Dianne Dillon-Ridgley Named Executive Director of WNSF

20120815th-dianne-dillon-ridgleyThe Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF) welcomes Dianne Dillon-Ridgley as Executive Director. As a board member of ours for the past years, Dianne has already contributed importantly to the organization for introducing connections, shaping up WNSF’s Annual Leadership Summit and sharing cutting edge visions of business women in sustainability. Therefore, we are pleased to announce Dianne’s new role with WNSF.

Environmentalist and Human Rights Activist, Dianne Dillon-Ridgley has worked for thirty years on issues of the environment and sustainability, gender and CSR, both domestically and internationally. Since 1997 she has been a director at Interface, Inc., global manufacturer of modular carpet and a leader in sustainable design. She was a director at Green Mountain Energy for the first six years and still chairs the Environmental Integrity Committee for the company.

Dianne was appointed by the White House to the U.S. delegation for the Earth Summit in Rio-‘92, UNGASS-‘97 and WSSD-‘02 in South Africa, making her the only person to serve on all three U.S. delegations. She is founding chair, Emerita of PLAINS JUSTICE, an environmental law center for the Great Plains states in the U.S. and is a trustee for CIEL (Center for International Environmental Law); immediate past national chair of Population Connection; and was the first female to chair the River Network Board. She is a past president of ZPG and served as CEO of WEDO (the Women’s Environment and Development Organization) during the 1990’s as well as elected four times to head the Iowa Association of Human Rights Agencies.

Additionally for over a decade Dianne represented the World YWCA (Geneva, Switzerland) at U.N. Headquarters in NY, chairing the 2000 Millennium NGO-DPI Summit for the UN. In 1999 she was appointed to the Oxford University Commission on Sustainable Consumption. During the past twenty years Dianne has served on over fifteen U.S. delegations at UN global meetings and other international conferences. She is chair of the U.S. Partnership-Education for Sustainable Development and sits on other boards of several educational and environmental organizations; appearing often in the main stream media on major networks around the world. Dianne has two adult children, Dasal of Iowa City, and Karima in San Francisco.

“We are so fortunate to have Dianne, with her energy and vision, on our Board. Her experience worldwide and with WNSF is invaluable as she takes on the additional role of Acting ED at WNSF,” said WNSF Board Chair, Kathy Robb. “Under Dianne’s leadership, we expect WNSF to continue to grow in this next year.”

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Top Five Things Businesswomen Need To Know About Sustainability

by Karen Flanders, Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF)

It goes without saying what’s most important is going to depend on where the company is in its sustainability “journey”.

Companies just starting out would be doing some existential soul searching, examining who they are and who they want to become; examining the assumptions that exist in the business; getting clear on what they’ve already got in-place. Once they have a destination (B) in mind and a clear picture of the current state (A), they can begin to develop strategies that will move them from “A to B”.

The list below, however, may be more relevant for larger corporations farther along the sustainability path. In this context, the top five key things that WNSF thinks businesswomen need to focus on to be successful in advancing their company’s sustainability agenda include the following:

1) Integrate sustainability in a strategic way into every aspect of the business, reframing the way that it is viewed from an issue to managed to key driver in your company’s growth agenda, driving new innovation, value creation & differentiation.

  • Create a compelling vision
  • Set clear goals
  • Define priorities (prioritize top 1-3 things that your company is best placed to lead on, given its core competencies)

2) Measure the ROI of sustainability to the business by having clear metrics around:

  • risk management
  • cost avoidance
  • revenue growth- imbed in brand strategies and customer value to drive volume and margin
  • employee engagement

3) Develop the right capabilities and culture, looking at:

  • leadership and culture
  • processes and structures (embed into the business planning cycle with business-specific goals and funding)
  • people and skills (expanding the role definitions and building distinctive capabilities)
  • measurement (cascade clear objectives and indicators throughout the business and ensure they are driving high-value work; build sustainability into the personal accountability and objectives of every associate).

4) Communicate! Create a common platform to motivate, integrate and communicate, inspiring participation & amplifying value. Use clear and simple messages-repeat often!

5) Lastly and very importantly, leverage informal networks inside and outside of the company to get things done. WNSF is one such network for business women to network with peers in other companies to share learnings and to make things happen!

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WNSF Board Profile: Helle Bank Jorgensen

Helle Bank Jorgensen -photoBrand Accountability Corp.’s New CEO Measures to Manage

You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

That could well be the motto of Helle Bank Jorgensen, the new CEO of Brand Accountability Corp., a global leading advisor in corporate accountability management, sustainable performance strategies and integrated reporting, headquartered in Toronto.

