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17 November 2017

The Best Way to Engage People in Sustainability

Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group Workshop

I'm currently working with two clients on the roll-out of their Sustainability Strategies. Both of these roll outs basically involve delivering suitable workshops for key decision makers. The guts of each workshop will be a backcasting process where we work out what needs to change by 20XX and work backwards to the present day to determine what they need to start doing now to get on the right trajectory.

I also have designing the next Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group (on customer behaviour) on my to do list. That means designing yet another workshop.

Basically, my consultancy consists of designing workshops, delivering workshops and turning the results of workshops into recommendations.

Why?

Because nothing gives people such an intense experience of what Sustainability means to their day job than working it out for themselves in a workshop format. You get buy-in and action plans. Workshops work.

If you want to find out how we use the workshop so effectively, including the backcasting process, check out our on-demand workshop facilitation masterclass. It contains all my secrets!

 

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13 November 2017

Doing the right thing right.

"This is like building a loft extension in a house suffering from subsidence." is the rather brutal advice I had to give an organisation recently. They were trying to launch a substantial Sustainability initiative in a division which was failing to perform even its most basic tasks. How they ever thought it could take on a massive change management process was beyond me.

Drucker was damn right (as usual) when he said:

“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”

But a close second must be doing the right thing incompetently. Sustainability requires direction AND competence and, if it goes pear-shaped, Sustainability will get the blame rather than duff management.

 

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3 November 2017

Rolling out a Sustainability Strategy

org charts

I was down in London yesterday, facilitating a workshop for a client who is about to roll their Sustainability Strategy out across the entire organisation – which happens to span the entire globe. This is an incredible challenge.

We could of course produce a standard slide deck and tour the world with it (physically or electronically), but we all know what would happen – everybody would nod along and then go back to their desks/workstation and go back to doing what they have always done.

On the other hand, when you are dealing with a huge multinational organisation, you can't run an interactive workshop for every last individual, you would never complete the job by the end of the Strategy timeframe. The engagement principle I use in such cases is:

Everybody needs to know something about everything, but certain people need to know a lot about certain things.

'Everybody' can be reached by the slide deck, but those 'certain people' would need direct engagement.

My task is to help my client map out 'who needs to know what' and yesterday's workshop was held to generate the first iteration of that map. The interesting thing was that the results were quite different from what I and my client had envisaged in our pre-meetings.

This is the power of a properly structured and facilitated workshop – the process of starting with identifying exactly what we were trying to achieve and then moving on to how we were going to achieve it blew many implicit assumptions out of the water. It was a highly valuable exercise!

 

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30 October 2017

Want to DOUBLE the motivation of your workforce?

people hands

...then take Sustainability seriously. Seriously.

Just stumbled over this study from NetImpact that found that:

Slightly more than half of professionals (55%) say they are currently in a job where they can make a social or environmental impact on the world. These respondents are more satisfied with their job by a 2:1 ratio (49% report high satisfaction levels, compared to just 24% of those who do not have impact opportunities at work).

Obviously there's two parts to this equation. First you have to be doing the right thing in environmental and social terms. And secondly, you have to engage employees in that process so they feel part of it.

Handily, that's two of the three main Terra Infirma workstreams at present – developing Sustainability Strategy and embedding a Sustainability Culture. If we're given half a chance, we do both simultaneously!

 

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1 August 2017

Happy 11th Birthday Terra Infirma!

Terra Infirma is 4 years old!So, it is 11 years to the day that I jumped off the cruise ship of salaried employment and onto the windsurfing board of solo consultancy – just before the tsunami of the 2007/08 financial crisis gave me a rather brutal lesson in business survival. Looking back over the last year, as I always do on this date, the uncertainty created by Brexit has certainly caused similar choppy waters as many people who would like our help are either unable to invest, or afraid to.

