24
August

Carbon Trust, Credit360 Collaborate on Scope 3 Carbon Management Software

The Carbon Trust and Credit360 have joined together to create a series of software solutions designed to allow companies to manage carbon emissions across the value chain.

Typically carbon footprinting only includes direct and indirect operational emissions, known as Scope 1 and 2 emissions under the Kyoto Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Value chain footprinting also includes Scope 3 emissions, which represent the full lifecycle, from both suppliers and consumers, including all use and end of life emissions.

The first product developed and available now through the collaboration is the Value Chain Hotspotter, which has been designed to enable companies to estimate carbon-intensive areas of their value chain. The tool covers seven Scope 3 categories.

There is clear evidence that having a robust carbon-management strategy across a corporate value chain can deliver significant rewards, Credit360 said in a release. These include improved brand equity, cost reduction, revenue enhancement and risk mitigation.

In many cases a true value chain footprint involves integration of information from suppliers, which needs to happen securely. Processing and modeling this level of data can be a drain on productivity and prove costly and resource intensive. The new software helps to automate the process and provides interfaces for gathering supplier data securely.

The release of the full Value Chain Reporting software platform is planned for autumn 2012. Credit360 says it will go beyond measurement and provide in-built capability to calculate, interpret and make recommendations on carbon reduction activities.

“Many companies are already stretching the capabilities of Excel to the limit and businesses need to have a reliable intuitive solution that can deliver the right level of business insight without the need for data management specialists,” John Whybrow, General Manager of the Carbon Trust Footprinting Company said.

Article published for Sustainable Life Media, August 6, 2012 by Bart King is a PR/marketing communications consultant and principal at Cleantech Communications.

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23
August

Sustainability in the Supply Chain

The latest study from Green Research identifies the trends, tools and best practices at the next frontier in corporate sustainability: the supply chain. The study found that a lack of data standards and concerns about data reliability have hindered supply chain sustainability progress. Sixty-two percent of executives surveyed for the study said their efforts to track supply chain sustainability performance are impaired by a lack of measurement standards. The study advises firms to support industry and cross-industry groups that are working to develop supply chain sustainability standards. An important recent development in this area is the release by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition of its “Higg Index,” a standard measure of environmental performance at the product and facility level for the apparel and footwear industries.  The Higg Index should dramatically improve communication about performance and sustainability goals throughout apparel supply chains, leading to sustainability improvements over time. The report notes efforts with similar goals in other industries.

Just a few years ago many companies avoided taking responsibility for the environmental performance of their supply chains, often on the grounds that they had little influence over this aspect of supplier performance. But attitudes are shifting: Sixty-four percent of senior sustainability executives feel their companies can have significant influence on their top suppliers’ sustainability performance, and eighty-four percent consider it likely that their companies can obtain much better environmental performance from suppliers without compromising their companies’ business goals.

Sustainability improvements sometimes depend on advances in technology — such as renewable energy systems or mechanical or electrical systems with advanced, resource-efficient designs. But often they depend on advances in management practice. The research identified ten supply chain sustainability best practices followed by one or more of the dozens of companies discussed in the report. These include educating and motivating suppliers, setting goals, using scorecards, and enlisting buyers and sourcing managers as front-line representatives of a company’s sustainability strategy.

The research revealed that effective management of sustainability data is critically important for companies aiming to drive supply chain sustainability improvements. A vibrant collection of vendors is offering software tools and web-based systems to help companies track, analyze and manage this data. The report provides capsule profiles of a dozen vendor offerings along with a vendor selection framework prospective buyers of the tools can use to help select one appropriate to their needs. For more information about the research, please visit greenresearch.com.

Other Studies Featured This Month

Towards Zero-Impact Growth

Consultancy Deloitte teamed up with sustainability visionary John Elkington to help make Elkington’s vision of a zero-impact growth economy more accessible to major corporations. The team developed a scoring system to plot companies along Elkington’s “pathway to zero,” the five stages from recognizing the opportunity of a zero-impact growth strategy to fully embracing one. Of 65 companies studied, none had yet reached the final stage but according to the analysis, six companies — Puma, Natura, Nestlé, Nike, and Ricoh and Unilever — have arrived at the fourth stage. Among a range of findings, the study identified several best practices, including taking a holistic approach to sustainability, exemplified by Unilever and its Sustainable Living Plan; acting collaboratively, exemplified by a group of competing apparel manufacturers that have jointly committed to eliminating the discharge of hazardous chemicals (and, I would add, the work of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition); and internalizing externalities, exemplified by Puma, which released the first environmental profit and loss statement.