Whether it’s financial, environmental, stakeholder or other integrated data, Jorgensen, an accountant and business lawyer by training, has always believed in ensuring “the right things to measure in the right way.”

“It’s so easy in financial reporting,” continues Jorgensen, also a WNSF board member. “After all, finance is based on numbers. But add data from environmental, ethical, trust, commercial and social performance indicators and external data traditionally viewed as externalities, and the going gets tougher.

A pioneer in sustainable performance metrics and integrated reporting, which merges economic, commercial, environmental and social data, Jorgensen contributed to the first environmental report in the world and years later on the first integrated report in the word. She was instrumental in building the Sustainable Business Solution practices at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in her native Denmark and in the US.

At Brand Accountability, Jorgensen plans to bring sustainable performance “to the next level, where accountability equals profitability. With our proprietary methodology, software solution and strategic management services, we can help companies integrate sustainability into core operations, tie it to performace, incentives and strategic goals, and show how sustainability is a key contributing factor to protect and enhance brand value and profitability. In addition with our proprietary software solution companies can report this value creation externally,” either in integrated reports or reports based on guidelines from the Global Reporting Initiative, UN Global Compact, Carbon Disclosure Project, or requirements from customers, among others.

Information in this form can also be blended into integrated reports, so that “companies get much more profitability, sustainability and brand value protection with fewer resources. Some great business leaders even call us the missing link!” she adds.

That approach should help solve what she sees as one of the next big challenges for business, namely “how to move to integrated models, compare integrated reports, how to compare companies in the same industry and across industries,” while recognizing each company’s unique features, she says.

What Brand Accountability can add to the equation is an elegant system to helping companies with integrated planning, managing and reporting of all the KPI’s that contribute to brand value: financial, environmental, operational, human, supply chain, etc.,” Jorgensen says.

At the base of that work is the company’s integrated management and reporting system, spotlighted by Gartner Group last spring, which serves as a repository and interconnection system for data from within an organization and its value chain.

With that system Brand Accountability can “help companies achieve integrated accountability, maximize profitability and mitigate risk by using the integrated dashboards across the corporation. The dashboards and reports to can link to external sources like GRI, customers, shareholders, etc., that are based on the same documented sources,” Jorgensen says.

“Being accountable to your stakeholders is a must in the 21st century,” she continues. “In order to be accountable, manage your company and report to all your stakeholders, you need to be able to measure and report in an auditable and transparent way”.

“So basically I’m heading a company that has a global leading product and service which is becoming more and more essential for all companies, especially those that want to protect and enhance their brand value which today is business value.”

She adds that integrated business and reporting is the future, not just because it’s the right thing to do but because it is the most profitable. It’s a way to get all brand practices valued–and it’s easier and in the long run it can be cheaper with a single report.”

Currently, companies may segregate some key information in the sustainability report that in fact may have significant financial value, but “not all make the connection,” she remarks.

In the current weak economy, companies have “few resources to choose between different things,” to incorporate sustainability into the fundamental business case is a move to both save money and create more value.

That goes for companies around the world, whether based in Europe, Asia, the Americas or elsewhere, she says: “There’s no part of the world where companies are more advanced than others. There are lots of interesting things happening in different parts of the world. It’s individual companies that are global leaders.”

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Marketing Green: The New Rules

A Review of Ottman’s Latest Book

Jacquelyn A. Ottman’s The New Rules of Green Marketing: Strategies, Tools, and Inspiration for Sustainable Branding(Berrett-Koehler and Greenleaf, 2011) is so rich, it’s hard to believe the question ‘is green marketing dead?’ came up in 2011.

In fact, it seems that in its new incarnation, green marketing is just getting underway: the former eco-fringe niche has now swelled to a $290 billion market encompassing everything from organic food to hybrid cars. Covering a spectrum of green manufacturing, service and purchasing shifts–in product design, innovation, partnering, communicating, and avoiding greenwash–Ottman makes a strong case for why companies can no longer afford to market conventionally.

Everyone’s Green

Indeed, now we’re all green–one shade or another–so even thinking about how to sell to “consumers with lifestyles” is a remnant of the corporate past, she reports in her fourth book.

Green is “mainstream,” with over 90 percent of adults now aware of ‘global warming;’ nearly that number familiar with ‘biodegradable’ products; and over three quarters having heard of ‘renewable resources’. Hence, companies need to approach “people with lives,” Ottman notes in her chart on “The new green marketing paradigm.”

Female Factor

How did we get here?

A big factor is women. Since the “green consumer revolution” was spawned in the 1970s, it has been “led by women aged between 30 and 49 with children and with better-than-average education…motivated by a desire to keep their loved ones free from harm and to secure their future,” Ottman writes.

