Tag Archives: bottom line

It’s Payback Time- Measuring ‘Value’ in Sustainable Supply Chain Procurement & Management

4 Jan

Over the holidays, a recent study was brought to my attention by Spend Matters Jason Busch (@spendmatters).  The report reminded me of the scene in the movie Jerry McGuire, where the sports agent coaches his client, and he shouts through the phone “Show me the Money!”.  Well, despite late 2010 surveys that suggested that companies may pull back sustainability efforts, I suggest that CFOs read this first before pulling the plug.

PwC, Insead and EcoVadis collaborated recently to construct a quantitative model to link Sustainable Procurement practices and positive economic impact. A link to the white paper download is here. The three companies went about asking the question: “Is Sustainable Procurement a true value creation initiative to be welcomed not only by customers but by shareholders and financial markets as well?” The quantitative model was created by the analysis of the three main drivers and their respective impacts on the company’s annual procurement spend, market cap and revenue. Their impact was then compared to the implementation cost of a Sustainable Procurement program.

Among the reports key findings:

  1. The payback from investing in risk reduction activities in the supply chain targeting the financial impact on “brand value from negative supplier practices (e.g., child labor, creating local pollution);economic cost of supply chain disruptions (e.g., noncompliance with environmental regulation,” etc. is eighty-five times the cost associated with the initial risk reduction investment.
  2. Additional revenue through innovation of eco-friendly products/services, price premium or income from recycling programs yielded a 58 percent payback.

Talk about showing the money!  Geesh, where do I sign up?!

The study found sustainability- driven cost reduction from energy reduction programs for instance, could fund the entire cost of a procurement initiative.  This would allow companies to benefit quickly from both risk management reduction and potential revenue growth opportunities.  The study also found that there were additional ‘value creation’ opportunities that could be realized if procurement departments collaborated more closely with the marketing and R&D departments upstream on the projects. In most cases, this requires a process modification to involve procurement experts in the design of new product and/or services.  Findings in three primary areas were covered in this report (cost reduction, risk reduction and revenue growth).  Key ‘value drivers’ for sustainable procurement and economic indicators are shown in the table below:

Cost Reduction

Reduced Internal Cost: In 2008, water conservation, energy efficiency, green building projects and other eco-friendly initiatives yielded Baxter International Inc. a total of US $11.9 million in environmental income, savings and cost avoidance.

Reduced Specifications- In 2007, Wal-Mart launched “CO2Scorecard” aimed at saving 0.6 million tons of CO2 and US $3.4 billion in costs through reduced packaging content.

Reduced Compliance Costs– The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment(WEEE) and Packaging taxes in the European Union paid by producers are essentially calculated based on weight and product category. However eco-design criteria are being taken into account in the calculation of these taxes (e.g., use of recycled raw materials in packaging). Cost reduction can be achieved through lighter and eco-designed products.

The study found that cost reductions per project represent on average 0.05% of the company’s total revenue, ranging from 0.005% to 0.36%- a small price to pay for conformity and enhance product revenue gains.  However, these cost reductions yielded a six times over payback for sustainable procurement initiatives.

Risk Reduction

Bad Barbie- In 2007, Mattel experienced a major crisis when a supplier used lead-contaminated paint on Mattel’s toys in addition to creating safety hazards with lead based magnets.  This fiasco caused the company to recall about 20 million products at a cost of over US $100 million. Stock price dropped 18 percent.    A big lesson learned was that Mattel’s brand reputation was significantly affected by events involving safety, environmental or social issues with poor supplier oversight and risk management. These events have also led to significant direct costs (recall of products, financial penalties) and/or indirect costs (decrease in market share, sales and market cap, product boycotts) for these companies.

Dirty Palms- As another example, the report showed that in 2006, Palm’s stock value dropped 14% in June 2006 due to suppliers not meeting the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.  This poor planning and oversight led Palm to withdraw the Treo 650 smart phone from the European market.

Overall, the study found an average 12% decrease in market capitalization after a supply chain disruption due to a sustainability issue.  Ouch.

Revenue Growth

The study found that enhanced opportunities for experiencing direct revenue growth area bit harder to quantify (due in part to so many external variables and market variations).  However, the companies did report that increases of to 0.01% to 2% of the company’s revenue could be realized, mainly due to linkages between enhanced brand’s reputation and implementation of sustainable practices in design, production, distribution and end-of-life management.

Green Procurement Strategies

The study noted the many challenges that procurement officers may have in effectively managing sustainable procurement challenges.  Particularly, upstream manufacturing of intermediate products can pose a challenge, but not necessarily close the door to change.