You can find the full paper here.

Six in Ten Consumers Globally Think Green Products Cost Too Much

Market researcher GfK has released its third annual global study of consumer environmental attitudes and behaviors. The study is based on a survey of 35,000 consumers in 25 countries across North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa. According to the new research, the proportion of consumers whose purchase decisions include a consideration of environmental protection grew 6 percentage points in China and 5 points in Brazil, compared to 2011. Mexico and South Africa also recorded significant increases in the past year, the study found. Sixty percent of consumers globally feel environmentally friendly products are too expensive — twice the percentage of those who see a green lifestyle as a “status indicator.” More information here.

Article written by David Shatsky, President, Green Research for Sustainable Life Media – August 22, 2012

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16
August

3 Steps to Improving your Sustainability Data Collection, Analysis

A recent report published in the MIT Sloan Management Review indicated just how far sustainability has come over the last few years. In the report, seven out of ten surveyed executives noted that sustainability has become a permanent goal on the corporate agenda. Additionally, two-thirds believed that corporate sustainability was necessary to being competitive in today’s landscape.

Being competitive requires companies to benchmark goals for sustainability that set the business to positively impact the Triple Bottom Line (people, planet and profit). However, David Schatsky of Green Research, writes that all sustainability goals aren’t created equal:

“Aggressive goals are more powerful than modest goals. Public goals have greater impact than internal goals. Quantitative goals are more credible than non-quantitative goals. And goals for the future send a signal that goals described in retrospect do not.”

Leaders should do the following to ensure that sustainability programs are aggressive and actionable:

(1) Automate data collection to improve accuracy, reduce labor hours
Taking data from enterprise software systems (e.g., ERP software, SCM software, CRM software) allows businesses to have a more accurate, real-time data stream of its activities. By doing so, they can also eliminate human error and reduce the amount of labor required to manually log the activities of individual warehouses, manufacturing facilities, sales offices, etc.

(2) Improve analysis with business intelligence applications
Businesses should also look to invest in Business Intelligence (BI) tools to improve the speed, accuracy, and breadth of analysis around sustainability projects. Analysts can use these applications to find “sustainability leaks”, or areas where efficiency is not being obtained for unforeseen reasons. In addition, these applications can package information in a visual manner that executives can digest quickly and easily.

(3) Build sustainability teams around data-minded leaders
Finally, for sustainability teams–and businesses–to become more accountable, they will have to build leadership around employees that are data-minded and can get the most “bang for the buck,” as many of these programs are underfunded (and underappreciated).
For more on this topic, you can check out the SoftwareAdvice.com (website) blog post: Data Collection + Business Intelligence = Successful Sustainability Initiatives.

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8
August

Three Reality Checks for Brands Making Headway on Sustainability

 

Supermarket shelves, the high street and online retail are burgeoning with brands making a lot of noise about one or other aspect of sustainability. Be it water conservation, reduced packaging, organic, Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance ingredients, Better Cotton, recycled polyester or the latest in electric vehicle R&D – it’s hard to go shopping today and not come across at least one of the above.

Seeing so many brands considering and leveraging the complexities of sustainability has been a positive force for good in the marketing space. Recently we heard the CEO of the Marketing Society remark on the rapid spread of sustainability thinking in branding. He mentioned a manifesto they had written for marketing in 2005, which didn’t mention the word sustainable or sustainability, yet now it’s an escalating hot topic amongst their members and high up their agenda (the event we were at was all about making sustainability ‘sexy’).

During our biannual seminar on sustainability and brands last month, we spent a couple of hours with a group of brand managers, marketers and sustainability professionals, looking at 25 brands and how they are using sustainability challenges to create positive impact. With sustainability targets snapping at business’s heels (reducing CO2 emissions, for example, by 50% by 2025 in the UK and globally by 80-90% by 2050), we found an array of diverse responses across a range of brands.

We’ll be looking at the three brand initiatives that sparked the most discussion and enabled us to think through a few reality checks for what works well and less well in today’s marketing world, where brands compete on sustainability, with the winners reaping the benefits of consumer loyalty and an enhanced reputation.

