Double Down Time

It has been a busy six weeks with the gardens being readied and planted but to get out under the sun with dirt in your hands is a real pleasure, especially after our difficult Spring.
Election fever seems to have slowed down the activity on my sustainability consulting but hope that I can turn that around and thus the double down.
The Progressive Conservatives in Canada and the Republicans in the United States are doubling down on failed economic practices so it seems fitting that it’s time to double down on the sustainability front. The business case for sustainable development is being ignored in favor of policies that in 1937 drove the U.S economy in the toilet. If it’s one thing the PC’s and Republicans speak of as their strength, its economics yet the historical record has shown the opposite.
I know some pundits have claimed that most people are stupid and although its tempting to agree, I think its simply ignorance, something more curable than stupidity. But we need leadership, and since it isn’t coming from the political arena, it must come from the grass roots. So again, double down the efforts.
The future is fraught with challenge and the storm clouds on the horizon are ominous, for those that care to look. If we ignore, we do so at our infinite peril, as well as our children’s future. Get engaged, benchmark where you are today in your sustainable lifestyle and vow to make simple, easy changes. Grab the low hanging fruit like energy inefficiencies and rebate programs. Get your kids involved. Its their future!
Leave the political to their navels and twitter accounts. By the very nature you want to be an elected official should automatically disqualify you.
Double Down everyone!


Edging Towards the Tipping Point (Food Security)

The news on Friday about the on-going contamination of meat and poultry in the United States pushes us closer to the tipping point. What contamination and what tipping point you might ask. Well first let’s look at the contaminated meat and then the tipping point I’m speaking of.
Independent analysis of the meat and poultry supply in the United States has discovered that almost 50% of these products are contaminated with the Staph bacteria, which is the most common type of infection in the United States. Of this Staph bacteria, almost 50% is resistant to anti-biotics. The resistance comes from drugging up our food supply to keep them alive until its time to slaughter. The feedlot environment jams these animals full of foods that they were never intended to ingest and the way to overcome the animals becoming sick and dying is to fill them up with anti-biotics. Well you guessed it, the developed resistance to the anti-biotic has created a flourishing ground for Staph.
There are two questions that need to be answered. Why did it take an independent group of scientists to quantify what we already suspected and why do we collectively sit on our hands when presented with this information and simply forget about it when the next piece of news comes along.
The manufacturers of beef and poultry have zero interest and gain nothing by revealing these truths. They aren’t prepared to sacrifice the profits of the shareholders for the sake of food safety nor are they interested in changing the way they do business.
Why the populace demands nothing is a larger, more complicated answer, but one that demands answers if we are to change how we gather our food. I very strongly suspect that this isn’t going to happen. North Americans have become ignorant about where their food comes from and care even less until a crisis. And that crisis is just around the corner. When it hits, the world as we know it will change quickly and those that don’t get it will fall behind.
We think that here in Canada we are somewhat better protected. I believe this to be a mistake on our part. Our food industry polices itself, when it polices at all and our Federal government would like to see more of it. The Progressive Conservatives closely follow and model the food structure in place south of the border. Remember “Maple Leaf” luncheon meats?
I would strongly suggest and support any movement towards a locally strengthened food supply. It’s an uphill battle breaking down the old model and our provincial and federal regulations are completely slanted in favour of the corporate food industry but we can effect change here people. Source your food as locally as possible, find a farmer who raises his livestock on pasture, not feedlots.
We need to make these changes before a crisis sits in our laps but I strongly doubt we will. If you ever wanted to see shit hit a fan, that will be the time.

Political Leadership Required

I find it somewhat disappointing that during this time of electioneering from our Federal parties we hear next to nothing regarding a clear vision for addressing the environmental challenges that we are now facing. It seems that the awareness and the understanding of these challenges have slipped below the surface only to be replaced with economic angst. It’s clearly time that we demand more from our leaders.
Why the shift in the electorate’s concerns? Well the economic downturn has impacted us all by lowering standards of living and clouding our hopeful vision of the future. It only seems natural that we put our economic health at the top of our concerns. What we don’t seem to be understanding is that businesses and corporations can help lead us out of this predicament as well as begin the environmental healing that must take place if we plan on staying on this planet into the distant future. By incorporating sustainability concepts and strategies in business makes one more competitive, reduces overall staffing costs, and mitigates regulatory risk and so on. The financial benefits are well documented and being aggressively pursued successfully around the world by organizations of all sizes. The shift it taking place and we are sitting on the sidelines.
We need to wake up and decide, to paraphrase Bob Willard, and begin to understand the sustainability advantages and to demand leadership from our political representatives. Challenge your MP on policy, engage your friends and neighbors and become the change.
We trod along our current political path at our economic and environmental peril. It’s time to begin the shift before crisis demands it of us.