So when evaluating a best approach to green procurement, the report suggests that organizations consider first those “product categories that represent a high potential for cost reduction but that are not necessarily controlled by the procurement department such as energy, raw materials, chemicals used for production process, etc.”.  Other categories that can drive growth and reduce risk and that are controlled more closely by procurement might include purchasing of green energy, raw materials with a higher recycled content, etc/.

I have spoken before about how procurement staff can be the gatekeepers that can drive continuous improvement in environmental and corporate social responsibility up and down the product value chain. Here a few tips again on how to green the procurement value chain:

  1. Conduct a spend analysis and ID which product categories may have greatest environmental impact
  2. Engage  designers, production and transportation department staff and explore  the entire spectrum of the supply network costs and value chain of a  products life cycle.  Explore if the product, process or supplier is creating unnecessary wastes, risks or avoidable costs
  3. Identify alternative products to replace materials creating negative life cycle impacts
  4. Engage your suppliers and evaluate what steps they are taking to lower the environmental footprint of their products.
  5. Purchase products that disclose their environmental attributes (eco-labeling).
  6. Audit and engage suppliers to understand and more accurately evaluate their environmental performance. Collaboration and transparency with suppliers creates “reciprocal value creation” in the supply chain, where both suppliers and customers are better equipped and enabled to  recognize and quantify each other’s value contributions to a successful,  green supply chain.
  7. Work with suppliers to help them reduce environmental impacts through changes in product design and materials use.
  8. Engage in Product stewardship: Active management of all aspects of the product from raw materials to final disposal

So what’s the ‘bottom line’ on sustainable procurement?  The answer can be  lower costs, increased sales and revenue growth opportunities, enhanced  reputation and risk management, leading to increased market share.  These are all achievable targets that great, smart businesses should aspire to in 2011 and beyond.

Start making the business case- it’s payback time!

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Using Sustainability Metrics to Drive Business Performance, Innovation and Stakeholder Satisfaction

12 Jul

Environmental metrics were not much of an issue when I started as a young environmental coordinator at a Utah coal mine 30 years ago. The few environmental metrics I used were mainly driven by regulatory-agency permits, inspections and audits.  How many spill occurred this month?  How many fines did we get this quarter?  Did we exceed waste water discharge requirements? Our entire environmental compliance philosophy was driven by permit limits, rules and regulations.  My company was actually more concerned about environmental pollution and managing impacts of operations on the environment than most companies in a large western state at that time.   But at that time, there was a major disconnect between environmental performance and business performance. Environmental protection was seen by management as a cost “sink”, and not as an integral part of conducting business. Metrics weren’t designed to optimize our environmental performance or to understand the long-term impacts of our decisions on either our business or the environment. All decisions were made within a limited point of view.

Like the mining company I worked for, and like most businesses today, it’s clear that the ship has turned.  Companies are looking strategically at how environmental performance can have a direct impact on the bottom line of an organization.  Some are even taking a top-line approach to business success by accounting for social, natural and financial capital (http://bit.ly/93VBWG). Drivers such as globalization of markets, customer and shareholder preferences, regulatory pressures and business process re-engineering can claim a role in this sea change of decision-making.  This approach has fundamentally changed the way companies operate, design, manufacture, and distribute products.

Why Measure Anyway?

Well, the two old axioms state that “you are what you measure” and “what gets measured gets managed”.  Without a way to establish an internal benchmark for continual improvement, it becomes harder to innovate, advance and proactively respond to stakeholder expectations.  Key advantages to monitor and measure environmental and organizational performance include:

  • Setting Effective and Value-Added Priorities
  • Benchmarking to Continuously Improve
  • Encouragement of Bottom Up, Organization-wide Innovation
  • Reinforcing Personal and Organizational Accountability
  • Strengthening Strategic Planning and Goal-Setting Processes
  • Improved Internal and External Communication

Metrics can do one of two things: They can tell you what you should do, or they can tell you what you should have done. If you use them to tell you what to do, you’ll be using them to measure your successes. But if you use them to tell you what you should have done, you’ll be using them to measure your failures. So clearly it’s the first approach, not the latter, that forward-thinking companies should focus on.

