Strategic Sustainability Consulting provides organizations with the tools and expertise they need to actively manage their social and environmental impacts. We offer green auditing, sustainability assessment, carbon footprinting, sustainability reporting, life cycle analysis, and sustainability strategy development services.
In January GreenBiz posted a video about Microsoft’s use of Artificial Intelligence to advance sustainability around the world. Last July they launched a $50 million grant called AI for Earth, which has already started several projects including helping farmers produce more utilizing fewer resources. Josh Henretig, senior director of environmental sustainability at Microsoft, said "We hope that anyone will be able to take advantage of these tools.”
You can learn more about this impressive project here.
It’s a new year, which means it’s a new chance to expand your sustainability credentials. B Corp is an organization that Strategic Sustainability Consulting has been a proud member of for seven years.
Through our certification as a B Corp, SSC is part of a global community with more than 2,100 businesses from 50 countries and over 130 industries working together toward one goal — to redefine success in business.
Since February is B Corp Month we thought it would a great time to take a look back and remember why we became a certified member in 2011 and how we still value our membership years later.
If you don’t know what it means to be a certified B Corp here is a brief overview — we are a network or companies that are seeking to form a new sector in our economy, one that meet independent standards for social and environmental accountability. We aim to do so by addressing two major issues:
• corporate law that misaligns incentives between profits, employees, the community, and environmental well-being, and
• the lack of transparent standards differentiating good companies from good marketing, i.e. greenwashers.
You can’t just sign up to become a member, first SSC (and any other interested company) needs to pass the B Impact Rating System, demonstrate that our legal framework integrated our values throughout the company, and do the necessary paperwork. It may sound like an involved process, but the value of certification makes that all worthwhile. Think of it like this: the B Corp certification is what Fair Trade means to coffee. Being a member of B Corp is a symbol to our clients and colleagues that SSC is committed to “walking our talk.” We want to show the world that we are here to help organizations find the business value in being a responsible corporate citizen.
When we joined this community of like-minded businesses we weren’t just thinking ourselves, but also as a way to promote sustainable business practices to our clients. A number of years have passed since we got certified and SSC is still incredibly proud to be able to call ourselves B Corp members. Showing the world that your business is committed to being socially and environmentally accountable continues to be a top priority.
You can check out our profile on the website to see our impact report and if you are interested in becoming certified like SSC you can visit the Become a B Corporation page to learn more about the process.
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 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.
You may think that your work in the world of sustainability puts you in a totally unique industry. But think again! You may not like the idea of equating your work with work in sales, however a lot of the elements of a sales role overlap sustainability.
Just think — if you need to convince an internal audience that it is worth investing in sustainable efforts, aren’t you selling them on it? Or, as a consultant, you’re constantly selling your expertise? With that in mind, here are some tips from sales pros — and some things you definitely want to avoid when you are trying to engage a new client.
Focus on trust. Out of the gate you can’t just throw tons of new (and possibly expensive) ideas right out of the gate. First you need to establish a relationship, which will allow you to build trust. Then when you present a strategic plan the listener will be more likely to be confident in your agenda.
How can you create this trust? Jeff Haden offered three great suggestions in his recent post on Inc. about taking this step. First you need to learn about your contact and their business or organizational obstacles. If you don’t understand their unique challenges and values, how can you create a strategy that will make sense to them?
Find common ground. The best way to connect with a potential client is through a mutual connection. Research has shown that a buyer is five times more likely to engage with a sales person if they connected through a mutual acquaintance. Five times more likely! You can easily translate that from sales to your sustainability business — always look for a common professional connection.
And for in-house common ground? Look for opportunities to collaborate on their projects before pushing hard for someone to immediately jump on board your project. The old adage, “make it their idea” works well when selling to co-workers across departments.
The last tip seems like a no brainer — demonstrate expertise and knowledge in your industry. You may get in the door, but your potential client is probably not going to sign onto any strategy you create unless they believe you really know what you are talking about. Be confident and show that you are tuned into their business and the best ways to make sustainable adjustments in their industry.