First up is Whole Foods. They made an announcement in April that from Earth Day they would no longer be selling unsustainable fish. Great news. However, it begged an important question – what fish were they selling before? It turned out that those in the room had all assumed that Whole Foods would source the vast majority of its produce sustainably anyway, and we felt a bit let down that this was not the case. A very positive message had become negative due to consumers’ built-in expectations of the brand and what we believed it stood for.

Reality check #1: Understanding what your consumers assume your brand already does on sustainability is critical when thinking through the message you want to get across. Telling them something they think you already do is unlikely to have much impact.

Next up is Method’s range of cleaning products. From the start their mission was to combine unique, excellent design and functionality with ecologically sound formulations. The seminar group who looked into their story further found they had been up-cycling the plastic waste from the ‘islands of trash’ in the ocean, to create a range of packaging. Some may say that’s clever PR, which of course it is, but it’s also very cleverly using a sustainability challenge/hazard (i.e. reams and reams of plastic waste in our oceans) to drive packaging innovation – and yes, the innovation also has a lovely story to tell that’s far more interesting than ‘rPET’.

Reality check #2: If you start with sustainability as your stimulus for innovation, your brand can tell a strong, genuine story of positive impact once it’s on the shelf.

Our last example is BMWi’s two-page advert found in April’s edition of Wallpapermagazine. The text reads:

“BMWi provides intelligent applications and services that improve the way you get around town – inside and outside the car. Looking for the talk-of-the-town dining experience or the nearest wifi hotspot? No problem. Need a parking space for half a day? We can help. And if you’re a keen pedestrian but crave the occasional drive, we have the right car and we’ll share it with you. More innovative services are coming soon in a growing number of cities. Because we’ve only just begun. More: bmw-i.com/mobility.”

Some in the room mistook this advert for ‘another EV coming to a salesroom near you,’ but digging a little deeper, this advert is a teaser for something that would radically alter BMW’s traditional business model, and if done well, could be a shining example of a sustainable business model. Now that they are considering mobility, rather than the historic model of manufacturing and sales, and targeting pedestrians as well as drivers, indicates a far more radical and systemic approach to finding solutions and ways of doing business in the not-so-distant future. It highlights the sort of brand-led innovation we need to transform to sustainable behaviours and lifestyles. And of course mobility, the BMW way, is likely to be far more aspirational than a local government-led initiative promoting sustainable mobility, for example.

Reality check  #3: Generating ideas today for brand-led, sustainable business models of the (not-so-distant) future could help your brand secure a long-term competitive edge and be resilient to changing markets.

We ended the seminar on a bit of a high, uplifted by the breadth and depth of brand engagement on sustainability today, but with the realisation that it’s really tough out there. Consumers expect more and more from brands. Havas’s meaningful brands index talks about the pioneering brands being those that are ‘making commitments not promises’ and EuroRSCG’s Prosumers report reminds us that most 18-25 year olds believe “the things I consume have more power to change things than the people I vote for.”

We’re making it our business to help brands think through what they can be doing – from incremental, quick-wins to new product innovation and the exciting world of more radical, business model innovation – if you let your brand values and sustainability lead you, the win-win innovations will follow.

Article as written for Sustainable Life Media, July 9, 2012, by Fiona Bennie, Consultant at Dragon Rouge.

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16
May

5 Lessons on Consumers’ Preference for Purpose

For consumers worldwide, values are the new currency and purpose is the new paradigm. You might think this sentence was taken from the Occupied Wall Street Journal, but actually this is a quote from the latest goodpurpose study, Edelman’s annual global research study that explores consumer attitudes around social purpose. This research is an impressive effort (8,000 participants) to figure out how important purpose and values really are to consumers. The study found that purpose has a growing importance among consumers – “the power of Purpose is driving consumer preference and loyalty in a world where trust in corporations is low and differentiation between brands is negligible.”

For example, 53 percent of the responders said that when quality and price are the same, social purpose is the most important factor for them, up from 41 percent in 2010. Also, 47 percent reported that they make purchases of cause-supporting brands ‘at least monthly’ compared to only 32 percent in 2010. The study has some valuable lessons both for consumers and companies. Here are five of them:

1. Don’t take people’s word when it comes to paying premium on green products

According to the report 43 percent of the consumers are willing to pay a premium for purpose. The numbers are higher in developing countries like China (80%), India (71%) and Brazil (55%) and lower in more developed countries like Japan (29%) or UK (29%). My advice to companies would be to read these figures with a grain of salt. Usually the assumption is that about 10 percent of the consumers will pay premium for green products (see BBMG’s New Consumers research for example). Given the global economic environment and especially when 85 percent of the respondents report being affected by the global recession, there’s a better chance the average number now is lower than 10 percent, certainly not higher.