This has led to a year of ups and downs. A good illustration is that, while our North of England-based Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group is going from strength to strength, hitting the maximum membership limit this year for the very first time, I was unable to get a critical mass together to launch a Southern chapter. Brexit was quoted by several otherwise very interested contacts as a reason they couldn't commit. The great irony of course is that during the financial crisis companies with a strong commitment to Sustainability weathered the storm better than those who didn't.

But that grumble aside, here are some more highlights of the last 12 months:

  • Continuing to work with our wonderful roster of existing clients including the BBC, NHS Blood & Transplant, Johnson Matthey, Newcastle NHS Hospitals Trust and Stanley Black & Decker;
  • Some great new clients including Durham University, Esh Construction, the Thirteen Group and Elopak;
  • The publication of our latest white paper Seven Steps to a Successful Sustainability Strategy;
  • Some fantastic questions for my regular Ask Gareth YouTube series (If you haven't subscribed to our YouTube channel, get over there straight away and do so);
  • Continuing success of our regular Green Academy training programme;
  • And, more recently, the launch of our new online training course: Green Jujitsu: Smart Employee Engagement for Sustainability.

And things are looking pretty good for the six months ahead with an strong focus on helping clients to implement their Sustainability Strategy. The good ship Terra Infirma sails on!

 

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14 July 2017

On Demand: Sustainability Strategy Live! (& Coming Attractions)

On Wednesday, as a bit of an experiment, I did a session on Sustainability Strategy using Facebook Live. I only got a handful of viewers live, and disappointingly no questions, but the recording has had many dozens of views since and some very positive feedback.

Here's the recording:

So, what have I learned?

Despite the extra hassle in signing up and downloading a viewer, people seem to prefer signing up to one of my Weber-Hosted Green Academy webinars – maybe it is seen as more business-like during office hours. Maybe you're all blocked from Facebook at the office.

But the convenience means I can broadcast value at the drop of a hat, so I'm working up the idea of using Facebook Live for some short sharp bite-sized sessions. If anyone catches them and asks a question, then great, but the main aim will be for people watching it as and when suits them.

To get these, send me a friend request on Facebook - you can find me here: https://www.facebook.com/gareth.kane.1612

 

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23 June 2017

Science-based Targets: Hope or Hype?

carbon footprintThe latest thing in Sustainability is 'Science-based Targets'. The basic idea is to use the carbon emissions trajectory that the IPCC says is required to stick to 2°C of warming and apportion that reduction to your organisation's carbon footprint either in absolute terms, via a sector-based target, or based on your turnover. I always think it is worth questioning whether the 'latest thing' stands up to the hype or not, so here is my take.

The advantages I see of the science-based approach are:

  • You can be reasonably sure that you are committing to your 'fair share' of emissions cuts;
  • It will communicate the scale of the challenge to stakeholders and decision makers;
  • You can point to other organisations (preferably competitors) who are using science-based targets;
  • Many, but by no means all, will see 'science based' as a seal of approval for the target.

The disadvantages are: Read the rest of this entry »

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16 June 2017

SDGs & Business: snog, marry, avoid?

SDGs

Yesterday I spent an enjoyable afternoon at Newcastle Business School at an event on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) run by the Global Compact. I was on the panel for the discussion session, the lone person looking at the environmental sustainability side of things – the others were experts in business ethics.

This event was part of a roadshow launched because awareness of the SDGs in the UK has been found to be the lowest in Europe. The presumption then is that everybody needs to be aware of them, but as usual, I'm less concerned with how many people are aware of the goals; I'm more bothered that the right people are aware of the goals.

In the recent UK general election, all three major UK-wide parties made commitments to the SDGs in their manifestos. This is important as the goals are highly appropriate for all levels of Government. But beyond that, is it really realistic to expect someone running a coffee cart to be able to list all 17 goals (never mind the 169 targets) and explain how they are addressing each one? Clearly not.

At the event, I made the argument that every enterprise needs to pick the 5-7 issues which are most material to their business and prioritise those. After all, if you prioritise everything, you prioritise nothing. For this priority setting process, the SDGs and targets provide a useful checklist.

