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Bryan Sheehan presents “How to Start or Accelerate Your Sustainability Program.”
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Bryan Sheehan presents “How to Start or Accelerate Your Sustainability Program.”


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PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. …

PechaKucha Night was devised in Tokyo in February 2003 as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public.
It has turned into a massive celebration, with events happening in hundreds of cities around the world, inspiring creatives worldwide. Drawing its name from the Japanese term for the sound of "chit chat", it rests on a presentation format that is based on a simple idea: 20 images x 20 seconds. It's a format that makes presentations concise, and keeps things moving at a rapid pace.

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  • Sustainability benefits are not just for the largest companies. Small and mid-sized organizations can also obtain the benefits – you just have to do it strategically within your available resources. You’ve seen some examples today; may be wondering how you can get started or get to the next level. It’s not as hard as scaling a mountain, but not as easy as falling off a log, either. In this short presentation, we’ll cover some of the key things to do to start or accelerate your sustainability program.
  • First, recognize and internalize the upside benefits Most of them are multiple benefits, meaning environmental, community, and company benefits, but central to the business side, many of the benefits translate directly to money – dollars directly to your bottom line. Include such things as: Reduced costs & increased profits Increased revenue opportunities Easier recruiting, hiring, & retention of top talent Increased employee engagement, motivation, innovation, productivity, and loyalty Increased positive brand awareness and community reputation for company Increased ability to influence the ‘rules of the game’ in your industry
  • And there are also business risks that can be avoided, that you want to keep in mind; In the past, most only focused on risks of being out of compliance with environmental regulations, and that risk still exists for many companies, but there are others too: Risk of diminished reputation due to limited sustainability focus The biggest risk for many is the risk of lost revenue as current or potential customers seek more environmentally responsible companies Risk of limiting your financial resilience in a tough economy Risk of losing a leadership position in industry Risk of falling behind trends and having to play catch up – which can be more costly
  • Once you’ve internalized the benefits that can be gained and risks that can be avoided, you need to develop and communicate the vision & benefits with your team Generate excitement: What’s in it for them, the company, the environment, the community CLEAR and FREQUENT communication is needed (factor of 10) Informal communication is as important or more important than formal
  • Next, you need to assess your organization’s specific sustainability impacts, risks, & opportunities. Even if you’ve done this already, doing it again (iteratively) will help you continually take your program to the next level. Use Value Chain Assessment – all of the things you do to deliver value to your customers Acquisition of raw materials & supplies Initial prep & storage Final prep to deliver product or service Delivery & use of service or product Disposition & disposal Other industries have similar, but slightly varied, value chains: Manufacturing Professional services
  • No organization can take on everything, so once you’ve identified your environmental impacts, risks, & opportunities, you need to prioritize them. As the image indicates, often many “WANTS” or “nice to haves” are outweighed by a major NEED, or requirement – for both individuals and organizations. Similarly, with sustainability, sometimes the impacts or issues that seem most obvious or easy to address are outweighed by other, much more critical impact that should be resolved. On the other hand, in some situations, the reverse is true – the smaller, cumulative impacts may add up to more than the most glaring larger single impact. Prioritization criteria can include Size, severity of impact Regulatory issues / risk Stakeholder sensitivity / pressure Company cost / benefit to address Company ability to address Bottom line: your assessment will vary based on your specific organization’s situation Another key is to resist the temptation to start brainstorming solutions to the impacts before you’ve identified and prioritized all of the main impacts – you don’t want to waste time coming up with many solutions to the most minor issues
  • AFTER you’ve identified and prioritized your key impacts, THEN identify the potential sustainability solutions that could be used to address them. These could fall into various categories: Energy (electricity, heating fuel, transportation fuel, etc.) Waste Water Other resources Toxins Other (local, organic food, workplace environment, etc.) Examples on slide Resist the temptation to prioritize best options just now – that step will come after you’ve identified the main VIABLE options
  • AFTER you’ve identified the viable sustainability actions that could be taken, then prioritize them. Examples of key prioritization criteria: Cost to implement / short term financial impact Long-term financial impact Ease / speed of implementation Environmental benefits Human health / productivity benefits Marketing / PR / brand benefits Often a key decision point is money vs. time Easy, quick, low-cost, low-return win (that builds momentum) Longer-term, bigger investment, bigger payoff win (that makes a splash)