The Advent of Verification and Triple Bottom Line Focused Metrics

In the not too distant past, as I noted above, environmental performance was primarily based upon a company’s compliance with local, state or federal permits and environmental regulations. With the advent of the ISO 14001-2004 Standard and Specification and its companion guidelines over the past 15 years, companies are taking a broader look at the ways they measure environmental performance (http://www.iso.org/iso/iso_14000_essentials). In addition, the ISO 14031 Guidelines on Environmental Performance Evaluation provide for establishment of measurable and verifiable environmental performance indicators (EPIs) appropriate to any public or private enterprise.

Many of the potential benefits from linking environmental and economic performance depend on the ability to integrate environmental management practices into the normal course of a company’s operations.  The ability to quantify environmental performance in a meaningful way is critical to the effectiveness of this integration.

Adding to the mix of the benchmarks for environmental indicators are the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)  (http://www.globalreporting.org), Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI) http://www.gemi.org) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD) guidelines (www.wbscd.org).  Each of these measurements and reporting frameworks provide for reporting on the sustainability-economic, environmental, and social – dimensions of an organizations activities, products, and services.  More recently, Joel Makower (@makower) and the staff at GreenBiz.com (@GreenBiz) have been engaged with UL Environment to develop and commercialize a company-level standard for sustainability. This latest effort is being initiated in an attempt to harmonize all three of the above approaches and dozens of others into one global, measurable and verifiable third-party standard for sustainability (http://bit.ly/ajHxKy).

What to Measure and How to Frame the Message

Do your performance metrics have you tied up in knots?  Once organizations decide they have to do more measuring then the key question becomes: What do we measure and how do we measure it?  A few tips:

  1. Measure things that add value to organizational decisions. Measuring for the sake of measuring is a waste of time.
  2. Think about ways to measure things differently that your competitors.  Novel and unique metrics are just as important to differentiating you as your products.
  3. Measure at a minimum the same way others around the world were measuring, as this assures that globally focused metrics are harmonized.
  4. If you are a large company with multiple department, divisions or sites, the metrics of the individual parts must be able to be “rolled up” in a way that addresses the entire organization but still meets site or department specific needs.

When establishing appropriate measures (whether they are social, environmental, operational or financial), consider that metrics must be:

  • Representative
  • Understandable
  • Relevant
  • Comparative
  • Quantifiable
  • Time-based and Normalized
  • Unbiased and Validated
  • Transferable

Also, make sure that the metrics address the needs of all internal and external stakeholders in other words, your employees, customers, local community, government and shareholders.

Finally, good metrics if applied properly will foster innovation and growth.  Focus on continuous improvement as the primary driver for monitoring and measuring performance. If metrics don’t add value, they will not support continuous improvement and eventually will not be used.

Summary

Many of today’s environmental metrics evolved from the end-of-pipe command-and-control regulatory approach that has been implemented in a piecemeal fashion over the past 30 years since I joined the environmental profession. Why let regulatory agencies drive the key performance metrics that in turn drive business performance?  While compliance is a key benchmark for environmental performance, don’t stop there!

In this highly competitive, quickly changing and unstable business climate, organizational success requires agility.  Success also depends on having the correct set of metrics in place to gauge progress in meeting short and long-term business objectives.  Measuring performance with a sustainability lens is just one of the new responsibilities that companies can quickly embrace to nimbly drive organizational value.

Five Ways to Achieve “Top Line” Business Value Through Sustainability

29 Jun

Note: This article also appears on GreenBiz.com at http://bit.ly/9kjYTV

In a comprehensive study released last week by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture, a survey of 766 CEOs from around the globe indicate that despite the economic downturn, sustainability will be critical to the future success of their companies.  An amazing 93% of CEOs indicated that “a tipping point” could be reached that integrates sustainability with core business processes and systems, and its supply chains. http://bit.ly/cS93dR

So this suggests that ‘triple bottom line’ (TBL) practices and measurements will become commonplace in business…or will it.  Perhaps there is another way of looking at this trend  given the top-down commitments that CEO’s believe are necessary to create this massive shift in corporate behavior.  This point of view is called “triple top line”, but has generally been trumped by its “bottom line” twin.

Setting the Context

Top-Line Definition (Sustainability Dictionary http://bit.ly/aRPZh8)

The total revenues an organization reports on their income statement. While many activities within an organization are focused on reducing costs, initiatives such as innovative product and service development focus on creating more valuable and desirable offerings that increase revenues. Attention to human and natural capital (as well as financial capital) can often increase revenue by differentiating a company and its offerings in a beneficial way to the market. When this is done poorly however, it can be seen as green-washing and results in the opposite effect.