“That women have historically been in the forefront of green purchasing cannot be underestimated. They still do most of the shopping and make most of the brand purchasing decisions,” she continues.

“Poll after poll shows that women weigh environmental and social criteria more heavily in their purchasing decisions than do men.”

With their influence on daughters–and sons–women traditionally have led the rest of the population toward greater green demand, so that succeeding generations expect products that aren’t just green in name, but also deliver results–and don’t cost more.

Thankfully, Ottman reports, with the advances in technology, “people” can now shop for green products that, unlike some of their predecessors, also compete on price and performance.

Paradigm Shift

The new paradigm, Ottman writes, requires “new strategies with a holistic point of view and eco-innovative product and service offering.”

One big innovation: offering a product as part of a larger service, as well as providing the service electronically. Such strategies have been part of new business models pioneered by companies like Zipcar, the car-sharing service, and Netflix, offering rental films online, along with DVDs sent by mail.

In addition to considering people vs consumers, the new business paradigm also includes thinking about: ‘cradle-to-cradle’ vs ‘cradle-to-grave’ products; ‘values’ vs ‘product-end benefits’; and corporate transparency vs secrecy.

In fact, these days, to appeal to an increasingly curious and demanding green audience, companies have to be pro-active in promoting their products, pointing out their added value, including benefits of better health, superior performance, good taste and cost-effectiveness.

Me First

Still, while these days everyone’s green, to get the end-customer on board, companies have to address people’s self-interest, Ottman insists. Even as consumers demand green products and investigate green company claims, everyone must see ‘something in it for me.’

Indeed, the main reason consumers will pay to save the planet isn’t to save it, but themselves, Ottman notes, highlighting that the number one reason they buy green is “to protect their own health.”

So, to effectively communicate, companies would do well to “integrate relevant environmental and social benefits within your brand’s already established market positioning,” with those responsible benefits featured as ‘extra,’ to complement a ‘me first’ attitude. Underscoring the point, products “closely aligned with health are growing the fastest,” Ottman notes.

What’s more, to help consumers feel “empowered” by their choices, “Invite consumer participation through simple actions and the prospect of a better future,” both physical and financial, Ottman advises, adding that, with the advent of social media, community engagement is more critical than ever. “Acknowledge the consumer’s new role as co-creator of your brand.”

All the Rest of Us…

As if it weren’t hard enough to engage the real person at the core of each consumer and invite them into the creation process, now business must not only beware sending a green message without credible back-up–but also stay on the look-out for new stakeholders, hatched all the time, it seems.

Gone are the days when business could aim to please just those with direct interest in the company, such as employees, investors, consumers and the like. Under the “new rules,” everyone’s potentially got a stake, including kids looking ahead to their future, as well as bloggers and so-called citizen journalists, who weren’t even on the scene when green products came to life decades ago.

That means engaging youth and families in special programs and making sure any media campaigns are designed to involve the general public, at least partly through the Internet, Ottman advises.

In the end, it all boils down to backing up any marketing message with the genuine article–products and services that really deliver the goods.

In other words, take care of business first.

And take a look at Ottman’s book. It’s the sort of marketing guide you’ll likely want to refer to again, almost an encyclopedia of trends, tips, tales, and–given her past record–likely spot-on predictions.

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PwC’s Metrics for Sustainability Solutions, Part II

Kathy Nieland, who leads PwC’s Sustainable Business Solutions practice and is the partner in charge of the firm’s New Orleans’s practice, learned about sustainability quite personally while living through the devastating hurricane there six years ago.

While the firm was already growing its corporate responsibility efforts, that ‘aha’ moment eventually led to six capabilities, including two examined in Part 1: devising strategy and integrating new metrics with traditional.

Four other capabilities help take sustainability reporting to the next level:

Translating Sustainability Performance into Financial and Tax Terms

“Typically companies are measuring sustainability through non-financial metrics,” Nieland says, “and we discuss how to translate environmental and social activities into financial outcomes for the company.

“The kind of thing you might see in companies’ internal reporting might be ways of making links between greenhouse gas (GHG) to financial issues, like amount of GHG emitted per revenue equivalent, ton of product produced or per revenue dollar earned.”

She adds that translating social aspects of sustainability, such as impact on the community, into financial terms is more leading edge. Understanding and translating the impact of company actions on the community–for instance, the impact of Wall Street layoffs on various supply chains, like food companies–is complex. “How far down the supply chain do you go and what are we actually valuing?” she asks.