2. The bull and the bear

The report presents an interesting differentiation between Rapid Growth Economies (RGEs), including China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE and Brazil, which are bullish on purpose, and “Bear” Markets, like the US and Western Europe. RGE consumers have much higher expectations of and engagement with brands and corporations on societal issues, whereas levels commitment to purpose and values seem to be lower in developed countries. This is not the first study showing this trend, although it seems to be more reflective of respondent attitudes than in actual behavior. We’ll have to wait for further research before we can really establish who is a bull and who is a bear when it comes to intention.

3. Companies need to do more, but also need to communicate more effectively

According to the report, while 87 percent of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interests, less than a third believe business is performing well at addressing societal issues. “This performance gap is likely to drive disillusionment, disengagement and outright distrust from consumers,” the report explains.

This finding presents three challenges to companies: First, companies need to act more sustainably or as Paul Polman puts it, “to recognize that the needs of citizens and communities carry the same weight as the demands of shareholders.” Second, when a company already acts, it needs to make sure that consumers know about it – how many buyers of Dove soaps know about Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan? How many customers of M&S know about its Plan A? Third and this might be the trickiest one, companies should learn to communicate effectively – the problem is that while consumers have higher expectations from companies, they don’t trust them too much. So companies that act and want to spread the word about their good work should find how to communicate smartly to make sure consumers not only get exposed to the news, but also find it reliable.

4. What should companies be doing anyway?

For companies that wonder what consumers are expecting them to be doing, exactly, the report provides answers. Approximately half of respondents believe organizations should donate a portion of profits (51%) and products or services (50%), while 49% believe companies should be creating a product or service that helps address a societal issue. They also think companies should be providing educational information (47%), partnering with NGOs (43%), and somewhat surprising – working with the government (45%).

5. The power of the sticks

According to the report, consumers are willing to praise those brands and corporations that support a good cause, and they will also punish those that do not. I have a feeling that companies are paying more attention to the sticks so they might want to pay attention to the favorite ways customers use to punish those companies that don’t actively support a good cause: refuse to buy products (44%), criticize it to others (44%), share negative opinions and experiences (44%), not want to work for it (48%) and not invest in it (53%).

As we can learn from the case Apple, where its sales set a new record last quarter alongside a waterfall of accusations about the working conditions at Foxconn, boycotts doesn’t seem to be too popular, no matter what people say. Still, the example of Apple shows that the power of online protests is no less and might be even greater than the power of boycotting.

Article as published in Triple Pundit, May 4, 2012 by Raz Godelnik, an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Department of Business Administration, CUNY and the New School, teaching courses in green business and new product development.

 

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9
May

Nike Challenges Customers to Design Their Own Virtual Green Athletic Wear

Nike has just released its most recent sustainability report, and it is quite possibly one of the most compelling and engaging I have ever come across. Few corporate social responsibility reports keep me up past my bedtime: in fact, many hasten that hour. But Nike has launched an interactive sustainability report that educates, innovatesand brings sustainability alive.

Not all of the news coming from Nike’s Beaverton headquarters is sunny. Excessive overtime is still a nagging problem in the company’s contract factories, and Nike admits many of the factors are within the company’s control. The complete elimination of hazardous chemicals from its supply chain will take time. And the company’s water footprint is still huge. But Nike is charging ahead with a sustainability agenda that just a few years ago would have seemed unthinkable. And rather than taking a self-congratulatory tone, Nike draws stakeholders in on its journey to share the company’s successes and shortcomings.

One example of how Nike engages stakeholders is by demonstrating the impact that the 16,000 various materials used to manufacture its sporting apparel have on the environment. A tour of the Nike Material Index (NMI) allows users to compare organic versus conventionally grown cotton, learn about recycled polyester and how it outperforms nylon, and explains the various components that comprise a pair of athletic shoes. While users design their version of green athletic wear, they learn how Nike assesses the overall sustainability performance of the materials based on energy, chemistry, water and waste. Jargon that often weighs down sustainability reports is replaced, dare I say, with fun.

Such an exercise is important because it reminds customers about the challenges that emerge with the convergence of performance and sustainability. Leather, for example, is sourced from tanneries that are certified by the Leather Working Group (LWG). More consumers would rather avoid leather altogether, and Nike is open to synthetic alternatives. But all synthetics on the market use solvents that are harmful to the environment. To that end, Nike in some ways is not just a branded athletic wear company, but a chemistry research and development firm. Curiously, Nike is becoming a leader in green chemistry that would make companies like Dow Chemical squirm.