In contrast, bottom-line refers to Net Income (top line revenues – expense).  Bottom-line activities typically focus on cutting expenses in order to improve income.  William McDonough also coined this term from a design perspective in his landmark book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things (2002, North Point Press)

Triple Top Line Definition (Sustainability Dictionary http://bit.ly/9emKPX)

The effect that attention to sustainable management of natural, financial, and human capital has to an organization by increasing revenues (by offering more desirable products and services) and reducing costs and expenses throughout operations (through more streamlined operations. While many of these benefits are measured in terms of triple bottom line accounting, even more valuable are their effects to a company’s top-line financial performance because they require less capital investment and reduce the cost of capital.

In the UN/Accenture report, CEOs cited several barriers to achieving their sustainability goals, including ‘organizational silos’, competing priorities and lack of ‘value recognition’ by investors.  To counteract these barriers, several steps were needed, including CEO leadership to create real, value-added and long term change.  Specifically, five key areas were mentioned:

  • Shaping consumer preferences for sustainable products.
  • Training, training, training on sustainability issues- not only for the rank and file but managers too.
  • Improved investor communications with investors to create a better value proposition about sustainability.
  • Improved TBL metrics and communication of the value of business in society.
  • Partnering with governments to shape policy and regulation and create a level playing field.

A "Triple Top-Line" Strategy Yields Enhanced Business Growth

In sustainable terms, both a top-line and bottom-line focus is important. However, many recent efforts to slash expenses in the short-term can actually hurt long-term sustainable value.  Like the UN/Accenture study suggests, a focus on increasing top-line value through innovation, lean thinking, and smarter brand enhancement can lead to more sustainable and profitable growth.  I offer a simple framework to start down the path of sustainability from a top line perspective that recognizes human and natural capital as well as financial aspects of business.

1. Understand the current situation.

Gain awareness of the context in which environmental top line value can be realized.

  • Take stock of the organization’s core business strengths / strategies.
  • Identify the environmental aspects of the organization’s processes and services in each link of the organization’s value chain.
  • Identify customer environmental challenges and how the processes and services relate to customer needs.
  • Develop a business case for moving forward.

2. Develop a strategy.

Decide upon a strategy for creating environmental top line value that supports the organizations business strategy and takes advantage of the organization’s strengths.

  • Develop a top line strategy that will be a best fit for the organization.
  • Consider how the strategy will address sustainable business practices.
  • Determine whether any changes are needed to the existing business model or strategic plan to realize the strategy.
  • Develop an action plan to implement the strategy.

3. Choose initiatives and measure progress.

Develop and implement initiatives that will bring the strategy to life.

  • Consider how the organization’s existing processes and services can be positioned to address the chosen strategy, using the case studies for inspiration.
  • Examine each link of the product value chain to identify potential initiatives, such as reuse of recycled materials, resource optimization, reduced energy or water consumption, all of which can create top line value.
  • Measure your efforts by establishing meaningful and measurable key environmental, social and financial performance indicators
  • Be realistic about how process changes that can have direct environmental benefits fit into the overall set of differentiating features and benefits of the process. Do not assume that consumers will be willing to pay a price premium or accept performance or quality trade-offs.
  • Examine customers’ value chains to identify top line opportunities to meet customer expectations and support their sustainability initiatives.
  • Identify potential partnerships with stakeholders that will lead to top line value by promoting collaborative supply chain management.

4. Gain internal alignment.

The process of aligning an organization around the importance of taking action begins at the time an organization first develops an awareness of the context in which environmental top line value can be realized, and carries all the way through implementation of the top line strategy.

  • Gain buy-in from top management.
  • Communicate the business case for moving forward.
  • Identify internal champions within the organization who will move the top line initiative forward.
  • Start with pilot efforts to test the waters and generate early successes.
  • Communicate early successes.

5. Maintain the momentum.

Develop processes for maintaining the momentum of the top line initiatives.

  • Create a “change management” process to build environmental factors into new or modified processes or activities.
  • Develop business-based metrics of environmental and management and top line success.
  • Develop an award and recognition program for ideas or projects that result in environmental and/or management top line value.
  • Integrate environmental stewardship and associated activities with all operations.
  • Raise the capabilities of the customer service function to probe for and address customer-specific environmental or social responsibility issues/ concerns.

By following this simple ‘plan-do-check-act’ process, companies (large and small) can create upstream supplier alignment, downstream value for their customers and maintain a more secure competitive financial position in the global marketplace.

I believe the distinction between a good company and a great one is this: A good company delivers excellent products and services; a great one delivers excellent products and services and strives to make the world a better place. —William Clay Ford Jr.