Helping Companies Automate Sustainability Reporting

One key was recognizing that, while business has been reporting financial information for years, and with the guidance of significant regulation since 1933, it has been reporting sustainability data for a very short time. As a result, much of the data collection and reporting aren’t as mature–both in the rules for calculating impact, as well as the processes to collect and report data throughout the value chain.

The firm also realized that some skills, processes and systems used to measure financial data might be transferred to measure effects of water, energy, emissions, waste and so on–first by designing the right reporting strategy, then by aiding companies to integrate reporting practices into business and supply chain operations, and then by automating those practices.

Integrating Sustainability into the Business

Often that means integrating sustainability not just into the reporting process but into the business lines, helping to open up channels between environmental and social decision-makers and those responsible for finance and operations, for instance. Much of PwC’s value has come by helping companies design criteria to integrate such issues into their core systems and establish standards to determine the most effective suppliers, geographical locations and other key sustainability elements.

Even more important may have been the realization that sustainability metrics, unlike traditional metrics, require long-term thinking, versus “short-term needs, like quarterly earnings and revenue per person,” Nieland says.

Going forward, the hope is to get business to focus on integration, in both operations and reporting. “In this economy, where companies have few resources, it’s almost a plus” to combine traditional financial and sustainability reporting, since sustainability often have very positive financial results.”

New Trends

As for new trends in metrics, in addition to integrated reporting, Nieland says environmental profit and loss (P&L) statements could be the next big thing, though it’s still in the early stages. “We’re supporting companies if they want to go down that path, but it’s a lot of work for those who take it on,” she says. Such reporting “creates a different vision of environmental impact, understanding the company’s impact on the environment, both positive and negative, and putting it in financial terms.”

And the industries most likely to need special attention? They’re likely to be in the consumer goods, apparel and heavy industrials, which have a big footprint on the environment and international sourcing and supply chain. Says Nieland: That’s where customers expect a lot.”

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The Big Transition: How Women Get Green Jobs #2

0058-Ann Goodman copyLeslie Gillespie’s career is in transition—again.

That’s typical of lots of professional women right now, especially those seeking sustainability opportunities (CLICK HERE to read Blog #1 on How Women Get Green Jobs).

Transitions–whether into and out of government, academia, nonprofits and the private sector, from corporations to start-ups or even within the same organization—appear to be a staple of forging a sustainability career. And the transitional “indirect path,” as Ms. Gillespie calls it, to a sustainability job seems to be the norm so far.

That career approach—transferring skills and knowledge from a range of past experience and education—is corroborated by the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where Project Manager Laurie Harrington has been researching emerging skill requirements of a changing economy. “What’s most important is adaptability,” she said at the recent SustaiNext Summit in Philadelphia, where we were both speaking on trends in sustainability work and education.

Upping the ante on Ms. Gillespie’s current transition—from the White House to the US Army’s sustainability office—is the big announcement in late April that the Army has identified a number of locations as pilot ‘net zero installations,’ in an effort to consume only as much energy or water as produced, while eliminating solid waste to landfills.

When I first met her less than four years ago, Ms. Gillespie, a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point, was working as a civilian for the Army, forging a sustainability initiative in a part of the federal government that presents both a sustainability challenge (big military installations and wars can create all kinds of environmental, social and economic challenges) and a unique set of solutions (the military has the technological know-how, the team spirit and the clout to help solve large-scale problems).

Since our initial meeting, Ms. Gillespie spent 18 months on assignment to the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), working for the Federal Environmental Executive to help implement the President’s Executive Order on Federal Sustainability (E.O. 13514) that calls for the Federal government’s leadership on a range of environmental, energy and economic performance measures, with a special focus establishing new guidance and measurable performance targets for greenhouse gas emissions across Federal agencies (CLICK HERE to read about CEQ’s Nancy Sutley and WNSF’s West Coast Summit).

Ms. Gillespie is now freshly returned to the Army as Director of Sustainability Policy, working for the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability.

“It’s kind of interesting right now, and also kind of the same, because I’m transitioning again—which is like everything in the past,” says Ms. Gillespie, who, after graduating from West Point in 1994, spent five years of active duty in the US and Korea as a readiness officer, left active duty as a Captain, went back to school for a master’s degree in civil engineering, then worked as a defense contractor supporting both the Army and the Navy, and returned to the Army as a civilian employee to manage environmental and sustainability policy, before starting at the White House, where she also began working simultaneously toward a Ph.D. in environmental and energy management.

Getting—or molding—a sustainability job is a continuous transition. “Sustainability is so enormously broad, that you need people with broad skills, so it’s all about acquiring different skills, learning how to apply them and translating them to different situations that allow you to bring something unique to what you’re doing,” Ms. Gillespie says.