From waste diversion to improving labor rights to revamping its manufacturing operations, Nike’s driving goal is accomplish what seems impossible: stay profitable in a world with constrained resources. The company has structured its long term plan at three levels: aim for what it aspires to do, set targets and demonstrate commitments for each goal. Such an approach works because it keeps the company focused on its long term goals, holds the company accountable to what it has promised stakeholders and prevents Nike from setting expectations too high.

Start exploring the company’s corporate responsibility report and see for yourself. What Nike has accomplished is far more than just demonstrating that it is a clothing manufacturing company that is doing good. In fact, exploring the site makes you wonder why Nike still bothers with shoes and athletic gear – it should become a sustainability strategy consulting firm in its own right.

Article was written for Triple Pundit (Published May 4, 2012) by Leon Kaye, a Sustainability consultant and editor of GreenGoPost.com

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17
April

Optimism: Abundance is our future

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5
April

10 Lessons from 11 Business Sustainability Journeys

There are many valuable lessons to be learned by reviewing the ways companies relate to sustainability. An increasing number of companies around the world are engaging major sustainability initiatives ahead of government regulation and in the absence of strong public demand.

Corporate sustainability is now part of strategic business decisions that are determining everything from manufacturing processes to marketing communications. As explained in a Sustainable Brands article, “Companies increasingly recognize that a proactive stance on sustainability is becoming a competitive necessity in attracting investors, employment talent and supply chain partners, as well as customers.”

Each company has had to deal with a unique set of circumstances and each company’s experience reveals a different insight. Here is a selection of ten companies and some of lessons that we can take from their sustainability journeys.

1. Eastman Kodak Corporation: Adapt or Die

Companies that proactively engage sustainability are rewarded while companies that ignore sustainability are punished. This holds true for Eastman Kodak, which is forced to reinvent itself by the changing marketplace. The company must radically change its product offerings and its culture of complacency or it will die.

As reviewed in a Triple Pundit article, Kodak is already teetering on the brink. To raise capital, they are close to selling off some of their lucrative patents, and they have one year to submit a reorganization plan to bankruptcy court.

To survive, the 120-year-old film company is morphing itself into a digital imaging company. Through its partnership with Natcore Technologies, Kodak is also investing in inexpensive patented thin-film solar technology, specifically flexible solar cells, through a New Jersey-based startup. The solar cells cost as little as half as much as traditional thin-film solar cells to manufacture. This is a bold move for Kodak, but it will need to make similar bold moves if it is to regain its foothold.

2. Toshiba International Corporation: Bold Strategic Move

Adapt or die is a motto that applies equally to thriving businesses as well. Toshiba, once a leader in incandescent lighting, is now betting on LED technology as the future of lighting. As revealed in a recent press release, Toshiba completely abandoned production of incandescent lights in March 2010 and is now diving fully invested in LED lighting. Toshiba is the first major lighting manufacturer to proactively discontinue the production of incandescent lamps.

Toshiba is one of the largest lighting companies and LED light manufacturers in the world, they produced their first light bulb in 1890. On July 13, 2011, Toshiba announced that twenty of its energy-efficient LED lights have received the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star® label. An Energy Star qualified LED lamp uses up to 75% less energy, lasts at least 15 times longer than incandescent lighting and has a light quality, which remains consistent over time.

Being awarded the Energy Star certification is an important payoff for Toshiba’s bold strategy.

3. LG Electronics, Inc.: Lead through Public Private Collaboration

LG Electronics USA is based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., and it is the North American subsidiary of LG Electronics, Inc., a $49 billion global force and technology leader. LG Electronics Inc. is reducing emissions by collaborating with government.

As reviewed in an April 3, 2012 PR Newswire release, LG Electronics USA plans to cut its carbon footprint in half by 2020. To help achieve this ambitious objective, the company is working in cooperation with the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, which is a voluntary clean energy program.

As part of the Partnership, LG USA will power its Englewood headquarters by purchasing more than 1.5 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power over the next 18 months. This translates to carbon emissions reductions equivalent to more than 200 passenger vehicles per year, or more than 100 average American homes annually.

Blaine Collison, director of the EPA Green Power Partnership, said LGs effort “provides an excellent example for other organizations.”

