Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eight Tips for Getting Your Sustainability Project Off the Ground

Article by Deborah Fleischer

In Part I of this series, I focused on the business value of going green. This piece focuses on in-the-trenches advice for new sustainability directors at companies just getting started on implementing a sustainability strategy.

1. Look at the big picture and identify your company's greatest impacts. Review your key business operations to understand the key environmental issues for your business and the opportunities and risks presented by these issues. Alex McIntosh, Director of Corporate Citizenship at Nestlé Waters, advises new directors to "think broadly about what sustainability means to your business, look beyond your four walls, up and down your full value chain." Then," he continues, "quantify your impacts [green house gas (GHG) emissions or life cycle assessment (LCA) or tons of waste] and prioritize the places where your impacts are the greatest. Pay lots of attention to how people inside the company are being rewarded or penalized for their performance in those areas."

2. Land some quick wins -- go for cost savings. To start, prioritize and focus on capturing the low-hanging fruit. Look for opportunities that will deliver results quickly, such as increasing efficiency and reducing waste. Scan your business and look for logical opportunities to save money and develop measurable metrics to track results.

3. Be authentic. If you are going to use sustainability as a product differentiator, be sure you have done all you can to be authentically green. This does not mean you have to be perfect. Consumers want honesty and transparency, not perfection. But with today's social media tools, it only takes a moment on Twitter for someone to accuse you of greenwashing.

4. Develop internal partners. For directors getting started, begin to network throughout the company and create relationships with directors who oversee key functions, including product design, procurement, sales, supply chain, governmental affairs, social investment, analyst relations and employee engagement. Look for opportunities to gain their trust and educate them on the value sustainability offers the company, including product differentiation that can capture market share and drive top-line revenues.

5. Engage your stakeholders. McIntosh suggests meeting with as many people as you can outside of your company, "prioritizing to meet with the most influential and interested stakeholders first."

"Stakeholder engagement is an important, essential element in good citizenship and good business strategy. You need to know what issues are most important to the people that are most relevant to your business," suggests McIntosh.

Include your supply chain, customers, investors and employees in your outreach so you can understand what leadership looks like or what risks may be coming. What issues do they care about? What is important to them? How are they tackling their end of the equation? Answers to these questions can help inform your strategy and programs.

6. Engage employees. If you are short on resources to implement new programs, look to your employees. Bonnie Nixon, Director of Environmental Sustainability at Hewlett Packard, explained that the company engages employees on multiple levels, ranging from providing them energy kits to reduce their personal carbon footprint at home to offering incentives for biking to work to encouraging them to innovate more and find ways to imbed sustainability into product design, the supply chain and the sales process.

7. Develop a communications strategy. A key component to a sustainability program is communicating both internally and externally about your efforts and results. Develop a strategy that details how you are going to communicate your efforts -- both your successes and future areas for improvement.

8. Develop a long-term strategy. Going green does not happen overnight. Hunter Lovins, the president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions warns, "avoid the temptation to be green all at once. This is a years long process, like continuous improvement."

Bonnie Nixon adds, "in addition to a short-term strategy, you need to develop a longer term plan that looks at potential trends and regulations out there and what your future customer segment is going to look like."

Ultimately, you want to aim for an authentic strategy that is linked to your company's mission, vision, brand and values that will deliver significant, quantifiable, bottom-line results.

Deborah Fleischer is the founder and president of Green Impact, providing strategic environmental consulting services to mid-sized companies and NGOs who want to launch a new green initiative or cross-sector collaboration, but lack the in-house capacity to get it up and running. She brings expertise in sustainability strategy, program development, stakeholder engagement and written communications.

Article and Picture ©


Greenopia Ranks 50 State Governors for Environmental Responsibility

Greenopia's research team has released a new ranking: this time it's a comprehensive ranking of all 50 United States governors. Topping the list is Governor Bill Ritter of Colorado followed closely by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. The entire ranking results are available at 50 Greenest Governors. See Top Ten below.
"We looked at all 50 governors in the US and compared their policies, transparency, and interest group ratings and ranked them. It was a monumental task," said Doug Mazeffa, Greenopia's director of research. "People want to know which Governors are the eco-leaders or laggards, and especially identify those making repeated eco-gaffes."
Data for this study was collected from each governor's own web pages and cross-checked against credible sites such as VoteSmart and OnTheIssues. Energy and emission data was collected from the Department of Energy and the environmental platform data for each political party was collected from either the DNC or RNC's main site.
As part of Greenopia's mission to keep consumers (and voters) informed on issues of eco-friendly importance, the Greenest Governors project reveals which state governments are most dedicated to preserving the environment. The US Constitution preserves the notion that America is a federation of sovereign states and legal powers not specifically granted to the federal government are retained by the states. This means that Governors and state legislatures hold significant sway over state-based green initiatives and policies.
"Over the past few years we have begun to see certain states emerging as environmental leaders," remarked Gay Browne, Greenopia founder and CEO. "Those states enacting environmental laws stricter than federal guidelines have gone to greater lengths to protect the environment and to create more sustainable development, including green jobs."

The Top Ten Greenest Governors

1. Bill Ritter of Colorado
2. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California
3. Ted Kulongowski of Oregon
4. Christine Gregoire of Washington state
5. John Baldacci of Maine
6. Martin O'Malley of Maryland
7. Bill Richardson of New Mexico
8. James Douglas of Vermont
9. Jon Corzine of New Jersey
10. Jodi Rell of Connecticut

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, had the following comment to make regarding the analysis done by Greenopia, "I very much appreciate this honor as an acknowledgment of our success at building a New Energy Economy all across Colorado. Over the past 2½ years, we have established Colorado as a national and international leader in renewable energy. While renewable energy and energy conservation are vital to our environmental future, the recession has also made it clear how important they are to our economic future. Thanks to our New Energy Economy, we are creating thousands of new jobs, attracting scores of new companies and leading the way toward greater energy independence through research and innovation."


Seminar on August 1: Building Green

Seminar: Building Green: Making Your Home More Energy Efficient

Join Design Forward's Lisa Swan in Glendale on August 1, 2009 for a Building Green seminar for home owners.

Class Description: Whether you are interested in a new house, remodeling your existing home, or just adding a few sustainable features, this innovative class will give you an in depth review of green building and sustainable architecture. Learn about solar and wind energy, wall systems such as straw bale, insulated concrete forms and foam insulation, natural and recycled materials, efficient windows and appliances, and more. Also learn how you can save money through State and local rebates.
Reference Class: SI011

Instructor: Lisa Swan is the owner of Design Forward, a residential design firm, specializing in sustainable and green projects. She is an Honors' graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology, with a Bachelor of Architecture and has an MBA from Norwich University.

Date & Time: August 1, 2009 9:30am - 12:30am

Cost: $35, plus $10 materials fee is payable to the instructor in class.

Location: Glendale, CA - Garfield Campus of the Glendale Community College

Register Begins June 1, 2009:

More Info