“It’s about taking an opportunity without knowing what it will lead to, trying to shape it, acquiring new skills, figuring out what’s meaningful to you and making your experience work for you,” she adds.

As a general rule, broad skills and the ability to transfer them to new situations will be key to getting and managing jobs—green or otherwise—in the new economy, says Ms. Harrington of Rutgers. Increasingly, “workers have amorphous titles and duties, need stronger technical skills and wider general skills, as well as interdisciplinary knowledge and adaptability to managing new problems,” she says.

All of which sounds a lot like Ms. Gillespie’s recipe for a sustainability career—namely, the only constant is change.

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The Energy Factor: Growing Women’s Potential in Technology & Economy

0058-Ann Goodman copyHow many middle school girls does it take to change incandescent light bulbs to fluorescents and scale clean energy to everyone in the US and beyond?

That was more or less the challenge put to some 250 young women by Dr. Kristina Johnson, CEO of the hydropower startup Enduring Energy, at a recent conference at the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab.

One student response: How many incandescent light bulbs does it take to die out before she should replace her entire home’s lighting system?

One might well ask, as the combination of world financial setbacks and energy crises affecting real lives and fuel bills brings the question home—quite literally. Global economies continue to reel from cataclysmic events, including last year’s off-shore explosion in the Gulf, the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami setting off radioactive releases, and higher oil prices prompted partly by Middle East unrest.

Kristina Johnson, CEO, Enduring Energy

The road to clean energy is looking a little rocky, at best. The US Administration’s new energy security plan, released at the end of March, set a range of targets, including: cutting US oil imports by a third by 2025; expanding US oil and gas production, as well as biofuels markets; encouraging electric vehicles and energy efficiency; and, finally, creating markets for alternative, clean energy, with the goal of generating 80 percent of US electricity from clean sources by 2035.

To the student’s question, Dr. Johnson advised changing one bulb right away to see the results, and then waiting to replace the others as they die out—a thrifty compromise for belt-tightening families.

Until recently US Undersecretary of Energy, with broad responsibilities, from energy efficiency and renewables, to fossil and nuclear energy, to environmental and waste management, Dr. Johnson knows more than most about the sources and costs of energy—and cares more than a little about the intertwined future of young women, clean technology and the economy.

“Energy is a women’s and girls’ issue,” she announced to the young women convened at Princeton to learn about advancing their lives and careers through science, technology, engineering and math.

Dr. Johnson’s own story is a case in point. While still in high school, she was lured by the promise of ‘extra credit’ to develop an after-school project for a science fair, leading to a second project on holographic studies of fungus growth the following year. After the project won a first place in the international contest, Dr. Johnson headed for Stanford, where she earned her BS and eventually her doctorate in electrical engineering.

That led to a string of successes in academia, where she published numerous research papers, rising to Dean of Duke University’s engineering school and then Provost of Johns Hopkins University. Along the way, she also co-founded several start-up companies and earned over 120 US and foreign patents, including one that eventually led to the invention of the 3-D glasses used to view such movie hits as 2009’s Avatar, selling the company on International Women’s Day in 2007.

Her latest venture will generate and store electricity from hydropower.

Initiating an effort at the Department of Energy that convened a 2010 meeting with top women in energy, government and academia from around the world, Dr. Johnson is not just an inspirational role model but also an ardent advocate of women leading the way in clean energy.

Citing a study by the National Science Foundation, Dr. Johnson says “women will stay in a technology career when they’re allowed to affect a social issue,” so the challenge is to “mix humanities and social sciences and engineering to make a difference in the world.”

The opportunities in clean energy abound for women, she added, pointing out that engineers, economists and sociologists, among others, are all needed to bring about a shift to clean energy. And in the next decade or so, more trained professionals will retire—opening new paths for the next generation.

What’s more, she insists, to face increasingly complex world issues, including the economy, security, health and the environment, the US will need to develop the intellectual capital of currently underrepresented resources, including minorities and women.

Getting back to that light bulb, energy efficiency and rebuilding the country’s economy, she added: “Those energy jobs also pay well.”


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How Women Get Green Jobs (#1): Cast the Net

I’m often asked how to get a job in the sustainability arena. So I decided to put the question to someone who should really know.

“There are opportunities everywhere…and there’s a role for everyone,” answered Nancy Sutley, who, as Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), arguably holds the top sustainability job in the US—that of advising the US President on environmental sustainability.

Like so many of us, the CEQ chief, who recently keynoted WNSF’s West Coast Summit, didn’t train formally for the position. Instead, armed with an MA in public policy, she moved from the private sector to government, from Washington, DC to Los Angeles and back—as one thing led to another and another.

