I am passing on a link for an excellent article Kelli Rodda just posted in Nursery Management summarizing the Sustainable Sites Initiative. Those of you selling into the landscape market will be particularly interested. Click HERE to go to the article.
Next up: Webinar on the value of local and sustainable labels
Join us for a Webinar on January 15
In this webinar, Dr. Jennifer Dennis of Purdue University will discuss the value of local and sustainable labels. One of the strategies to maximize customer share in the environmentally-conscious consumer market segment is centered on investigating individuals’ understanding and concerns about the contemporary environmental issues and offer products (that are designed) that promise to mitigate selected environmental problems. Previous studies have shown that consumers are interested in eco-friendly products and the use of ecolabels has grown rapidly worldwide. In this webinar, Dr. Dennis will discuss how this plays out in the green industry today.
Title: The Value of Local and Sustainable Labels
Date: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM CST
After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Wal-Mart and an Analysis of Sustainability Index Hiccups
Some time ago, Wal-Mart announced its attempt to lead the creation of a sustainability index. The idea was to provide consumers with clear guidance on the impact of what they bought. Instead of wondering why one product cost a buck more than a different brand, they would have some information on why. Along the way, it was hoped that such transparency would lead to greater competition between firms to drive costs out of the system in a responsible fashion. So how’s that all going? According to Fortune (Jul 13), not so well, forcing Wal-Mart to back off some of its initial goals.
For complete story, CLICK HERE.
Hat Tip to Stan Pohmer for the link!
Managers paying more attention to sustainability (outside the green industry, that is)
How much are top managers paying attention to sustainability questions?
According to respondents to the second annual Sustainability & Innovation Global Executive Study — a collaboration between MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group — the answer depends on how much they know about it. The more they know, the more they pay attention.
People who identify themselves as sustainability “experts” are more than two times as likely as sustainability “novices” to say that sustainability is “already a permanent fixture and core strategic consideration.”
The Question: What is the status of sustainability on the agenda of top management?
Cuts of the survey pool show several variances in how sustainability is assessed. For instance, respondents at very large companies indicated sustainability was a much bigger concern than those at smaller companies.
Results across the survey suggest that for experts whose businesses have already begun acting on sustainability-driven strategies, sustainability is a sort of perpetual motion machine — the more they do, the more they learn, the more advantages they achieve, and the more they realize that there is more to do.
These findings probably come as no surprise to Jessica L. Bier and James Hacker, of Deloitte Consulting LLP. In a piece published today at environmentalleader.com, “Raising the Level of Sustainability: Stakeholder Alignment and Cultural Change,” Bier and Hacker write, “One of the major challenges in making a sustainability program truly sustainable is stakeholder engagement, both internal and external.”
Their main point: “meaningful behavior change is more likely to occur when people are both enlisted in the solution and when they know their performance is being measured.”
Some experts have told MIT SMR that the gap between sustainability “embracers” and “cautious adopters” presents a challenging and consequential question for CEOs. Does the divergence of opinion between experts and novices reflect a fundamental disagreement about sustainability’s significance? Or do those opinions simply illustrate how views naturally evolve as managers learn more (or as they begin to get measured by new metrics, as Bier and Hacker suggest)?
If the differences come from how much information leaders have, then there are easy-to-spot educational solutions. But if they come from a fundamental disagreement about sustainability’s significance, then it’s harder to say how leaders can change an organization’s cultural viewpoint.
Survey statistics and analysis from “First Look: The Second Annual Sustainability & Innovation Survey,” which appears in the Winter 2011 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.
"If you're not informed, it's your own fault."
ANLA and SAF have done a yeoman’s job of keeping green industry firms informed of what is happening in Washington in terms of the effects of mid-term elections and the critical regulatory and legislative issues facing nursery/floral businesses today. Be sure to check out the Washington Impact section (click here) of the ANLA Knowledge Center and the latest SAF analysis of the effects of mid-term elections on your business (click here). As the saying goes, what you don’t know, can hurt you.
An all-too-familiar container problem…
Will we ever come to bury the single-use paper cup?
Environmentalists of all stripes feel some combination of guilt, confusion, and even indifference when they stop to think about paper cups. Many times those cups are used for less than a minute before they enter the long cycle of becoming either landfill waste, pulp that’s recycled into a new material or compost.