As an internal sustainability manager or advocate, it might be helpful to bring in an expert for a workshop to better explain what sustainability is from a position of experience. This may answer a lot of questions for everyone on the team, and give you some insight on what next steps you need to take as well.
With those guidelines in mind, let’s take a look at some of behaviors you want to avoid while selling:
Do not blame others if your performance declines. Your plans aren’t being accepted? You aren’t growing your client base? Before you start casting the blame on someone else, take a real look at what former clients, supervisors, or colleagues are saying about your work. Have things changed?
As a consultant, even if you’ve found one super, amazing client, don’t neglect your other work. Remember do not put all your eggs in one basket. Client needs change, relationships change, and you can’t focus all your attention on only one company or you could end up with nothing.
You probably don’t want to get too political. If you take a stance make sure it is in line with your brand as a consultant or in line with the corporate values. Try to keep your personal feelings in check, and think about the brand you’re selling before make politically motivated statements.
We try to post a new blog at least once a week, just to share our insights into the world of sustainability strategy and what it takes to be a sustainability consultant or professional today. Here are our most-read posts from November.
With consumers and Wall Street continuing to put pressure on companies to be open about their sustainable practices, boards of directors are feeling the pinch. Investors certainly expect that board members understand and help prepare for challenges. Investing in sustainability is increasingly seen as a risk mitigation strategy, particularly now that it is clear that there is a connection between sustainable efforts and how companies perform.
There are a number of sustainability issues — climate change, water scarcity, labor inequality, product safety — that impact the bottom line. By understanding the impact of these risks on their companies and incorporating that information into the decision making process, boards can meet the demands of a growing number of investors around the world — and unlock real business opportunities.
When an environmental or social issue impacts production and more, board members must respond. And it’s the job of the corporate staff, from investor relations to corporate secretaries to sustainability officers, to help the board become fluent in these sustainability risks — so that directors can understand why it matters to their business and what they can do about it. While some would say you could simple add a member or two to the board who is well versed in sustainable issues, a report recently release by Ceres suggest you should build a sustainably competent board.
How to build a sustainably competent board
Key suggestions include integrating sustainability issues into board recruitment and educating directors on sustainability issues and why it’s critical for them to engage with external stakeholders, including investors and experts on sustainability issues. The end goal is totally straightforward and by tackling material sustainability risks as a group, the board can ask the right questions, support or challenge management as needed and make knowledgeable decisions on strategy and risk.
There are other important elements that can assist in this process such as investor relations. Investors have long paid attention to board composition, including leading the charge calling for more diversity on corporate boards. Now that focus has grown to include climate competency, with major investors including CalPERS, CalSTRS, Blackrock and State Street (PDF) demanding that boards bring on climate-competent directors.
To work on this transition, the sustainability department and investor relations team can pair up to help educate directors when it comes to sustainability issues. They can prepare educational materials and sessions, report on material sustainability issues and discussion to boards and involve boards in materiality assessments, including ongoing updates of the business case for managing sustainability issues. Materiality assessments are particularly important. A growing number of companies are putting in place formal process to assess materiality sustainability issues. Board members should be involved in these processes to provide input, as well as to vet the results.
Finally, corporate staff can help the board engage with investors and other expert stakeholders on the topics important to the company through outreach to stakeholders or by creating advisory councils that have sufficient expertise to engage with directors and help brief and prepare board members for investor engagements on sustainability issues.
If a board wants what is best for the company, it’s clear that establishing a focus on sustainability issues will be good for business. Would you like help making the case to leadership on the power of sustainability, contact us!
We’re based in rural Wiltshire and fast outgrowing our site. Whilst expansion plans are in the works, our car park is at capacity and we have more new starters joining every week. Whilst most of us car share, we’re still looking for ways to take cars off the road. We’re looking at introducing buses from the major towns and cities for Dyson people to get to work and back home. It would be great to learn about how others have implemented a similar scheme successfully and what things to watch out for including any experiences you can share on linking incentives to use of more sustainable modes of transport.
-- Nicola Warner | Dyson
There were several good comments already in the thread, but of course we wanted to add our own input! Here's what we said:
Have you considered vanpooling as an option?