In addition to their partnership with the U.S. EPA, LG is also part of South Korea’s Green Technology Center (GTC), a research institute that will focus on developing environmentally friendly technologies.

4. Samsung: Get There First and Keep Innovating to Stay on Top

As reviewed in an Ecoleader article, Samsung has a green vision that will only get greener in the future. Like LG, Samsung is also part of South Korea’s Green Technology Center (GTC) research center and the company is already a leader in energy-efficient products.

In 2007, Samsung was first with internet connected appliances to increase energy savings and reduce costs, and in 2008, Samsung launched an eco-phone made with corn-based bioplastics. In 2011, the company launched more Green IT products and services and in the summer of 2011, Samsung joined the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI).

Samsung will continue to innovate by increasing energy efficiency, reducing CO2 emissions and being less harmful to the environment when its products are recycled or disposed.

5. PPR Home: Innovative Metrics Shed Light on Supply Chains

As reported in GreenBiz, the parent company of some of the world’s biggest luxury and sporting brands, including Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent, and PUMA, are embarking on one of the world’s most ambitious green accounting programs. PPR Home has announced that it will adopt a group environmental profit and loss statement (EP&L) by 2015.

This new approach to accounting will help to monitor and manage greenhouse gas emissions, water use, pollution, and land use change. According to PUMA executive chairman, Jochen Zeitz, EP&Ls are superior to conventional sustainability reports.

”As the manager of a business, all you need to look at now is one page and you know what you need to do because it tells you exactly where you need to attack in order to get rid of your footprint,” Zeitz said. “But once you visualise and measure, you can actually manage the impact. Whereas before the visualisation was so hypothetical that it didn’t lead to concrete day-to-day decisions.”

The EP&L provide a more transparent view of the supply chain. PUMA’s E P&L revealed that 94 percent of its environmental impact was created in the supply chain, which has encouraged the company to find alternative materials to reduce that impact. Zeitz said that the company was looking into requiring firms to measure and report their environmental impact when PUMA is selecting suppliers in future.

6. HP and Dell: Manufacturing or Recycling

According to an article by Carol Baroudi, HP and Dell are each taking different approaches to sustainability. HP is emphasizing removing toxic compounds from manufacturing while Dell is focused on recycling through take back programs.

HP has been far better than Dell at removing toxic compounds from their designs. They have reduced PVC and BFRs, and they have completely phased out beryllium and other compounds.

Dell is better than HP at recycling their products at the end of their life cycle. Dell is working with the EPA on the National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship. Dell and the EPA are promoting recycling for electronic waste. The goal of the Strategy is to “encourage electronics manufacturers to expand their product take-back programs, and use certified recyclers as a minimum standard in those programs.”

7. Unilever: Go Big or Go Home

Greenbiz has lauded Unilever’s efforts if for no other reason than the sheer scale of its sustainability ambitions. By 2020, the company, with annual revenues exceeding $63 billion, plans to cut its massive environmental footprint in half through its Sustainable Living Plan.

Big efforts get noticed as is evidenced by the fact that Unilever won top honors at the 2011 International Green Awards in London. Unilever was named the Grand Prix award winner because it has “the greatest capacity to change the way society and business is perceived, supported by factual evidence of systemic change.”

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan articulates the view that business must prepare itself for a future in which resources are rare and more expensive.

“We are preparing ourselves for that future. We’re also trying to develop products and services which will allow our consumers to adapt to a very different world,” Gavin Neath, Unilever’s senior vice president of sustainability, said in an interview. “People talk a lot about things like climate change adaptation. In a real sense, part of what we’re doing in the Sustainable Living Plan is about climate change adaptation.”

8. ARAMARK: Training a Workforce

You do not need to be a multi-billion dollar company to develop innovative approaches to address sustainability challenges. One such concern involves securing qualified employees. ARAMARK has launched an Environmental Internship Program designed to meet the growing need for employees who have a practical understanding of environmental initiatives plus fundamental business knowledge.

The program provides young professionals with corporate experience and creates an awareness of the role environmental stewardship can play in all jobs. ARAMARK is a world leader in professional services, providing award-winning food services, facilities management, and uniform and career apparel to health care institutions, universities and school districts, stadiums and arenas, and businesses around the world.