The main thing, Ms. Sutley advised me, is that “there’s a ton of things to do in government at all levels, in business or businesses looking to break into this field. There’s lots of investment in energy, new forums, nonprofits, the environment. Cast a wide net.”

In my experience, Ms. Sutley’s counsel is both optimistic—and realistic. There are many ways to skin a cat. For instance, I started by forging a sustainability ‘beat’ as a business journalist; then building a sustainability communications practice, while drawing on my earlier academic career to create and teach university-level sustainability curricula; then co-founding and running the nonprofit WNSF (that’s the short version).

Three popular routes to sustainability work include: landing a mainstream job in something seemingly unrelated, like human resources or information technology, and building sustainability practices into it; going (back) to school for a degree or a ‘sustainability certificate;’ creating your own sustainability job.

Meet Cynthia Cheak, Annika Jensen-Lamka and Susan Reeve, each of whom exemplifies (at least) one of those paths. All three women just completed the executive certificate program at San Francisco-based Presidio Graduate School of Sustainability Management, where, as a member of the advisory council, I recently participated in the program’s master class, as each student shared inspiring results of a final project:

Ms. Reeve, a former international program director, has started an environmental nonprofit organization from scratch, raising $100,000 so far. Ms. Jensen-Lamka, a fulltime PR executive, fabricated a course-long project to launch a business making eco-friendly toys and dog beds from recycled materials; after her skeptical husband ran the numbers, he’s urging her on to make it a reality. Ms. Cheak, a former program manager at Dell, chose one of three job offers at a third-party logistics company, Jabil Inc., where she can parlay her program management and IT background to help embed sustainability practices into the company.

Whether starting your own firm, joining one that already exists or blending the two, “Be an entrepreneur,” counsels Jacquelyn Ottman, author of recently released The New Rules of Green Marketing. “Get some freelancing skills–proposal writing, lead generation, project management, and figure out how to make it on your own.” She’s successfully forged that path for about two decades.

From my own experience, I’d advise five L’s:

  • Lead with your talents
  • Lean on your strengths
  • Learn everything you can
  • Look for friends
  • Listen to your heart

Or, as the CEQ’s Ms. Sutley coaches: “It’s about finding what interests you.”

Tell Us: What’s your road to sustainability?

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Next Generation Sustainability Metrics: Theory & Practice

2011, Number 1

NET NOTES from the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF)


I. Network Presentation

II. Presenters

III. Key Findings

IV. Presentation


This luncheon round table discussion examined the next phase sustainability metrics. With mounting interest in “integrated reporting” and the advent of new sustainability standards—from Global Reporting Initiative metrics to tools for assessing “green” consumer engagement—business appears poised on the brink of a new era of performance measurement that is likely to require greater attention to ‘social responsibility’ than ever before. It’s never been easy to measure things that aren’t easily quantifiable, but the pressure is on—and metrics ‘techniques’ may be correspondingly evolving.


Helle Bank Jorgensen (Moderator): US Sustainability Advisory Leader,PricewaterhouseCoopers

Mike Wallace: Director, Focal Point USA, Global Reporting Initiative

Erica Matthews: Manager, Public Policy & Sustainability, Pepsico

Margaret Lindeman: Sustainability Strategy Analyst, Corporate Energy, Environment, Safety and Health, Lockheed Martin Corporation


  • While most companies currently focus on environmental metrics, next-generation metrics are likely to measure:
    Social Issues: Many companies are starting to develop metrics to measure social impact, including issues related to gender, employee engagement and community improvement.
    Women: Many companies are creating more metrics on women’s programs, and GRI leads the way by integrating gender matrices into its framework.
    Sustainability Tradeoffs: While many companies link sustainability to the bottom line, there are few sophisticated metrics to measure potential tradeoffs. Many companies are starting to measure these tradeoffs to make better-informed decisions.
    Water: Water issues are especially hard to quantify, but more companies are stepping up the challenge to develop metrics on water.
  • Reporting on metrics helps companies maintain transparency, but lack of consistency makes it difficult to compare companies. Integrated Reporting may solve this problem by creating consistency in reporting on both financial and non-financial issues.
  • The GRI’s G4 Guidelines to be released in at the end of 2012 pave the way for integrated reporting using the IIRC framework.
  • Third-party verification of metrics increases their legitimacy.
  • Metrics shared both internally and externally help strengthen a company. Internally, metrics provide convincing evidence for executive buy-in. They also help engage employees by making company goals concrete. Externally, metrics help build a company’s reputation among investors.
  • Metrics can help make the business case for sustainability issues, but they’re not enough. The company’s work must also be factored in. Meeting sustainability performance objectives is achievable with the right level of support, but changing a company’s culture can be more challenging. It requires creative solutions.


