Category Archives: Steve Richerson

Steps to Sustainability from Upper Management to the Bottom Line

By Steve RichersonSteve Richerson

Big companies like GE, IBM, Wal-Mart, and many smaller companies like Tenant, Centiva, and Stonyfield Yogurt have recently locked their GPS coordinates on to a really intriguing destinationmarket profitability through ecological sustainability.

These companies have set their company GPS on a target that’s not just a sustainable destination for the company’s longevity, but for reaching that destination while using our planets resources wisely.

Ecological sustainability refers to the way we choose to use the Earth’s natural resources.  If we use resources in a way that doesn’t harm future generations’ ability to use those resources, that use is considered sustainable for generations to come. If we harm future generations’ ability to use those resources, it’s not sustainable. There are really excellent business reasons why these innovative companies have chosen this destination.

Why Destination: Sustainability?

  • Allows companies to cut overhead costs for everything they take, make, and waste. These savings can go directly to the bottom line.

  • Allows companies to build a successful enterprise they can be proud of. This leads to increased employee productivity, retention and attraction, which goes straight to the bottom line.

  • Allows companies to build a reputation for being a good corporate citizen. This results in loyal consumers and possibly loyal fans that can determine questions of zoning, taxes and community support.

So, what are the steps we have to take to get our GPS pointing toward sustainability?

Step 1 – Get “Buy-in” from the top. You’re going to have to make a pitch, presentation or proposal to convince upper management that sustainability is good for the bottom line of your company. Simply making the “feel good” argument that going green is the “right thing to do” won’t cut it. You need to make the business argument for it.  Make the case in dollars and cents.

Step 2 – Engage everyone on the team. Now that you know the front office has your back, it’s time to engage the team. Build a group of mid and senior management from all departments (sales, HR, facilities, retail manufacturing) that will focus on efforts to save the company money through saving resources and preventing pollution.Even members of the team that are “environmentally agnostic” (global warming skeptics, recycling is a waste of time, etc.) can understand that waste equals inefficiency. Inefficiency costs your company money. Wasted money means raises and promotions are less likely for them. They’ll understand this argument. Saving the company money through saving resources is the goal. Try to align your goals with two these two principles of sustainability and you’ll be well on your way:

  • Is it renewable?

  • Does it create pollution?

Step 3 – Get it on the company map. Get an official sustainability statement from your team on the Corporate Strategy Map. This will allow your integrated sustainability to be an aligned priority at every level of your company. You’ll get “buy-in” from everyone because it’s on the map. Employees up and down the corporate ladder want to know that sustainability is important to the company and they’ll be rewarded for spending work time on it.

Step 4 – Take, Make and Waste. Have the team focus on areas of take, make and waste. Create a list of opportunities for each of these areas. Waste is inefficiency. If you can cut down on inefficiency, you grow your bottom line and you help reduce impact on the planet. Here are a few questions that should be asked:

  • Can transportation costs be reduced by getting smaller vehicles or can they be eliminated completely?

  • Can we cut our waste removal costs by recycling?

  • Can we choose an option for shipping that uses less packaging?

  • Is it possible to innovate a completely new product that is within our core competencies but has a lesser impact on resources?

  • Can we source raw materials closer to our factories to cut down of shipping costs?

When everyone gets focused on the TMW (Take, Make and Waste areas), the result is that good ideas for profits and the planet come flowing out.

Step 5 – Measure immediately. Once you’ve found the areas to focus on, begin to measure them. If possible, integrate automated measurements of all inputs and outputs.  Even very competent managers and front line employees can get it wrong. It’s easy to over or underestimate how much energy, how many raw materials used, how much water is wasted or how much trash is being hauled away if there’s no real data on it. Collect the data right away.

Step 6 – Set goals. Now that you have the data, set your goals for sustainability. Make these goals specific, measurable and make sure they are of strategic bottom line value to your company.

Step 7 – Execute. You’ve set your goals. Now go for it.  Remember to make small steps towards this goal every day. Continue to ask yourself, “How can I make this just a tiny bit better?”

Step 8 – Share progress. Be honest with shareholders and stakeholders about the results.  The public will appreciate your honest attempts to be more sustainable (even if you’re not totally successful). Be honest about results and you’ll be better off.  They want to know you’re on the right road and will support you for that.

Step 9 – Conduct an annual review. Have the team review the improvements that were made over the year. Ideas that worked in one area may spur improvements in other areas. Keep going; there’s always room to do a little better.

Many of the world’s smartest companies are locking their GPS destination on sustainability. It’s good for people, planet and most importantly, it’s good for profit.

Steve Richerson is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. Steve utilizes his distinct presentation style to speak on the importance of sustainability and actionable guidelines to enact eco-friendly practices in business. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association, Steve is spearheading the campaign to reduce wasteful corporate procedures and promote environmentally sound business methods. To learn more about Steve’s speaking, call 256-710-7216.