“Environmental practices can be incorporated into virtually any job, and through the ARAMARK Environmental Internship Program, we can help develop employees who make the connection between the work that they do, and its impact on the environment and on our business,” said Rick Martella, ARAMARK Vice President, Business Affairs. “Embedding these internships in key roles across the company will provide environmental knowledge and skills that are not confined to a single position or type of job, and can be easily shared.”

9. Berg Engineering Consultants Ltd.: Be Proactive

Green is also growing in the building sector. As reported in the Daily Herald Business Ledger, the green market was 2 percent of non-residential construction starts in 2005; 12 percent in 2008; and grew to 28-35 percent in 2010. By 2015, an estimated 40-48 percent of new non-residential construction will be green. Experts say green building will support 7.9 million U.S. jobs and pump $554 million into the U.S. economy over the next four years.

By 2015, the green share of the largest non-residential retrofit and renovation activity will more than triple, growing to 25-33 percent of the activity by value — a $14-18 billion opportunity in major construction projects alone, industry experts say.

When Brian Berg Sr. established Berg Engineering Consultants Ltd. (BEC), there was no green market and there was no LEED certification. However, when he set up shop in the midst of the 70s energy crisis, he paid heed to prevailing conditions and positioned himself to be ahead of the curve in energy-efficient designs.

Now his firm has won numerous energy awards using energy efficient design in a huge and growing market.

“Dad had to invent energy efficient design,” explains Brian Berg Jr. “Today it’s not so much a process, but education — staying on top of innovations, showing clients how spending a little more for a more energy efficient building envelope is a smart investment.”

10. Bluehorse Associates: Doing It for the Money

Bottom line benefits are driving the adoption of sustainability. As Sara Pax, President of Bluehorse Associates, noted, it is ‘not about tree-hugging’: Sustainability is simply good for business. According to Pax, companies should be concerned about their environmental sustainability – but it has more to do with ensuring profitability than it does with saving the planet.

Bluehorse Associates is the maker of a tool for measuring environmental sustainability for the food industry called Carbonostics, which Pax claims can give food and beverage companies tangible information about which measures make most sense for business, as well as for the environment.

Consumer engagement should not be a top priority for companies, Pax said, as only a very small percentage of consumers change their purchasing decisions based on any environmental work that a company has undertaken.

Conclusion

Businesses are drawn to sustainability by the returns they see in the real world experience of other businesses. Research bears out the hypothesis that businesses that adopt a sustainable culture “significantly outperform their counterparts over the long-term, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance.” This was the finding in a November 2011 study conducted by researchers at Harvard Business School and London Business School.

Business is doing more for the environment than governments or grass roots populism. We can learn a great deal from the sustainability journeys of the brave pioneers who have dared to lead.

Article written for Global Warmingis Real,  as published in Sustainable Life Media by Richard Matthews,  a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics.

Source: Global Warming is Real (http://s.tt/18OZN)

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3
April

Volkswagen’s green commitment: $52 billion by 2016

German automaker Volkswagen aims to drop the average emissions from its new vehicles to 120 grams CO2/km by 2015, as part of a “fundamental ecological restructuring” likely to be worth more than €40 billion (US$52 billion by 2016.

The company says more than two thirds of its entire €62.4 billion (US$82.1 billion) investment programme for the coming five years will be directly or indirectly spent on “ever more efficient vehicles, powertrains and technologies, as well as environmentally compatible production.”

VW has been looking to bolster its green reputation since being targeted by campaign group Greenpeace over its alleged lobbying against deeper cuts to EU emissions targets.

The company’s new emissions reduction target would represent a 30 percent cut on 2006 levels for Europe’s largest carmaker, and a sizeable reduction on its current average emissions for new vehicles of 135.5g/km, which sits fractionally below the E.U. average of 136.1 g/km in 2011.

VW said that under the new plan it wants every new model generation to be on average 10 to 15 percent more efficient than its predecessor, while emissions will also be cut from both production processes and manufacturing plants.

As part of the announcement the company unveiled a new €600 million (almost US$790 million) investment designed to expand its use of renewable energies such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power, in order to achieve a 40 percent reduction in emissions from energy supplies by the end of the decade.

Plants will also aim to reduce water and energy consumption, as well as overall emissions, by a quarter over the next six years.

Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, chairman of the Volkswagen Group Board of Management, also declared that 2013 would be the “year of e-mobility” for Volkswagen, starting with the release of the two door mini e-up!, which will then be followed by further all-electric or partially-electric vehicles from many of the Group’s brands.