  • Once you have identified and prioritized your main impacts, and your top-priority solutions, you need to incorporate them into a sustainability plan. Elements of a good sustainability plan Goals & Objectives Impact assessment results Prioritized actions / solutions / programs Roles & Responsibilities Communication process & plan (internal and external) Training process & plan Key performance metrics & monitoring process Process for continuous improvement Documentation process, if appropriate Appropriate level of scope & complexity Proactive plan is critical to optimizing success: Can often help you avoid getting caught in the maze Can often ‘go around’ the problem / challenge if you take the time to plan the approach
  • As you implement your plan, here are a few best practices to help optimize and accelerate your sustainability success: First, recognize that sustainability is as critical to your success as any other vital business function, like great customer service, a great quality program, or any other critical function. There is as much or more money to be gained by your business from sustainability as from these other vital functions.
  • Another critical success factor: combination of top management and front-line employee support for program. Front-line managers can be particularly critical to success, because they are often the first ones the front-line employees go to to find out if this new sustainability initiative is more than just the new ‘flavor of the month.’
  • The next critical success factor is a taking a strategic, proactive, planned approach – avoid just going ad hoc after the first initiative that comes to mind. You may be able to get to the end of Implementation Ave. without going down Planning Street, but you’ll more often than not get tied up in a maze of bad roads, roundabout paths, dead-ends, blind alleys, and end up costing yourself more time and money in the process.
  • An absolutely critical concept to keep in mind when planning and implementing your sustainability program is the concept of SCALABILITY. Everything in sustainability is scalable along a continuum of complexity, from simple and basic to much more comprehensive and complex. Don’t try to – literally – take on the world – scale your sustainability goals, programs, and actions appropriately to your organization’s size, scope, situation, and resources – time, people, and money. No business can do it all at once - recognize that an iterative, step-wise, continuous improvement process is the best way to go.
  • To keep your sustainability program from seeming like added work for your team, integrate it into existing systems and actions that you are already taking. Examples: Product quality program – scrap reduction, defect reduction (reduces waste, cost) Employee health & safety Air quality Lighting Toxins, chemicals Accident elimination Cost reduction programs, etc.
  • After getting that buy-in from your front line team members that we talked about, make sure to empower your team to actively ‘own’ and take responsibility for the sustainability program. Key elements Responsibility Authority Accountability Resources (time, people, money) Space, but also right amount of attention Recognition of successes If you do a good job of empowering your team, you’ll be amazed with the level of engagement, motivation, enthusiasm, innovation, commitment, and creative, successful results the team will generate.
  • Another key part of getting the most out of your sustainability efforts is to tell other people about your sustainability commitments, actions, and results. Many businesses are hesitant to do this – concerned about being seen as greenwashing if they’re ‘not perfect’ If your actions and communications are authentic, you’ll get a much more positive than negative response to your actions & communications. Many ways to do it – example is from an open house of a restaurant client of mine Promoting sustainability & local food actions Sampled local food, local vendors displayed and spoke, 150 locals, press coverage, etc. Missy the Scottish Highlander cow was guest of honor Combines with website, in-restaurant signage, social media, other events, etc.
  • An over-arching key success factor is to recognize that continuous improvement is more important than perfection. Very much like a product quality program Will never reach absolutely ‘zero defects’ or ‘100% sustainability” or “zero waste” The idea is to challenge selves to continuously improve towards that goal. Don’t get frustrated by not being perfect, or by temporary challenges or setbacks – its about the long term.
  • Related to that idea, is the concept that “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it, and if you don’t manage it, it won’t improve.” So, set the right number of the right metrics to track your success and make course corrections when and if needed. Don’t overdo it with metrics – choose the right ones for your business and sustainability goals. One key element of sustainability metrics it the importance of measuring both absolute and relative changes, because using only one or the other can inadvertently give incomplete and even misleading information.
  • Finally, it is very important to recognize and celebrate both large and small successes. It’s an iterative, continuous improvement process, and celebrating the interim, incremental successes Keeps people motivated & enthusiastic Helps maintain momentum of program Keeps any naysayers from being able to chisel away at program success Generates positive buzz inside and outside of company.
  • So, as my wrap-up message to you, keep in mind that, done right, sustainability doesn’t cost, it pays And implementing it at the appropriate scale and implementing the tips and best practices shared here today will help your organization to reach the next level and significantly enhance your financial and strategic success. Thank you very much, and best of luck on your sustainability journey!