CSR: Some companies get it and others simply don’t

I spent many years in the telecommunications industry, working in a unionized environment as well as with non-unionized companies. Without question, the unionized environment was the better place when it came to treatment of the employees and fair pay for a day’s work. Having said that, my experience was that greed took the place of common sense and the delicate balance between management and unionized workers was destroyed. Trust was the glue that held it all together and once that was broken, so too was the bond.
My last experience within the telecommunications field was with a smaller organization in Kanata that, at that time, adhered to a business model that virtually ignored their Corporate Social Responsibility policy evolution, at the risk of the company’s bottom line. The top down management structure was such that the bad news never travelled upwards. And there was lots of bad news. The employees were over-worked, mostly at the whims of a bad management team that worked in a fire fighting mode at all times. Training was never a priority, at least not efficient learning opportunities and was expected to be done on top of daily duties. The long and short of it was that most everyone I worked with despised their boss, had little to no respect for the upper management and were always looking for another job to jump too. Thankfully I left a couple of years ago and never looked back.
Why do some companies get it and others don’t. There are as many reasons as there are companies that don’t get it but ignorance is the largest driver. They simply don’t understand the benefits to the bottom line of a healthy, ever evolving policy in regards to Social Corporate Responsibility. Empirical data points to increased profitability through lower attrition, re-hiring practices, actual on-site productivity and mutual trust between employees and management.

Ten Steps to Sustainability

Sustainability 2.0

Ten Steps to Sustainability in Business

The journey to a sustainable future starts with our business communities. For too long businesses and corporations have taken the brunt of the criticism pertaining to our depleted planet and our never ending requirement for stuff. I believe that the way forward involves cooperation and an agreed upon understanding of how businesses can lead through the establishment of sustainability initiatives.

1. Setting a new Vision
It is important to develop a clear vision of what sustainability is to your company and where you want sustainability to take you. Are you looking to reduce your carbon footprint by a certain percentage by a set date? Are you interested in changing your supply chain to incorporate more sustainable product? Are you looking to improve your company’s record of community involvement and contribution? The leadership needs to come from the CEO on down through every level of the company and must involve equal participation from all levels. The leadership team must model the way forward, inspire a shared vision through collaboration and envisioning the future. There must be a challenge to the processes, opportunities to enable others to act and ultimately to encourage the heart.
This new vision leads to mission statement and core values development. The core values will become the les of sustainability through which all opportunities and challenges will be viewed.

2. The Task Force or Green Team
Once you have clearly defined your vision, mission and core values, and it must be stressed here that this is not a simple process and can be very time consuming, the hard work begins. Once the task force is formed, a goal of developing a plan within a set period of time is typically most effective. Twelve months is the standard by which most companies adhere.

3. Examining Sustainability Options
This is where the sleeves get rolled up and the tough work begins. The standard approach is to view the work at hand in three areas: new construction and major renovations; greening existing properties; and the day to day business operations. Depending on the industry there are other areas to review such as fleet operations or food services. These sustainability options will be very much tailored to your industry or business. Once you have identified the spheres of activity, it is imperative to review multiple options for consideration in each of these spheres. Return of Investment and return on the environment need to be reviewed when selecting options to pursue in the shift to a more sustainable operation. Will customers absorb addition cost with additional benefit? Do our customers understand the benefits to our sustainable initiatives? These are all important questions to ask.

4. Adopting Sustainability Options
Once the hard choices have begun to be made, the team needs to move forward. Review of budgetary considerations will be required as sustainability initiatives are not free in the beginning. Ideally, the cache of initiatives will be spread out over a three-year or longer plan, depending on initial cost of the initiatives and the ROI.

5. Staffing for your Sustainability Initiative
Now that you have your vision, your team, your direction and you’ve begun to identify and adopt sustainability initiatives you need people on the ground to do the work. And to do that you will need to hire someone or assign someone from you task force to act as your sustainability director. This position needs to have the clout required to effect change within the organization yet must also be part of that organization. Many companies find it advantageous to continue the consulting relationship with a sustainability consultant as well as having a main point of contact and responsibility within the company.

6. Internal Education and Training
To really ensure that your sustainability initiatives have traction and become part of the corporate culture it is imperative to provide continued education and training. Perhaps there is value to offer LEED certified training for some members of your staff or to introduce the concepts of lean manufacturing into your plant operations. This is very industry specific but it cannot be over-emphasized just how import this is.

7. Green Building
This is one of the easiest ways to become recognized as an organization that embraces the principles of sustainability in their operations. Building certifications, EnergyStar compliances, grey water re-introduction, PV Solar implementations, geo-thermal installs, these are all areas that the public and most importantly, customers are becoming more and more demanding about. They want to see the businesses that they deal with show the same passion and commitment to the environment, the economy and corporate social responsibility that they do.

