Do You Need Expensive Software for Environmental Reporting?

The SSC Team February 16, 2016 Tags: , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

According to a recent press release by the Environmental Business Journal (EBJ), the U.S. environmental industry grew 3.9% in 2014. Although the data will take another 10 months to come together for 2015, it’s fairly safe to say the sector saw growth again last year as the economy held steady.

EBJ reports on 14 business segments divided into three categories, all three categories showing upward trends in 2014.

The largest single growth area in 2014 was a double-digit gain in environmental software and information systems.

The industry has seen many environmental, health, safety and sustainability software vendors disappear as quickly as they appear, but every industry sees the tech start-up side get red hot, cool off, and heat up again.

With evolving needs, evolving science, and evolving technology capabilities, it is not at all surprising that many start-ups struggle in this field.

Complicating matters is the fact that many of the customers that a software company in the environmental software and information systems field would need to acquire aren’t fluent in what they actually need to purchase (or how to use it).

Environmental reporting and data management systems are a lot like complicated legal matters or the tax code: companies likely need a specialist, and we haven’t reached a tipping point in the business community where enough companies have specialists.

Companies might buy a software license from a promising start-up with good software, yet not know how to actually collect the appropriate data and end up not using the tool to its potential. By the time they’ve got the team in place and are ready to ramp up, the software tool they’ve purchased needs an expensive upgrade because of changes in the science, regulations, or standards of sustainability reporting. You can see how the CEO might balk on a second wave of investment when the first wasn’t a huge success.

It’s not that start-ups are struggling in a silo, it’s more likely that we just haven’t reached a critical mass of companies with the in-house resources that can gain maximum value from a well-built environmental software tool. Combine that with with a standard of reporting that itself is a moving target, and it is really difficult to gain traction as a environmental software company.

If you know your company is ready to do begin sustainability reporting, but don’t have the in-house team to manage the software tools on the market, contact us. We work with leading software programs for tracking and reporting on environmental data, and help companies determine what might will for them.

 

 

 

 

Parent company of Puma provides detailed look at its Environmental Profit & Loss methodology

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

This summer, Kering, the parent company of the clothing and footwear manufacturer, Puma, not only published its EP&L, the environmental footprint of the company’s operations translated into monetary values, it published the entire methodology as an open-source tool for others to use.

The EP&L analyses the impact of Kering’s supply chain from raw materials to retail outlets and reports the impact in monetary terms.

In an article about Kering’s decision to open-source the methodology, the company’s CEO said, “Our EP&L has already served as an effective internal catalyst to drive us towards a more sustainable business model. I am convinced that an EP&L, and corporate natural capital accounting more broadly, are essential to enable companies to acknowledge the true cost on nature of doing business.”

From making the business case for sustainability to assessing carbon asset risk in monetary terms, and finally to reporting environmental results using natural capital accounting, more and more companies are moving toward currency as a way to plan, assess, and evaluate environmental performance.

This move makes sense, considering we live in the age of global capitalism.

Kering’s EP&L, along with World Bank’s WAVES initiative, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Valuation Guide, the Natural Capital Coalition, and others, provide strategies to implement natural capital accounting into the sustainability reporting process.

If your company is interested in producing a sustainability report using principles of natural capital accounting, let us know! And check out our analysis of how Puma stacks up to other athletic apparel companies.

Making the case for water conservation? Communicate risk in dollars and cents

The SSC Team October 6, 2015 Tags: , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments

With extreme heat, drought conditions and raging wildfires in the headlines around the world, water and water conservation has been top of mind this summer and fall.

We have been talking about water sustainability in terms of corporate sustainability assessment, reporting and risk management for years. But many companies are just now looking at ways to assess their water risk.  

If you’re on the sustainability team, there is no better time than right now to make the case for performing a risk assessment and developing a sustainable water strategy to help mitigate business risk.

One of the best ways to speak the language of company leadership is to present risk in terms of dollars and cents.

Monitize how water scarcity may impact revenue

The Water Risk Monetizer is a tool that enables water-dependent businesses to look at their current and future water risks, with direct-impact insight into how water, or water scarcity, will impact revenue.  This free financial modeling tool will help water-dependent businesses better understand the current and future value of water.