Three Market Trends That Will Affect Your Bottom Line

By Steve RichersonSteve Richerson

Global trends are like a river. Sometimes they are powerful, sometimes they are weak and sometimes they’re so mellow your business can glide along them like a leisurely, summer afternoon pontoon boat ride. Right now there are three big and scary trends that are not going to be a leisurely pontoon business boat ride. Prepare your life vests; we’re headed into the rapids.

1) Resource Roulette: The stress that global supply chains are under continues to make resource availability and access precarious and unpredictable. This in turn, makes it incredibly difficult for businesses to set prices, determine shipment dates, establish baseline costs, or create “Just In Time” (JIT) delivery timelines if those conditions exist.  If energy costs fluctuate wildly, if product shipments are held up thanks to global unrest or catastrophic weather events, or if resources we need for production dry up, it creates chaos and this affects your bottom line. There are examples of this all around us.

Coca-Cola is a soft drink; its predominant ingredient is clean water. If the company that makes it (Coca-Cola) can’t get or doesn’t have access to clean water (thanks to a drought or pollution, or some other factor) they can’t make something as simple as single can of Coca-Cola.   No clean water results in no Coke. Many southern states have had severe drought conditions for the past several years and this condition is being echoed around the globe. Resource Roulette, however, extends well beyond clean water.

Many global fisheries (thanks to overfishing and pollution) are depleted. Fishery depletion may not affect your business directly. You may never even think about global fisheries, but if you’re a fisherman, restaurateur, boat manufacturer, or if you supply materials for boats, transportation to fish markets or any other global connection to that industry, it will affect your business. We have always lived in one globally connected biological eco-system; we are now living in a globally connected economic system as well. From water to energy to raw materials, the impact 7 billion people and a short-term vision for how we use resources increases scarcity and unpredictability.

2) Amped Expectations: Modern consumers want their products to be quality, affordable and readily available, but they have now extended product expectations to the actual company itself. Consumers want the companies they do business with to be responsible for how they treat the environment, how they treat their local community and how they treat their own employees.

It seems that consumers around the globe have a hunch that 7 billion people can’t survive and thrive doing business the way it’s been done in the past. As a result, they’re demanding changes in the products they buy and the companies they choose to do business with.

3) Global Connectivity: We know that 21st century communication is decentralized, personal, fast, cheap and capable of becoming exponentially viral. For businesses, this connectivity is a blessing and a curse. The blessing: we can connect directly to customers all over the world via digital technology quickly, easily and inexpensively. The curse:  those same customers can do the same thing if they’re not happy with our performance.  They can do this quickly at no cost and if we’re not careful, its negative impact can grow exponentially and harm our company’s reputation.

In the modern world, reputation harm can mean financial catastrophe for companies.  Technological advances have made computers, a Wi-Fi signal, portable computers, inexpensive video cameras and smart phones available to mass audiences at a very low cost all over the globe. This has pushed an enormous amount of centralized message control away from corporations and toward consumers.  There was a time when networks controlled the only mass message pipeline. This is no longer true. If a company is doing a poor job according to the customer, in a matter of minutes they can shoot a complaint video, start a Facebook page, share a Tweet and before you know it, the bad news is everywhere.

Navigating The Waters: The best hope to navigate these treacherous waters is to reorient your business focus from a “profits only” bottom line approach (which has served us well, but no longer meets the needs of shareholders and stakeholders) to a “triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits” approach. Why? Because it meets these three trends head-on. Is this approach easy? No way. Is it important? Yes. Will it succeed? Probably, although there are no guarantees, but there’s no guarantee that any business strategy you pursue will be successful. To do nothing almost guarantees failure; the trends are too huge.

You can get started by asking a simple question: “Is this business decision good for the (1) Profits (2) People (3) planet?”

Many companies around the globe have already begun moving in this direction (others have jumped right into the river) and it’s paying off for their “bottom line” profits.  These companies have seen the rough waters ahead for global business and have committed to taking the smart and courageous steps to preserve their triple bottom line: people, planet and profits.

If your business is going to ride the rough waters in the 21st century, you must integrate sustainability into the way you do business because it’s what consumers want and it’s the path for true long-term business success.

Steve Richerson is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. Steve utilizes his distinct presentation style to speak on the importance of sustainability and actionable guidelines to enact eco-friendly practices in business. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association, Steve is spearheading the campaign to reduce wasteful corporate procedures and promote environmentally sound business methods. To learn more about Steve’s speaking, call 256-710-7216.

Sustainability is Good Business: Four Benefits for Your Organization

By Steve RichersonSteve Richerson

Going green to make green is red hot right now.