The SDGs can also be useful for a trans-national corporation to use the goals as a reality check, flag up risks and for sustainability reporting (at least one of my clients is using them for this purpose). For entrepreneurs, the SDGs are a useful guide to how the global economy may shift and where new business opportunities may arise.

So, in terms of my supercilious blog post title, my advice would be that business should not avoid the goals, nor try to marry their sustainability strategy to all 17. Pick the priorities and work on those - happy snogging!*

 

* 'snog' is British slang for a passionate kiss

 

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14 June 2017

Are you doing the right thing in Sustainability?


This month's Ask Gareth considers an excellent question from Sophie Wallis of Upthink Consultancy in Australia - when you're beavering away making sure you tick all the Sustainability boxes for a company or a project, how do you step back and make sure you are actually doing the right thing in terms of the big picture. In response, I give three powerful approaches which can help.

Ask Gareth depends on a steady stream of killer sustainability/CSR questions, so please tell me what's bugging you about sustainability (click here) and I'll do my best to help.

You can see all previous editions of Ask Gareth here.

 

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2 June 2017

The one question you need to ask of every Sustainability project

Terra Infirma Sustainability Coaching

I was down in Manchester yesterday for a session with a client I haven't worked with for years. They had called me in 'to pick my brains' about employee engagement. In the past I've found such requests a bit of a double-edged sword – on one hand it is great to get paid to share your knowledge, experiences and opinions, but on the other you can leave them with a whole load of exciting sounding but abstract ideas and no way forward.

To avoid the latter, I structure such engagements like a coaching session. I start by asking them the killer question – to define the ideal solution looking forward. "If this is 100% successful, in 5 years' time what will it look like?"

That might sound obvious, but you'd be surprised at the number of people who start with a process rather than an objective. That's a bit like a DIY enthusiast grabbing the first tool in their toolbox and using it no matter what the task entails. You don't want to be wiring a plug with a lump hammer.

The answer to this question sets the direction of everything else in the discussion. Not does it point us in the right direction, but, psychologically, it makes the journey feel much more achievable. When we look at the present day opportunities and threats, we get more of the former and the latter seem much less ominous. Throughout yesterday's session I repeatedly referred back to the ideal solution.

Planning the route is where I break with the strictest form of coaching, as I make recommendations from my experience working across a wide range of businesses from a crazy golf course (honestly!) to multinational aerospace companies. Coaching purists will be sucking through their teeth at that, but I give a series of options and recommend the one I think is best for the client. This makes sure they still have ownership over the agreed way forward.

But the key to success is really pinning down that 'ideal solution', even when, like yesterday, the client had put some thought to it already. Whether I'm asking that question of a group of stakeholders to define the outcome of a Sustainability Strategy during a backcasting session, or of an individual client on a 1-2-1 coaching session, getting the desired outcome pinned down will increase the chances of success many times over.

 

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26 May 2017

Sustainability Strategy and Engagement: two sides to the same coin

team meeting

I had a meeting with a potential new client this morning. They want a sustainability strategy, but most of the conversation revolved about engagement of internal stakeholders. That's because, without engagement, a strategy will sit on a shelf gathering dust.

If you have engagement and no strategy, you're limiting yourself to incremental improvements in sustainability performance. In fact I know organisations who have wasted their high levels of engagement because the lack of strategy meant they hit diminishing returns and employees started to lose patience with slowing progress.

While Terra Infirma's two main streams of consultancy work are strategy and engagement, in practice there is a massive overlap between them.

 

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5 May 2017

Breaking out of the Sustainability Silo


This month's Ask Gareth answers a great question from 'Bill' (name has been changed) which many face – how do you put together a Sustainability Strategy in a vacuum? I explain three steps to breaking out of the Sustainability Silo and getting key decision makers involved.

Ask Gareth depends on a steady stream of killer sustainability/CSR questions, so please tell me what's bugging you about sustainability (click here) and I'll do my best to help.