When supply and demand meet water

A basic human need, water is likely the most under-priced natural resources in the global economy. Water costs to business have the potential to dramatically increase, or be made unavailable for business needs, as public opinion and government policy shift to ensure equal access for basic human consumption. 

Businesses can expect the cost and availability of water to increase, and should plan now to incorporate those increased costs, or look for ways to minimize water use, to ensure financial viability in an age of water scarcity.

Understand water risk, plan for water reduction

A monetized water scarcity assessment will help companies identify areas where risk exists today and in the future.

But, performing a cursory risk assessment is just the first step. Next, you’ll need to delve into actionable solutions to mitigate risk before it becomes a revenue loss – supply chain analysis, production technologies, factory siting, R&D strategy, or even product phase-out planning.

Make the case for water conservation, and then push for some real strategic water sustainability strategy.

If you are interested in corporate water management, you'll love our water footprinting tools. Got another water resource to share? Leave a comment, or talk to us on Twitter (@jenniferwoofter).

4 Mistakes That Are Holding Back Your Company’s Sustainability

The SSC Team July 21, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , Strategic Sustainability Consulting No comments
By: Alexandra Kueller Take a step back and examine your company’s sustainability. Is your company moving forward with its sustainability goals and initiatives? Or do you feel like your company could be doing more? If you identify with the latter, there might be some simple mistakes being made that is causing this problem. Introduced in the Fast Company article “4 Business Decision-Makings Mistakes Are Holding You Back”, Romi Stein discusses common mistakes companies have made and how it has hurt them. Wanting to put a sustainability twist on the points discussed in that article, we have highlighted ways that these mistakes could be causing your sustainability initiatives some harm:

Failure to Learn

Have you ever been to a conference or event where an older person - someone with years of experience and knowledge - got on stage and lectured everyone about the "right way to do sustainability"? Did you then subsequently think to yourself, "but isn't there more than one way to do sustainability?" That's because there is! The field of sustainability is always changing, in the sense that new information and research is always being published. We are always finding better ways to track emissions and inventive ways to report sustainability initiatives, so there is no need to exclaim that there is a right way for sustainability. If someone isn't willing to learn new ways of approaching sustainability, they appear too entrenched in the past, and soon their sustainability will be too.

Failure to Anticipate

It’s the end of July, which means a lot of companies have either submitted their CDP reports for 2014 or are making their final edits. But more than likely there are companies that are scrambling to put together a year’s worth of emissions data and sustainability initiatives. Sustainability, like any field or industry, has annual deadlines – whether set by the company or by other organizations. CDP and UNGC have deadlines to submit their reports, and many companies aim to publish their sustainability report around the same time every year. If a company does not anticipate these deadlines, that often means other sustainability work gets pushed to the side just to make sure the reports go out on time.

Failure to Adapt

Over the past few years, there has been a big push to bring materiality to sustainability, and slowly, companies are doing so. But what happens if your company doesn’t change and adapt to materiality or every other new trend? How much of an impact could that have? Nothing in sustainability stays the same for long, which can make it difficult to tell what’s important to focus on. New reporting standards are released, new trends emerge, but there are instances where reporting standards account for these trends. With GRI’s G4 iteration, it plays up the importance of materiality and how companies should build their annual reports around it. If your company is ignoring materiality, it can look like they don’t take sustainability seriously.

Failure to Execute

One of the biggest ways to hold back a company's sustainability is by them simply failing to execute their sustainability plan. This could happen for a variety of reasons: your company isn't allocating the same resources to sustainability that it once did; you forgot to keep up with data tracking throughout the year; more pressing, non-sustainability related projects pop up. No matter what your job, in whatever industry, this is going to happen - it's an inevitable part of having a job. But what will make the difference is how you react when facing these issues. Does your company just ignore all sustainability-related initiatives for the rest of the year, or are they doing something to make sure they are sticking to their plan? Think your company could be a little more sustainable? Find out how to get your company moving towards sustainability here.