We’ve found that vanpooling is a great option for companies located in rural areas when employees live in many directions. It’s particularly valuable for companies with a growing headcount, because it’s relatively easy to add a new van (while adding a new bus route is a significant commitment in terms of time and money).
There's lots of good evidence that vanpooling is good for employees and good for companies. According to Enterprise RideShare:
Vanpooling drastically reduces commuting and maintenance costs by up to $800 a month* (based on AAA mileage). Also, employees who vanpool are eligible for tax incentives (IRS Tax Code 132(f)) and local government subsidies... People who share a ride aren't subject to the daily traffic grind, which means they arrive at work happier, more relaxed and, in turn, are more productive. Also, vanpoolers are found to be more punctual than those that drive alone. So employees who vanpool are more likely to arrive to work on time.
If you'd like to chat more with us about vanpooling and the key lessons (both positive and negative) we've learned over time, please contact us to set up a meeting. Otherwise, check out these resources for more information.
Vanpool Benefits: Implementing Commuter Benefits - a PDF guide from the US Environmental Protection Agency's "Best Workplace for Commuters" program. While written with an American audience in mind, all companies will find it useful for considering the financial costs and benefits of a vanpooling program.
Multi-discipline designer Natsai Audrey Chieza is committed to reducing pollution in the fashion industry while creating amazing new things to wear. Working in her lab she noticed that the bacteria Streptomyces coelicolor makes a striking red-purple pigment. Now she’s using the bold, color-fast fabric dye and cutting down on water waste and chemical runoff. She isn't alone in using synthetic biology to redefine our material future — imagine "leather" made from mushrooms or super strong yarn made from spider-silk protein. We're not going to build the future with fossil fuels, Chieza says. With a background crossing the boundaries between technology, biology, design and cultural studies, she believes a more sustainable future will be built with biology.
If you are going it alone as a small sustainable business owner now may be the time to consider partnering up with others in a similar situation. Sure, you could be making ends meet, but as Web Smith noted in his recent piece for Entrepreneur — it’s hard to be the kid on the playground with no friends.
Not only can establishing partnerships in the community make you feel a little less alone in the business world, it can help your business make meaningful connections via an established partner.
Like anything, you still need to be mindful of creating relationships that make sense and are the right fit for your mission. If you are running a consulting firm that aims to help offices reduce their paper footprint, partnering with a paper company probably doesn’t make sense. However if you are trying to create a foothold in the area of environmentally-friendly household management perhaps you could connect with local cleaning companies and work with them to create a cleaning plan that utilizes natural and organic products. They could offer their clients this service at a slightly higher rate than a cleaning that uses standard products and provide you with a consulting fee as well as offer their customers the chance to connect with you directly to “green” their home stash of products.
But no matter what angle you are pursuing, Smith offers up some wise tips about establishing professional partnerships:
1. Be clear and straightforward about your business While your desire to expand your business may make you want to put on blinders and join forces with every potential partnership that comes your way — don’t. Make sure that you have a clear idea of what your purpose is and maintain that focus. If you try to be a brand that means something to everyone, your vision will be diluted and your company may not make sense to the consumer. That is not going to benefit you in the long run.
2. Ask questions Make sure you have as much information as you can before making decisions about a new partnership. Sure, you’ll never know everything and something that seems great may still be a bad fit down the line. But it’s vital that you know what your potential partner’s values and vision are — if they don’t align with yours, you probably don’t want to have your company associated with them.
3. Be honest You are likely to have limitations — everyone does — but by understanding your limitations you are more likely to identify strong partners that can help you fill in these gaps. Don’t hide from those gaps in your experience, use them to find support.
4. Know when to say farewell As an entrepreneur you are already a pro at taking risks, but if a partnership isn’t working as you imagined it’s time to say bye-bye.
While establishing your small business may feel isolating, remember to step outside your comfort zone and start making those connections. As long as you maintain a clear commitment to your company’s vision, your brand is likely to benefit from creating business partnerships.
VERGE HAWAII Will you be joining the clean energy summit in Honolulu, HI in June?
June 12-14, 2018
Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu, HI Learn from key stakeholders as well as the local community and industry leaders about where energy markets are headed and the best methods for building sustainable communities.
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