“Our declared goal is to make Volkswagen the leading automaker in ecological terms, too,” he said on the eve of the Geneva motorshow, before stating that Volkswagen’s new five year strategy will focus on responsible conduct towards employees, society, and the environment.

“To take pole position and to sustain that lead over the long term, you have to understand all these dimensions of our business and to practice them convincingly at every level,” Winterkorn added. “We are raising the bar much higher when it comes to sustainability.”

 

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15
March

Is Your Brand’s Sustainability Really Worth Talking About?

Once upon a time (until recently, actually), the sustainability story of an iconic cosmetics brand focused on contributing to reforestation – doing its bit for climate change, biodiversity and cleaner water.  This brand said little about what it was doing to reduce toxins in its products or source and manufacture those products more sustainably.  (Not that much, it turned out.)  This despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of most product companies’ environmental footprint is, of course, in the products themselves.  To savvier consumers, investors and employees, the reforestation story was the equivalent of a deflecting nervous laugh trying to divert attention from the brand’s core sustainability reality.

Over time, every company’s sustainability ROI boils down to just two things:  reality and perception.  From atop the growing mountain of evidence, we’ve already seen that sustainability reality, done right, reduces costs and risks while driving innovation and product appeal.  Meanwhile, each year sustainability perceptions have a larger impact on brand equity and its attendant revenue, pricing power, and customer and stakeholder loyalty.  Regardless of how you tell your sustainability story in an increasingly transparent world, whether brand impact will be positive or negative is utterly dependent on your sustainability reality.  So as communicators, every day we have to ask if our sustainability performance – not just professed values or stated corporate commitments  – is actually worth talking about.

Whose job is it, anyway?

It’s critical to get very clear on what part of achieving your brand’s desired sustainability perceptions is up to Marketing/Corporate Communications and what part is up to product development.   Is your sustainability reality weaker than the story you’re telling, or is it actually stronger?

If perceptions lag reality as they do for many brands (Dow, L’Oreal, Merck, Nokia, Shell among them), there is uncaptured ROI in unrealized brand equity.  That’s up to communicators to fix, staying current on the brand’s legitimate sustainability proof points and weaving them into an appropriate and powerful tapestry.  But when reality is weaker than the story (the more common scenario; you know who you are), reality is your ceiling for how compelling your sustainability communication can be without significant greenwashing exposure.  In product companies, it’s up to product development, supply chain, and product lifecycle managers to raise that ceiling.

In that context, the big problem is that CMO’s/corporate brand stewards seldom have a seat at the table when product design and development decisions are being made.  How can CMO’s be accountable for brand health when sustainability perceptions will be largely determined by product content, sourcing, manufacture, packaging, distribution, use, and disposal/re-use?

Yet that doesn’t mean just accepting the hand we’re dealt.  It means we must persistently and urgently ask the executives responsible for product development decisions  “What more can we do to ensure that sustainability criteria are systematically encountered when product ideas/improvements are being evaluated for development?”

This requires ensuring that product sustainability is not a segregated assessment, but that preliminary assessments are integrated with other non-sustainability criteria impacting customer appeal – and always occur early enough in the development decision cycle to prevent investments that diminish or even cripple your sustainability reality.

What’s a brand steward to do?

1.  Know where you stand.  In the absence of sustainability-focused primary research designed to assess where you are today on sustainability reality vs. perception, reports like those linked above (from Interbrand and BrandLogic) are useful inputs.  If your brand is not included in such reports, you may need to undertake primary research or at least piece together other secondary research with whatever you already have.

2.  Define communication objectives calibrated to what degree your sustainability reality is truly worth talking about.  If your reality is stronger than your perception, portray that reality aggressively and compellingly to meet those objectives.  If it’s weaker, urge your senior executive leadership team to keep up the pressure on reality with systematic, integrated sustainability assessments in your product development pipeline – before product development projects are approved.

3.  Ensure that your perception monitoring mechanisms do all they can to gauge whether your story is going far enough so that you don’t leave unrealized brand equity on the table, but not so far that it greenwashes.  Savvier customers are already punishing brands that selectively tout the good part of their story while burying the bad.  The transparency imperative will keep increasing the pressure on your reality.

Just to be clear, I think contributions to reforestation are great.  But when products companies give short shrift to the harder part, they can punish their brands (and brand communicators) as much as the environment.


Steven Cristol is founder of Strategic Harmony® Partners and has advised some of the world’s most innovative companies on brand strategy and product strategy. Article was written for Sustainable Life Media.

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