8. Green Operations
From a property management perspective, there is much to do in green operations. Committing to eventual certifications through LEED for existing programs is a typical and very successful approach. Demanding initiatives from suppliers and waste recycling contracts is another effective method of greening overall operations.
Meeting compliance and following regulation to the letter is an area that requires a review. Positioning yourself on the edge of regulation and compliance provides no mitigation of risk. Regulation and compliance is getting more and more stringent and can leave you business in a position of vulnerability.

9. Communications
Communication your vision, your initiatives and most importantly, your successes is critical to any sustainability initiative. It is one thing to talk the talk, and greenwashing seems to be the result in many cases, but quite another to walk the talk. Don’t let your “story” of sustainability overtake your real successes. Annual or bi-annual sustainability reports should track and capture your initiatives, your successes, your challenges and your way forward through clear and concise measures. Any activities that you feel are accomplishments, whether increased training or conference attendance should also be front and center for all to see, either through annual reports or on company or business webpages. Celebrate your victories!
10. Continuous Improvement
Sustainability is the way forward and as such is constantly evolving and growing. Nothing stands still and especially the initiatives, the education and the stakeholder involvement in the continuous improvement of these initiatives.
By using tools such as Six Sigma and ISO 14001 (environmental management standard), companies and businesses can continue to set goals of improvement, re-engineer initiatives and track their progress. Environmental and energy metrics are fundamental in the measurement of change and help to measure your successes.

Global warming and unpredictable climate change is forcing us all re re-evaluate our future and the future health and viability of our economy. Sustainability in business development is fundamentally a market driven phenomena. It need not be a partisan issue, it need not be an ideological issue but it is a market issue and to remain healthy and to prosper through these changes we need to incorporate the tenets of sustainability. The way we have been doing business is changing and we need to change with it and embrace the opportunities of the future.

Stay Ahead of the Regulatory Curve

Reading the news today I came across something that got me thinking. The EPA has a fairly aggressive regulatory plan for this new year of 2011, some of which came into effect at the stroke of midnight, Jan. 01, 2011. Now, my interest here is in regulations and not politics, yet tough to separate the two. The Canadian position is one of “we’ll have what he’s having” sort of thing which may prove a little sticky. Do we wait in the weeds and see if the GOP south of the border stops any of the planned new regulations, so we can do the same, or do we show leadership and set a course for this country?
Adopting to new opportunities and challenges can really show a slice of character. There are those of us who want to be the first, the early adopters, then the vast majority of us, the status quo, who get on the ride when everyone else seems too and then the laggards. This applies to almost all of us, whether a person or a business. Each has its challenges and rewards.
Which got me thinking….. Regulation can become a fools game. Stay close to this line of acceptable behavior and you risk losing your shirt. As this pertains to a country it so to pertains to a business. I’m not suggesting that it’s the place for every business to be beating the path to a sustainable future but you stay off the path at your peril.

Recent election results pointing in the Wrong direction

The municipal elections in Canada and the elections in the United States are now over. The overwhelming outcome is one to be concerned with.
The first concern is for our democracy in general and the second for the obvious fact that we have no political solutions to the challenges we are facing economical, environmentally and socially. Out of all this despair there has to be a ray of hope and I believe there is. What we do with it is another thing entirely.
My observations are that the electorate is not happy with the way things are today, not hopeful for the future, and really don’t know what to do about it. The move to the Right is a signal to me that people are scared and angry and simply want their old life back. Sorry Dorothy, you aren’t in Kansas anymore and by the way, Kansas foreclosed last week.
Liberalism is perceived as a luxury item of the affluent middle-class and perhaps it is to some degree. Now we have our governments telling us that this liberalism has drowned us in debt and its time to straighten up and fly straight. Who better to do this than the Right leaning politicians that advocate personal debt reduction and government cut-backs. Moralize the economy into submission. Well guess what, it won’t work. Economies require people AND governments to spend. Without it the economy grinds to a halt.
Can we spend our way out of this recession? No, we can’t because this requires the usage of an old, dead paradigm. We’ve done it before but the world isn’t the same place. This is not 1950 (which happened to be a terrible decade in terms of equality, racism, environmental degradation…..etc) and I’m thankful for that. We can know longer adhere to the old adages of Left vs Right and all the dogma that that entails. Its simply time for a shift in a new direction.
This shift is towards a sustainable future. Its time that our political solutions INCLUDE sustainable business development, cradle to cradle closed-loop manufacturing, and corporate social responsibility as a cornerstone of doing business. In short we need leadership to engage and to enlist us all.
We can begin on this journey ourselves or wait for our politicians and corporate leaders to guide us down the path. I would suggest that we had best get engaged ourselves as the elections proved once again that our politicians agenda is more aligned to corporate America than it is to the people who elected the politicians in the first place.
I would suggest that if we wait we will be faced with a complete socio-economic collapse. We’re already well on the way and I’m not entirely sure we can avoid the crisis ahead. I know were certainly won’t if we keep on the path we’re treading, no matter how angry we get.