Tag Archives: policy

Organizational Collaboration, Transparency, and Metrics CAN Foster Sustainable Change

20 Nov

In an earlier post I mentioned the soon to be availability of “The Portland Bottom Line: Practices for Your Small Business from America’s Hotbed of Sustainability”.   Well, the book has arrived and I am more proud than ever to be a contributor to this publication.  The short 400 word essays by myself and over 50 contributors explores how small businesses can effectively and efficiently shift toward sustainability and thrive in a challenging economy. Contributors collectively chose, by vote, the local community organization Mercy Corps Northwest, which supports the launch and growth of sustainable ventures, to receive 100% of the profits from the book’s sales.

You can buy the book now on Lulu for $16.95 (paperback) or $6.95 (download).   www.portlandbottomline.com

My excerpt from the book can be found in Part 3- Prosperity and is included in its entirety below.  Enjoy, buy the book and make a contribution to the growth of sustainable enterprise!

A few years ago, I assisted a water utility in implementing a sustainability focused initiative based on the International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”) 14001-2004 Environmental Management System standard. Many public and private organizations operate in functional silos, often don’t coordinate well, communicate effectively or run efficiently. Creating a triple bottom line-focused organization requires that all parts work together—like organs of a living being. This utility was inefficient with taxpayer dollars and under intense public scrutiny to improve its operations. It was not healthy. Through the two-year journey with the [utility], I worked hard to know each of its parts, how they interacted, where the trouble spots were, and where good health was. The goal was to build a holistic, sustainable organization that capitalized on its best assets: the staff.

To be truly optimized and efficient, it was vital to shore up operational weaknesses. The program focused on new communication techniques, champion-building, public environmental awareness, and creating a culture of continuous change management. Public agencies are often stuck in a business-as- usual (“BAU”) mindset. The ISO 14001-2004 program and other internal performance turn-around initiatives required moving beyond the BAU mindset. Key steps and measures that contributed to the turnaround included the following spheres:

  • Environmental: Early establishment of cross-functional performance improvement teams that focused on key measurable indicators, e.g. energy efficiency, resource management, and waste reduction.
  • Operational: Collaborative fact-finding, problem resolution and decision-making around staff utilization and scheduling, resource optimization, asset management, emergency response, and predictive maintenance.
  • Social: Proactive external public education and awareness campaigns at city-run facilities to engage community support related to natural resource management and watershed conservation efforts; employee initiatives that encouraged buy-in and financial rewards for cost saving measures and led to a reduced environmental footprint.

The organization achieved its ISO 14001-2004 certification, garnered prestigious national awards, and saved the City over $100 million in 5 years. After the certification award, a 30-year veteran of the department approached me. He hadn’t believed in the programs value at the start—maybe because of his BAU approach, or maybe he didn’t like change. He said, “Dave, I want to thank you. You made us do something that we would not have done ourselves”. That is what cultural change is all about. For once, I was speechless.

The keys to the success of this sustainability program and others like it are: cross-functional collaboration and employee input (early and often), early stakeholder collaboration, and metrics. These ingredients alone will go a long way toward laying the foundation for long term success of your organization’s sustainability initiatives and going beyond business-as-usual.

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing is an Easy Step to Manage Your Supply Chain

2 Sep

In this increasing “green” business focused economy, there are a plenitude of purchasing guides focused on assisting suppliers and customers in making environmentally friendly’ product choices.  The City of San Francisco launched a  database of products that meet the city’s preferred purchasing standards. The SF Approved List of over 1,000 required or suggested products is the result of a 2005 ordinance that instructs city staff to steer clear of environmentally harmful products.  The City established a “one-stop shop for over 1,000 green products that:

  • SF City Staff are required to buy under City ordinances.
  • SF Green Businesses are allowed to use.
  • Can green your home, small business or large organization.”

But while the newly-completed database is intended primarily to assist city staff, it’s also a helpful tool for anyone seeking unbiased information about green products.   In addition to the network of city staff that work at “keeping it real,” the city also relies on chemical hazard data from GoodGuide in making its decisions.

This transparent move by the San Francisco underscores a trend that more and more state and local governments and private companies are adopting- moving away from the “low bid always wins” mentality and toward the more flexible “best value” approach.  “Best value” allows a purchaser to incorporate a broader variety of considerations, including performance and environmental attributes, when making purchasing decisions.   Best value and environmental product specifications are making their ways into a number of common administrative, production and maintenance areas- for instance: office paper, lighting, paints and solvents, chemicals, building materials (like carpet), etc.