Helle Bank Jorgensen (Moderator): US Sustainability Advisory Leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Sustainability metrics, Ms. Jorgensen said, are becoming more and more important to business—both in conversations with stakeholders as well as within the company internally. At the same time, many companies struggle to identify what are the most relevant issues and best techniques to measure. This panel, featuring GRI, Lockheed Martin, Pepsico, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, focused on the issues companies face and best practices when it comes to metrics, Ms. Jorgensen said.

In PwC’s research, Ms. Jorgensen said, many companies mention that they need more talent management metrics. Metrics on talent are still evolving, and based on survey responses, there remains much to be done.

At the recent World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos, many companies discussed trust parameters and their role in supporting sustainability. Trust parameters help shift the lense from examining profit-making controls to examining profit with purpose. Ms. Jorgensen said that integrated reporting is a key element to linking good purpose to profitability. Ultimately, she said, embedding sustainability into business is a process of a shifting company culture. Strong metrics are instrumental to achieving this.

To increase credibility, many companies also have their metrics reports assured by a third party. Both internally and externally, CEOs, CFOs, and investors are looking for metrics that are assured by names they recognize and trust. PricwaterhouseCoopers, she said, receives more and more requests from clients to assure reports on both sustainability and finance.

Mike Wallace: Director, Focal Point USA, Global Reporting Initiative

Since its inception in 1997, the GRI has rapidly gained traction in both the private and public sectors. Mary Shapiro, chair of the US Security and Exchange Council, personally met with the GRI after observing that many investors had continually referred to GRI as the preferred standard for sustainability reporting.

As Director of its US Focal Point, launched in October 2010, Mr. Wallace explained GRI’s efforts in the US and global market. While many in the US market increasingly announce sustainability initiatives and commitments, only 12% of GRI reports in 2010 were from US companies, versus 45% from Europe. US companies, however, are increasingly looking at and reporting on non-financial measures. Even at the Federal level, government agencies and departments like the US Postal Service and US Army are setting unique examples as they have been reporting based on GRI framework for years.

As GRI prepares for the G4 Reporting Guidelines to be released at the end of 2012, now is the time for companies to speak up on the issues they face, he said. Currently, lack of consistency in reports makes it hard for stakeholders to compare companies.

The significance of integrated reporting is to link sustainability and profitability in a single standardized report. In the past four years there has been a lot of sustainability activity in the financial market, including sustainability indices introduced by NASDAQ and Bloomberg.

CLICK HERE to see what companies including GE, Avon, UPS, and Deloitte have to say about GRI! (Videos from GRI’s US focal point launch at the New York Stock Exchange on January 31, 2011)

Erica Matthews: Manager, Public Policy & Sustainability, PepsiCo

With experience at the OECD as well as PepsiCo, Ms. Matthews is familiar with metrics in both the public and private sectors. She was pleased to hear from Mike Wallace that governments are starting to use GRI. This could prove to be a bridge between the sustainability efforts of the two sectors.

In terms of “next generation,” sustainability metrics Ms. Matthews suggested three areas to watch: water issues, social issues, and tradeoffs. Water is especially difficult to address because it is a local issue, requiring local reporting. It is heavily influenced by regional factors including local access, demand, and policy. Drawing water from a water-scarce area for example has a much larger impact than drawing water elsewhere.

Although current metrics tend to favor environmental issues, metrics on social issues are likely to gain traction in coming years. The United Nations is focusing on human rights, and pressure is increasing for companies to ensure that products are sourced ethically. Ms. Matthews also suggested that metrics on women—which have been lacking in the past—are likely to gain focus.

Sustainability professionals are accustomed to thinking about sustainability initiatives as an investment that should support the bottom line. However, we are less sophisticated in our ability to evaluate other potential tradeoffs. One of PepsiCo’s commitments is to ensure sustainability initiatives are mutually supportive. For example, an effort to make a product or portfolio healthier could involve negative environmental or social impacts. These tradeoffs need be assessed in order to maximize positive impact.

Ultimately, integrating sustainability into business requires more than just numbers. While numerical indicators are immensely helpful, companies must also build sustainability strategies based on the company’s unique goals and priorities.

Margaret Lindeman: Sustainability Strategy Analyst, Corporate Energy, Environment, Safety and Health, Lockheed Martin Corporation

Since 2008, Lockheed Martin has focused its sustainability programs on reducing waste, water, carbon, and injuries/illnesses from its operations. Ms. Lindeman said that more and more investors are asking questions about issues including climate change and rare earth metals. To answer these questions, Lockheed Martin works to understand its supply chain footprint and reduce the use of hazardous materials, by finding safer alternatives.