You can see all previous editions of Ask Gareth here.

 

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30 March 2017

Let's build the Sustainable future we want to see!

Half empty or half full - pessimism or optimism

It was my birthday yesterday, so I went off on a very gentle bike ride with Mrs K involving lots of coffee and cake, burgers and beer, and pretty much ignored the news. However, my twitter feeds were filled with howls of liberal despair as Theresa May triggered Article 50 and the formal start of Brexit, and across the pond, Donald Trump started tearing up Barack Obama's climate change legislation.

So where are we?

We are where we are. Now that might sound as empty a phrase as 'Brexit means Brexit', but it is true. There's not much we can do about the events of the last few days.

But we can decide what we are going to do tomorrow. Or where we want to be in 10 years time. And neither Theresa May or Donald Trump can stop us (10 years presents a couple of electoral cycles in most democracies).

So let's do it!

In January's Ask Gareth, I went into this in a bit more detail – maybe an apt time for a recap.

 

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24 March 2017

Keeping the passion in Sustainability after the honeymoon


This month's Ask Gareth answers a great question from Dan – how do you keep Sustainability running after the honeymoon. My basic answer is that it is too late to consider it then and I suggest three ways you can design your Sustainability programme to be self sustaining.

Ask Gareth depends on a steady stream of killer sustainability/CSR questions, so please tell me what's bugging you about sustainability (click here) and I'll do my best to help.

You can see all previous editions of Ask Gareth here.

Seven steps to a Sustainability StrategyAnd don't forget, there's much more of this advice in our new white paper Seven Steps to a Successful Sustainability Strategy. We're getting some great feedback on this guide, so make sure you check it out!

 

 

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6 March 2017

Sod's Law & Sustainability

escher

I have a tonne of stuff to do this week, yet I’m writing this in my local NHS Walk-in Centre waiting to get my eye checked out after an unfortunate gardening incident yesterday. It’s always the way, isn’t it? Just as you want to get off to a flying start, you notice your shoelaces are undone.

I often find Sustainability practitioners waiting for the perfect moment to launch their new project, venture or strategy. And, of course that perfect moment never comes. New legislation, a change in CEO, Brexit – there’s always something that pops up to spoil the moment.

So what can we do? Are we doomed to sit in perpetual stasis?

Well the first thing I did here in the waiting room was to remind myself of my long term priorities, then sketch down what I’m going to do this week and today to help meet those goals. That put my mind at rest, dissolved most of the frustration and focussed me on forward motion.

When I’m working with clients, I use a technique called backcasting to do the same on a grander scale. Instead of trying to work through the short term noise, we work backwards from the ultimate goal to work out what we need to do now to hit the right trajectory. After that exercise, usually carried out with key stakeholders, the way ahead appears clear and straightforward, no matter what life is throwing at us from the sidelines.

 

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1 March 2017

Build the Sustainability Strategy that works for you

structure

Sometimes I just can't help myself challenging what I see as inadvertently dangerous statements on Sustainability. One tweet I saw yesterday was about how little business understands the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and that this was a Bad Thing. My view is that the 17 SDGs and their multifarious subgoals do not provide a suitable structure for corporate sustainability. So I couldn't resist weighing in.

What problem have I got with the SDGs? It's the same with trying to adopt, say, the ten One Planet Living principles. There's nothing wrong with OPL, but can you recite all ten principles without looking? I bet no-one can recite the 17 SDGs without hesitating. Are all 10OPLs/17SDGs priorities for every business? After all, these frameworks are designed to be universal, and, if you prioritise everything, you prioritise nothing.

Imagine Google trying to come up with a statement on land use. Yes, they could plant a few extra shrubs to attract butterflies at the Googleplex, but I'd rather see them focus efforts on their carbon footprint (which they do) as that will make most difference – and be most meaningful to employees and other stakeholders. Leave land use to the food, fibre and forestry industries.