The question is a particular headache for Starbucks. According to author Anya Kamenetz, “an astonishing 3 billion of the nation’s 200 billion-plus paper cups thrown into dumps each year bear that familiar green logo.” Jim Hanna, Starbucks’ director of environmental impact, tells Kamenetz that, “From our customers’ standpoint, the cup is our No. 1 environmental liability. . .Cups are our icon, our billboard, part of the ethos of the company. Customers have this great experience of interacting with store partners and the beverage. Then, when they’re finished, they say, ‘Now what do I do with my cup?’”
Kamenetz digs into that mass of waste in the November 2010 issue of Fast Company. Subtitled “A story of Starbucks and the limits of corporate sustainability,” her piece, “The Starbucks Cup Dilemma,” explains that the company has enlisted MIT Sloan’s Peter Senge to help it tackle the issue: “With Senge’s help, Starbucks has moved from solo redesign efforts to enlisting paper mills, NGOs, municipal governments, and even competitors such as McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts to help.”
Kamenetz continues: “Starbucks is putting major marketing muscle behind the effort, too, betting that despite the economic downturn customers will be drawn to the green halo of its so-called Shared Planet initiative.”
All good news? Not so fast. “Casting the company as an innovative, dedicated leader in sustainability has its risks,” Kamenetz writes. “Getting more cups out of the waste stream and into places like [composter] Cedar Grove has proven to be a lot more complicated than anyone at Starbucks had expected, and some environmentalists are actively questioning the company’s approach. . . The saga of the Starbucks cup may represent the last stand for the era of the corporate-led sustainability initiative. Think about it: What would it take for you to never throw away another cup?”
“At many annual meetings,” Senge says in the story, “people would stand up and say, ‘What are you going to do about this goddamned cup?’ Howard [Schultz, Starbucks CEO]’s an off-the-cuff kind of guy, so he basically ordered his team, ‘We’ve got to get rid of this disposable cup. Go solve the problem.’” In October 2008, Schultz pledged that 100% of Starbucks cups would be recyclable by 2012.
But what did that mean? Compostable and biodegradable? Collected and then turned into something else? And how do you get customers to not just throw the cup in a trash can, where it will just turn into landfill waste?
Kamenetz’s story details Starbucks’ efforts to try out different materials and different “cup recovery” efforts. It held a “Cup Summit” at the MIT Media Lab on Earth Day, last April (see MIT SMR’s blog post about the event). There, a pilot project was launched to turn used cups into napkins.
Kamenetz’s conclusion? First, “Starbucks’s true strategy might be best stated as doing the most that can be done for the environment both voluntarily and at a profit. ‘Our goal is to prove that there’s a market value for our cup stock, and for the recycling community and paper manufacturers to see monetary value in that,’ says [Starbucks’ director of environmental impact] Hanna. ‘We need to balance business with environmental performance.’ That may be the most we can expect from any corporation.”
Her second conclusion: “Bring your own damn cup.”
See any green industry implications here?
Should suppliers be leading sustainability?
Below is a re-post from the Open for Discussion blog hosted by McDonald’s. This example is obviously not from the green industry, but the question and subsequent answer is pertinent to most industries:
“We are a supplier to McDonald’s and are proud of that. We attended the Supplier Sustainability Summit that McDonald’s recently convened. We share your interest in moving along the sustainability agenda. I am curious how you see the customer/supplier relationship. Who should be leading the sustainability agenda? The consumer? The customer? The supplier? Should we as a supplier lead the way on what we think is best for sustainability? Or should we listen and respond to what customers like you want and specifically ask for? ” — Dennis H. Treacy, Senior VP, Corporate Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer, Smithfield Foods, Inc.
In my opinion, the more suppliers take the lead, the better. At the end of the day, McDonald’s does not actually produce the products we serve. We have a complex and extended web of suppliers whom we rely upon to help us bring food from the farm to the front counter. So, it’s really our suppliers who have the product development and agricultural expertise. As a result, it is very important for them to play a leading role in identifying opportunities for improvement and ensuring that we continuously progress in the right direction.