Recently businesses all over the globe have gotten into the “going green” trend and it’s paying off big for many of them. In fact, several recent studies have shown that sustainability-oriented companies have a better stock performance, lower volatility and a higher return on assets than other similar companies. In short, the “sustainable” or “green” companies are making more “green” than the companies that have not jumped on board.

You might be thinking, “That sounds great!  I want some sustainability for my company. How soon can I get it shipped to me?”

Unfortunately, sustainability is not a clever new accounting software, a sparkly new app or a cool new office toy.  In fact, it’s not a “thing” at all.  It’s a philosophy and it’s a very powerful one.

Sustainability is a commitment (from upper management to the front line) to switch from only focusing on short term profit to something even larger and longer lasting – a focus on maximizing the health of people, the planet and profits.

As you may remember from fifth grade biological science, the planet we live on is one big interconnected biological system. So sustainability means that we use this systems’ resources (air, water, land, energy, raw materials) in a manner that will not hinder (no pollution or overuse) future generations’ ability to use these resources. With 7 billion people currently living on the planet and all of them wanting to be rich, get rich or get richer we must start use the resources we have in much smarter ways.

Sustainability is that way and business is the perfect mechanism to deliver smart resource use to the planet’s people.

There are four great reasons why you should integrate sustainability into your business. They are:

(1) Sustainability can reduce business risk. For businesses, risk is omnipresent.  A sustainability approach (people, planet, profit) to business can reduce some of those risks, such as:

  • Litigation –Unfortunately each and every business is at risk for lawsuits.  Are you using chemicals in your business that could end up in the local air, groundwater or soil?  Finding ways to eliminate the use of these materials can align your business with the environment and reduce risk.

  • Cleanup – Accidents happen.  By using safer or more environmentally-aligned safety measures for your business, you can eliminate the need for cleanup, and thus eliminate that cost.  Brainstorming ways to eliminate accidents and subsequent cleanup costs before they even happen is smart and sustainable.

  • Environmental Regulations – Environmental laws are in place to protect the public (people) and the environment (planet) from hazards.  Instead of asking “how do we comply?” ask a much different question. Ask yourself, “what if there was no need for compliance?” What if we could point our company at the target of low or no waste, low or no emissions, low or no energy use? What if we exceeded the compliance standard so much that it becomes irrelevant?” No legal costs. No compliance costs. No problem. Okay… fewer problems.

(2) Sustainability can cut your costs. This is the low hanging fruit of sustainability and it’s not difficult to take on.  Focusing on what you take, make and waste in your buildings, stores, fleets and manufacturing plants can be a successful sustainable strategy for both the environment and for your company.  What if you could reduce your energy costs by using a sustainable resource or a more efficient process?  What if you could reduce your waste disposal costs by creating less waste through recycling or pre-cycling?  What if you could use less water?  What if you could use the sun to pre-heat the water you need for the process?  What if you could reduce your water, energy and waste?

(3) Sustainability can build your brand. You survive and thrive as a business because your customers choose to do business with you. If you lose the respect, trust or loyalty of your customers, you’re finished. Consumers today hold companies (your brand) to a much higher standard than ever before. They expect and reward companies that hold themselves responsible for the people the company affects and the planet it uses resources from. A sustainability focus allows you to make sure that you earn a profit while keeping your eyes on the positive treatment of people and the planet as well. Short-term profit margin focus only is no longer acceptable to customers and they can let the entire world know with one mouse click. The more your company acts like a decent local and global citizen, the more your customers appreciate it and the more loyal they are to your brand.

(4) Sustainability can grow your revenue. From a business perspective, this is the most fascinating area of “being green.”   New products and services are developed every day, but what if business used its problem-solving skills with sustainability as a guide? Viewing the market through the business lenses of sustainability allows you to see the market in a way you’ve never seen it before and capitalize on what you see.   Because it’s a paradigm shift, you may be able to see solutions that others focused only on short-term profit can’t see.

Let’s say you’re in the industrial floor polisher industry and everyone in your industry is worried about the toxic/hazardous chemicals used in the process. You are less likely to see that you can solve the problem with a totally different cleaning process (using water, ionization, for instance) rather than using less toxic strategies, unless you’re seeing the world through integrated sustainability lenses (reducing negative impact on planet and people). Through these lenses, our products and services take on new dimensions. We may even be able to take our core competencies and create new problem-solving products for the global market, which will lead us to long term revenue growth!

Sustainability is good business for the planet, good for the people of the planet and good for business.  What is your company waiting for?

Steve Richerson is a nationally recognized speaker and consultant. Steve utilizes his distinct presentation style to speak on the importance of sustainability and actionable guidelines to enact eco-friendly practices in business. As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, National Recycling Coalition and the North American Environmental Education Association, Steve is spearheading the campaign to reduce wasteful corporate procedures and promote environmentally sound business methods. To learn more about Steve’s speaking, call 256-710-7216.