Sustainability is linked to profitability in several ways, and metrics help companies and investors see that. For one thing, Ms. Lindeman said, being energy efficient or reducing water usage lowers costs, thus improving the bottom line. A water and energy use study showed that Lockheed Martin’s primary usage of water and energy in its facilities was for heating and air conditioning. Knowing this, the company set programs in place to reduce water and energy usage, thus reducing costs. Secondly, doing business sustainably can provide a competitive advantage as it can be a selling point for customers. A third way that Lockheed Martin finds sustainability profitable is through tax incentives from energy efficiency projects —which when rolled up at the corporate level offer sizeable deductions.

Ms. Lindeman emphasized the importance of having metrics verified to maintain consistency. Lockheed Martin is having its greenhouse gas inventory third-party-certified using the ISO standard, but unfortunately, for many factors, including water and waste metrics, there is currently no ISO standard for verification.

The use of sustainability metrics in conversations internally is just as important, and sometimes more so, than the use of metrics externally, Ms Lindeman said. Strong metrics on sustainability issues enable employees to make the business case to receive support and funding for sustainability initiatives. In doing so, one must find the issues that are most relevant and on which the company can have the biggest impact. A materiality assessment helps the company stay focused on the important issues and avoid becoming overloaded with data.

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future is a 501c3 organization. This issue of Net Notes was compiled by Lana Zaman.

Copyright 2008 Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future

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In China, #2: Collaborating for a Global Green Economy

0058-Ann Goodman copyDuring Chinese President Hu Jintao’s recent US visit, I was struck by his suggestions for China-US economic collaboration in areas like clean energy and infrastructure, both poised to boost a sustainable future.

As I found on my recent trip to Beijing, such collaboration could mean big opportunities for businesswomen in both countries.

After all, not only is the Asian powerhouse now widely accepted as the second largest economy in the world after the US, the two countries have something else in common–namely our vast energy consumption and heavy CO2 footprint. What’s more, women-owned businesses are among the fastest-growing segments of both economies.

Women’s Green Ambitions

Women’s ambitions for a global green economy were on view at the recent annual conference of the China Association of Women Entrepreneurs (CAWE), WNSF’s longtime partner, which called for international support of its ‘Go Green Action Plan’ and invited businesswomen around the globe to join in China’s economic surge and green growth trend.

Take Ms. Yin Yuanping, Executive Vice President of China Enterprise Confederation (CEF), who emphasized at the CAWE conference that the ‘green economy’ is a global issue. Like CAWE, CEF is reaching out to international organizations to work with Chinese business to face challenges and find opportunities.

Mr. Yu Jianhua, Secretary of the China NGO Network for International Exchange, stressed that NGOs, like business, have a responsibility to promote the green economy as a way to advance development. He added that women in business are uniquely poised to promote sustainability, based on their record of supporting NGOs and working with international organizations.

Green Growth

Over the past two years, green business provided a new path to sustainability–offering a lifestyle change, promoting more sustainable production and consumption and stimulating China’s growth and transformation–said Ms. Gu Xiulian, Vice Premier of the 10th National People’s Congress. China’s 12th Five Year Plan, which takes effect this year, will focus on scientific and technological development. That goal can be achieved only through further green business development, she said. (Click here for the latest on clean technology from WNSF’s West Coast Summits)

During its 11th Five Year Plan, China underwent tremendous industrialization, boosting energy consumption and carbon emissions–and stimulating the emergence of a green economy–added Mr. Zhu Hongren, Chief Engineer at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. He stressed that industry is both a key cause and crucial solution to the problems, pointing to the Ministry’s goal to restructure industry and the supply chain, with the aid of high technology–and the aim of building sustainability into the system.

Women’s Leadership

And, Mr. Zhu added: Women lead business in changing the structure of enterprise and pointing it along a green path. As family leaders, women are natural protectors and essential contributors to a green economy–and poised to profit from its growing opportunities.

Ms. Meng Xiaosi, Vice President, All China Women’s Federation, of which CAWE is a member, reiterated that learning from the industrial revolution in Western history, China’s path toward a green economy seems inevitable.

Noting that businesswomen from nine countries were participants at the CAWE conference, she added: “The topic of ‘green economy’ shows the ambition of women entrepreneurs in China and abroad.”

Tell us: What opportunities do you see for cross-border collaboration to build a green economy?

Special thanks to Mike Li and Sandy Yeh for their contributions to this post.

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