May 27, 2011

Why Six Solutions?

Our next workshop (next Thursday) will be Six Solutions for Sustainable Business, which we're presenting in partnership with APICS, the association for operations management.  APICS's acronym stands for "Advancing Productivity, Innovation and Competitive Success", and we occasionally get questions about how that fits with our work, and why this workshop is relevant to our main audience.  Ron Sullivan, the workshop instructor, has put together a short FAQ addressing this and other questions:

Why is Sustainable Seattle partnering with a group focused on inventory, production, and supply chain?
The problems of the environment cannot be solved without the active participation of business. The better we understand the opportunities for business to become more green the better we can perform our mission.

I work in an NGO. How will this seminar benefit me?
NGO's are helping businesses do the right thing. Classic examples include:
  Nature Conservancy and Starbucks
  World Wildlife Fund and Lafarge
  NBIS and Grays Harbor Paper
  Sierra Club and Walmart
The synergy of and an NGO helping a business is greater than either working alone.  The seminar will help you recognize the opportunities.

My diet is very disciplined and I don't want to go to an event that serves low quality food.
The venue for the seminar is just down the hall from the Bon Appetit cafeteria, a leader in sustainable and healthy food.  Each person attending is given complete freedom to select their choice of breakfast , breaks, and lunch as part of the seminar fee.
And here is a sort of FAQ for people from manufacturing businesses, which should give you a broader sense of what the workshop covers:

A recent note from IDC included the ten things the author hears most often from manufacturers in discussion about sustainability.  What kind of response to these comments would we expect from someone that had been to the Six Solutions for Sustainable Business seminar?  Here are the ten points with such a response. 
1.  We have to build a business case for sustainability.
Very little is done without a payback in dollars, for which a traditional business case will suffice.  To make valid decisions though many use the triple bottom line, considering.not just cost and payback, but also social and environmental impacts and benefits, which are seldom stated in dollars.  This is a change to the traditional way.   
2.  More and more customers are asking me about my sustainability programs and my footprint.
If you are business to business your customer may be using sustainability criteria as impetus to benefits, for example to reduce waste, which makes you a better supplier.  If you are business to consumer some of your customers will pay up for your efforts and most will at least use it as a tiebreaker, so it is becoming a competitive issue.
3.  I need a corporate view of my sustainability data.
Don’ let the need to roll up disparate sites get in the way of each site’s progress.  
4.  I have to find an easier (i.e., cheaper and faster) way to demonstrate my environmental footprint.
Companies start with scope 1, just the energy within their plant, and then evolve to scope 2, including suppliers.  At least one software supplier can provide a scope three life cycle assessment of your product from which the footprint information can be extracted for the whole supply chain.  
5 - The process of collecting sustainability data is not very automated or integrated.
This is a good thing – the questions we are asking today will probably be quite different from those of tomorrow. 
6 - I don't have a sustainability budget.
For each element of the plan, if you have a business case you have a budget. 
7 – I'm not sure that sustainability is helping me attract a better pool of new candidates, but my sustainability progress has a positive impact on my existing employees.
People that can bring their values to work with them do have better morale.  Once you have published the results of your efforts, for example through a CSR report you will be convinced of the effect on drawing job candidates.   
8 – I need to customize my approach to sustainability to my industry, to my products, and to my processes.
Yes you do!  There are common themes though and one idea of using the six solutions structure is to make comparisons between both similar and dissimilar companies more easily. 
9 – My sustainability initiatives are strengthening my relationships with my suppliers.
Efficiency improvements in transportation logistics reduce waste and environmental impacts for both.  Managing life cycle impacts reduces waste for both.
10 – Sustainability relates to my brand and reputation in the marketplace.
The LOHAS (lifestyles of health and sustainability) segment has continued to grow.  Retailers (and other businesses) are using criteria that benefit more sustainable suppliers more often.  Failure to meet green criteria adversely impacts public perceptions. 

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