Another factor is the reality that solutions to tough agricultural sustainability issues – whether they are environmental, social or animal welfare-related – usually require a systemic approach. Sustainable food issues cannot be effectively addressed unless multiple stakeholders are involved and a broad-based view of the issues is incorporated.
This is not to say that I think McDonald’s should be hands off. We’re in this together as partners in pursuit of progress. We have a role to play in influencing change for the better, and there are specific initiatives, policies or programs we implement that are unique or tailored to McDonald’s needs, and this will continue.
In the end, it is a blend. Supplier leadership is expected and needed. Our proactive leadership and involvement is also important. A perfect current example is our support of the WWF Global Conference on Sustainable Beef. Along with McDonald’s, other companies, including our suppliers Cargill and JBS, are involved. Beef sustainability cannot be tackled by one company alone. We need a coalition of like-minded organizations that add up to size and scale that can really make a difference.
Bill Gates on Sustainability at TED 2010
One of the day’s strongest talks at the most recent TED conference was by Bill Gates. He’s spoken at TED previously on a variety of topics, among them education and malaria (last year he set free some mosquitoes from the stage to make a point about the latter). This time he directed his mind toward energy and climate; in particular how to get CO2 levels to zero. He presented an equation in which:
Total CO2 = People x Services Per Person x Energy Per Service x CO2 per unit of energy.
So, if he’s right, one of the variables on the right of the equal sign has to go down to zero. He argued why it won’t be any of the first three and focused on the last one, CO2 per unit of energy. He spoke of reducing and converting fossil fuels, managing nuclear energy in ways that are safe and don’t promote proliferation. He’s investing in these areas and he was clear that he’s early on in thinking about his problem. This one is a must watch.
Sustainable Sites Initiative releases landscape guidelines
The Sustainable Sites Initiative has released the nation’s first rating system for the design, construction and maintenance of sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings. It was developed through a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the U.S. Botanic Garden. The initiative’s rating system represents 4 years of work by the country’s leading sustainability experts, scientists and design professionals, as well as public input.
“While carbon-neutral performance remains the holy grail for green buildings, sustainable landscapes move beyond a do-no-harm approach,” said Nancy Somerville, exec. v.p. and CEO of ASLA. “Landscapes sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats and ultimately give back through significant economic, social and environmental benefits never fully measured until now.”
“We are facing unprecedented environmental challenges such as water scarcity and climate change that require fundamental changes in the way that we interact with the land,” said Susan Rieff, exec. director of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at Univ. of Texas at Austin. “This voluntary rating system and guidelines covers all aspects of working with outdoor spaces of all sizes, and provides information for designing landscapes that go beyond beauty to actually improving ecosystem health and the health of communities for generations to come.”
The rating system works on a 250-point scale, with levels of achievement for obtaining 40%, 50%, 60% or 80% of available points, recognized with one through four stars, respectively. If prerequisites are met, points are awarded through the 51 credits covering areas such as the use of greenfields, brownfields or greyfields; materials; soils and vegetation; construction and maintenance. These credits can apply to projects ranging from corporate campuses, transportation corridors, public parks and single-family residences. The rating system is part of two new reports issued from the initiative, “The Case for Sustainable Landscapes” and “Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009.”
To test the rating system, the initiative opened a call for pilot projects in conjunction with the release of the rating system. Any type of designed landscape is eligible, so long as the project size is at least 2,000 sq. ft. The call will remain open until Feb. 15, 2010, and the initiative will work with and oversee the projects during the two-year process.
HT: Garden Center Magazine
Make sustainability a core part of your business
From today’s Management Tip of the Day from the Harvard Business School:
Sustainability is here to stay. Yet too many organizations treat sustainability as a temporary compliance issue. Use these three tips to make sustainability central to your business:
- Elevate responsibility for sustainability to the C-suite. Everyone at the top of the organization should be focused on sustainability, but ultimately, responsibility should lie with one person. Establish a Chief Sustainability Officer and fill the position with someone who has the expertise and power to make it an influential role.
- Treat sustainability like a product or service. Incorporate the “triple bottom line” into the company lexicon. Ask people to think about economic, ecological, and social returns.
- Establish permanent partnerships with the sustainability community. Identify the NGOs who have influence in your field. Treat them like critical customer accounts and cultivate relationships that allow you to identify win-win solutions to problems.