Characteristics and Steps to Green Your Purchasing Power

Environmentally preferable purchasing policies (EPP) can take many forms and serve a variety of pre-purchase and performance goals.  A sound EPP should:

  • Include an explicit statement of commitment from top management that explains relevance to broad goals of the organization
  • Be incorporated in standard and routine procurement procedures such as in relevant manuals or documents, procedures of purchasing agent
    • Address potential obstacles such as purchase price vs. life-cycle costing
    • Provide detailed guidance on key issues when possible (e.g., energy efficiency, toxics)
    • Explicit designation of authority and responsibility for green procurement
      • Include green purchasing in annual performance reviews for relevant employees
      • Provision of rewards or incentives for superlative performance in achieving green procurement goals
      • Require monitoring and reporting on performance against explicit targets

Getting started in developing an EPP may be easier than you think:

  • Review and analyze current purchasing by major product categories
  • Prioritize product categories in terms of environmental impact and improvement potential
  • Develop a multi-year implementation schedule based on priorities, difficulty, upcoming solicitations
  • Produce a manual of standards & specifications, address cost/availability issues that might arise
  • Review policies, procedures, organization, and make improvements as needed
  • Develop metrics and report on progress

Finally, it’s important when you develop an EPP to balance the following

  • Environmental benefits
  • Cost
  • Availability
  • Performance

Resources to Get You Started

This post was originally published on my New Green Supply Chain Blog, which can be found at https://community.kinaxis.com/people/DRMeyer/blog

Embracing Sustainability and Innovation to Get (and Stay) Ahead in Business

21 Apr

This week, I am sure that you are reading this along with the many other blogs that mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day.   For 40 years, as Americans, we have aspired to change the world through enhanced environmental consciousness, policy making, and technological innovations that drive sustainability.  In the U.S. we have lurched forward, sputtered badly, recovered, then stopped all together, then jumped forward again.  So our choices and actions moving forward in this new “green economy” have not been entirely without influence or challenges, from ourselves and from nations afar. The only certainty is that it’s our own actions that can shape the path of our own organizations, communities and markets.

Disruptive technology and disruptive innovation are terms used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically by being lower priced or designed for a different set of consumers. http://www.claytonchristensen.com/disruptive_innovation.html.  Christensen’s’ theory, featured in both “The Innovators Dilemma” and “The Innovators Solution” provides a prescription for a small entrant with less resources to compete with and beat a large incumbent. A quick look at the Disruptive Innovation model is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaKgMcFP4Mo

Disruptive innovations either create new markets or reshape existing markets by delivering relatively simple, convenient, low-cost innovations to a set of customers who are ignored by industry leaders. Historically, companies that dominate an industry have had little interest in pursuing these types of innovations because profit margins are often lower and the innovations don’t address the needs of those companies’ best customers. http://www.innosight.com/documents/diprimer.pdf

What does this have to do with “sustainability”?  I had the chance to participate in a recent Leadership Summit here in Portland, hosted by the University of Oregon.  The goal of the summit was to vette business and sustainability leaders in Oregon/SW Washington are as to how the U of O Center for Sustainable Business Practices could serve as a catalyst for innovation and bring sustainable solutions to the marketplace in Oregon and beyond.  One goal that the Center has is to seek innovative approaches that can break the endemic boom-bust cycle that Oregon and many western states have often found themselves in.  Never mind that there are tax related issues or brittle governance, or well intentioned but ineffective public-private partnership infrastructures that add to the fiscal malaise.

The discussion that ensued was interesting and of particular note because of the many references to disruptive technology.  From this dialogue, it became clear that collaboration- finding ways to harmonize research, policy, manufacturing and service – is vital to a stable, sustainable economy.  It was generally agreed that  in order to support meaningful job growth, an educated community and sustained economic performance, two things must happen:  1) all parts must be working together and 2) there needs to be a policy/governance, educational, and public-private infrastructure that supports disruptive technology and innovation.

A book that I have been reading, The Silver Lining, A Playbook for Uncertain Times, by Scott Anthony, provides some answers as to how communities and organizations can move forward to realize opportunities in their markets. This 10-point checklist synthesizes The Silver Lining‘s key messages and provides practical guidance for leaders. Each item links to a blog post describing the item in more depth.

Does your organization:

  1. Recognize today’s transformation imperative?
  2. Have a handle on the future potential of innovation?
  3. Have a process to prudently prune its innovation portfolio on a regular basis
  4. Have clear consensus on the 1-3 top growth opportunities?
  5. Always ask, “How does the customer define more?” before asking people to do more with less?
  6. Match technological experiments (“can we?”) with strategic experiments (“should we?”)?
  7. Constantly search to share the innovation load to de-risk innovation?
  8. Have a plan to “love the low end” in existing and emerging markets?
  9. Run an innovation factory with systems and structures to make innovation repeatable?
  10. Have a plan to help leaders transform themselves?

Finally, I want to share with all of you a seminal piece which I recently purchased from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) and that I “tweeted” about last fall http://bit.ly/2yfirf.   Please read this!  Authors Nidumolu, Prahalad, and Rangaswami have found that the quest for sustainability can unearth organizational and technological innovations that yield both top-line and bottom-line returns. That quest has already begun to transform the competitive landscape.  The authors found that companies on the journey to sustainability go through five distinct stages of change:

  1. viewing compliance as opportunity
  2. making value chains sustainable;
  3. designing sustainable products and services;
  4. developing new business models; and
  5. creating next-practice platforms.