There's a deeper reason why you shouldn't try to adopt someone else's framework wholesale – the concept of 'Not Invented Here'. You will never, ever get as much buy-in for an imported off-the-shelf system than you do for one which has been created by those charged with delivering on it. A inclusive process of creating the strategy and setting the goals can be used to help create the culture required to deliver them (one of the reasons why we base our strategy development process around workshops for key decision makers).

Strategy + culture = success.

Take one of my clients, Interface. When founder Ray Anderson created Mission Zero, the overall target was a zero footprint by 2020. They break this down to 7 goals which are appropriate for the business – which is good as 7 is roughly the limit to the number of things you can easily remember. They call these the seven faces of Mount Sustainability, all of which have to be climbed. My pedantic side says "but you only need to climb one face of a mountain...", but that quibble doesn't matter – Interface created the analogy, they own it, and it works for them, big time. That's what matters.

So, use the SDGs, One Planet Living or whatever as a checklist to pick and choose from, but build the strategy that works for you and your colleagues, not something off the shelf.

Don't forget to download our new white paper: Seven Steps to a Successful Sustainability Strategy

 

 

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22 February 2017

Free Download!

Seven steps to a Sustainability Strategy

To get my new white paper "Seven Steps to a Successful Sustainability Strategy", simply fill in your details below and the download link will be send to your e-mail inbox.

 

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15 February 2017

Is long term thinking always a good thing?

Planet of the Apes Liberty

A couple of times in recent weeks and months I have heard/read calls for 'long term thinking' for Sustainability - 2050 seems to have a particular allure due to UN climate targets. As is all too common in our field, there is no challenge to the assumption that this is a good thing. But in my experience, setting organisational targets too far in the future, is counter-productive. Here's why:

1. People, particularly key decision makers, assume they will be on the golf course or pushing up the daisies by then and don't see the targets as their problem, so you create drift;

2. For everyone, 2050 seems a long time away, so there will be plenty of time to do something about those targets when all this short term stuff gets sorted;

3. The assumption that technology will come to our rescue, also negating the need to act now – solar powered hover cars and all that.

In other words, we need timeframes which create a sense of urgency while giving time to make substantial change. I find 7-10 years is optimum for most organisations with significant assets; you can go a bit shorter in, say, the service sector. If you are wedded to 2050, make sure you set some interim targets (2025?) to create that urgency.

I suppose a bit like 'Think Global, Act Local', we need to 'Think Long Term, Act Now.'

 

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6 February 2017

Will Sustainability get Trumped?

A very topical question for this month's Ask Gareth – what will happen to Sustainability in the age of Donald Trump? I offer three important principles to make sure short term political upsets don't derail your Sustainability programme.

Ask Gareth depends on a steady stream of killer sustainability/CSR questions, so please tell me what's bugging you about sustainability (click here) and I'll do my best to help.

You can see all previous editions here.

 

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1 February 2017

Why "Go Green, Save Money" can hold you back...

redtape

Over the last couple of days I've been writing about understanding the business case for sustainability, why it varies for different companies and why it is imperative to understand how it affects you. What bothers me is the way most commenters have defaulted to the 'Go Green Save Money' mindset. I'm clearly not getting my message across!

I can see why people default to 'save money', you can and probably will save money through your sustainability programme. For some companies this is a strong driver, but for most, keeping regulators and customers happy will be much more important for the business. After all, breaking compliance can lead to product recalls or plant shut downs, disappointing your customers can lead to loss of market share; both of which will have a much bigger financial impact than shaving a few % off the energy bill. From a positive point of view, raising turnover by gaining market share or exploiting new emerging markets will dwarf any efficiency savings.

This is extremely important as if you stick to the 'Go Green Save Money' mindset you will not do make any of the step changes required to get your business fit for the 21st Century. You'll be debating returns on investment while your competitors plunder your market share.

I recorded the following video on the business case a few years ago. It's getting a bit long in the tooth, but the core message still rings true.

 

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