By going through these key stages of change, the study found that “sustainability isn’t the burden on bottom lines that many executives believe it to be. In fact, becoming environment-friendly can lower your costs and increase your revenues. That’s why sustainability should be a touchstone for all innovation.  In the future, only companies that make sustainability a goal will achieve competitive advantage. That means rethinking business models as well as products, technologies, and processes.”

This research was for me transformative and insightful, and offers compelling reasons for embedding sustainability into operational practices and strategic business strategies.

Whether you read Anthony, explore Christensen’s ideas or the review the HBR article, history shows us that innovation flourishes, no matter how dark the times. You can either reflect on this time in our economic recovery as the beginning of the end or a jump-start to transform your business or your market space. It all depends on your actions, so get innovative now!

All Parts Working Together

We Have Met the Enemy & It is Us! U.S. is Giving CleanTech/Renewables Away

22 Apr

“China’s leaders are investing $12.6 million every hour to green their economy… China is spending twice as much as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act spends to lay the foundations for a green energy economy, despite the U.S. economy being 1.5 times as large as China’s.”

In a hard hitting, between the eyes article, author Ben Furnas of the Center for American Progress laid it all on the line. http://bit.ly/2vHSbC.  Despite the most recent efforts laid out in the ARRA, The United States is starting to look like a laggard in taking the initiative in diversifying itself in a new energy economy.  And while China is no beauty when it comes to pollution control (what with the number of coal plants coming on line every week there), it at least recognizes a profitable market when it sees it.  Same goes for European markets as well.  Chinas own economic stimulus plan will spend over 3 percent of China’s 2008 gross domestic product annually in 2009 and 2010 on green investments—more than six times America’s green stimulus spending as a percentage of our respective economies.

energy_graph1

So where has America cut itself short?  The report advocates for a cohesive national energy strategy, significant upgrading of the nation’s energy infrastructure (smart grid), massive investments in technology research and development, and increased accountability in the form of a carbon tax for the most polluting industries (not tax subsidies).

Through the past eight years of the Bush Administration, efforts to advance the types of critical investments in alternative energy and policy- making slowed to a snail’s pace, while nations across the world invested in what now seems so obvious- that we all live in a finite world with finite resources. Japan, China, and European countries marched right past the United States through the passage of progressive emissions control regulations, massive public investments, and private market incentives.

But all is not lost, because many companies in the U.S. have gotten the message and are moving forward on their own.

In a recent article in Industry Week (http://bit.ly/dvoIU) author Eric Shlumpf states (and I would agree) that “Shifts in product design, raw material usage, facility location, supply chain network design and many other areas of corporate decision-making will move in new and challenging directions as the impact of high energy prices and GHG emissions trickle throughout the entire value chain”.  These pressures are driving service and contract manufacturers to the brink, and forcing new ways to rethink and retool operations to meet global market pressures.  Many large companies like Dow Chemical, US Steel, 3M, Caterpillar, Home Depot, and Pfizer are, among other process related changes, developing active energy and greenhouse gas management programs designed to manage and contain production costs, reduce energy and environmental footprints and address stakeholder and supply chain requirements.  The savings are significant.  A multitude of smaller companies are making similar investments in managing greenhouse gas footprints as an active way to contain costs, leverage competitive position in the global marketplace, and manage customer expectations or requirements.  In other words “they get it”.

This month, on the table in Washington D.C. is EPA regulation of carbon dioxide and the Waxman-Markey Climate bill (an ambitious and likely to be altered) carbon cap-and-trade legislative template for greenhouse gas containment and control.  In addition to this and regional greenhouse gas initiatives, efforts to advance a national renewable portfolio standard would spur technological development in green sectors and help drive innovation across the economy.

300px-pogo_-_earth_day_1971_posterThirty-nine years ago on this Earth Day, I was chucking green, brown and clear glass and newspapers into huge dumpsters in northern Illinois with my Dad.  Even then (thanks to my “Greatest Generation” Dad), I “got it”.  My dad (who passed away two years ago), also said “remember these words- If it is to be, then it is up to me”.  We have the opportunity to be the “Greater Generation”, if we can just lay down our rhetoric and “git ‘er done”!  There is nothing quite as disheartening as watching the world go rushing by while we had the chance to ride the crest of the wave.

Update: After a year of tweeting and reporting on this issue, the U.S. has shown only slight gains in retaining cleantech development.  Federal stimulus money, poor or inconsistent policy or legislation and sporadic incentives have left many in the clean and green-tech industry gasping for breath.  Still, we have a historical habit of “fumbling the lead” historically in this area.  While the U.S. has been stellar in creating many of the new technologies that can drive the economy, we have failed to embrace them.  Michael Kanellos has some suggestions as to why? http://bit.ly/bwv1w2