3 Corporate Sustainability Trends You Need to Know

 Sustainability  Comments Off on 3 Corporate Sustainability Trends You Need to Know
Sep 162014

Desk Plant

The new standard of corporate sustainability goes way beyond recycling and energy efficiency. Today’s business leaders embed social and environmental impact into an organization’s value chain to drive performance and competitive advantage. Here are three cutting edge trends Corporate Sustainability Managers are thinking about that YOU need to know:

  1. The “Do No Harm” era of corporate sustainability is over. Corporate sustainability in the late 90s and early 2000s was led by large industrial companies like Dow and DuPont. The focus was on superior environmental health and safety standards such as reductions in pollution and waste. Now, companies like Unilever and Patagonia are eclipsing these efforts in a new era of corporate sustainability that attempts to transform core products and services, and the extensive value chains that deliver them. These strategies are more complex, but also have more impact. Read more here.
  2. A new focus on empowerment and “acculturation”. Sustainability professionals have laundry lists of sustainability actions in need of being implemented. They know what needs to be done, but often lack control over the tools to make it happen — budget, staffing, incentives, etc. The new goal is to incite functional managers and line employees to identify their own opportunities to improve corporate social and environmental performance with their sphere of influence. This effort moves sustainability initiatives through lower levels of the organization, thereby embedding it in culture and organizational process (“acculturation”). The idea is that this relatively simple change in approach can alter the way business is done in every function and unit of the company. Note 40% of companies are already engaging their employees directly in sustainability (up 10% since 2012).  Read more here.
  3. Companies must expand the definition of success beyond growth. Even if we make incremental changes to our business operations, the end goal of all major businesses – growth – is inherently unsustainable when we’re operating on a planet with limited resources. It’s time for businesses to expand success to encapsulate other goals such as quality of life and well-being. This is where business model innovations like cooperatives, circular economies, and benefit corporations could have a major impact. Read more here.

If you’re as excited about these trends as we are, join us and Jeff Senne, Director of Corporate Responsibility at PwC, in exploring these topics and more at our Sustainability Roundtable: Lunch and Learn Series. Light lunch will be served and rich discussion is expected. The first session is scheduled for September 23rd from Noon to 1pm and will accommodate an intimate group of 6-10 people. The Series will be crafted based on the interest areas of participants (not just the three listed above!), so come prepared with questions and ready to articulate what you hope to gain from the series!

If you’re interested in joining, send an RSVP to Kim R. Glinka: krobertella@rhsmith.umd.edu. Each session will be limited to the first eight registrants. (Faculty and students welcome!)

Stories of Impact: Helping a Nonprofit Reach New Countries

 Social Venture Consulting  Comments Off on Stories of Impact: Helping a Nonprofit Reach New Countries
Sep 092014


Accountability Lab Team

The Accountability Lab student team and client. From left to right: Blair Glencorse, Mae McIver, Wenxiao Lu, Chelsea Wallace

Last Spring, Chelsea Wallace served as a Strategy Consultant for Accountability Lab – a DC-based nonprofit determined to bolster accountability in countries such as Nepal and Liberia. She and four other graduate students from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland helped Accountability Lab prepare their model to be replicated in new countries.

Accountability Lab bolsters accountability by partnering with government representatives in order to incorporate trust and cooperation into their decision-making and relationships. Through a ChangeTheWorld.org Nonprofit consulting project, Chelsea and her team analyzed Accountability Lab’s operating model, standardized their processes and compiled it into an easy-to-use document. “We were all able to pull from past experiences and think outside of the box to give Accountability Lab a final product that they will be able to incorporate into their business plan.” said Chelsea.

The end deliverable was a handbook that Accountability Lab staff can use on the ground in new countries. Wallace and her team also analyzed Accountability Lab’s revenue model to help them develop creative and sustainable revenue streams as they expand.

Chelsea found the whole experience extremely rewarding. Her team worked closely with Accountability Lab’s Associate Director in Nepal, and had access to several consulting resources. The Center for Social Value Creation also provided a great deal of support, serving as a connector for Wallace and her team and hosting the ChangeTheWorld.org Symposium which gave the team an opportunity receive constructive feedback on their project.

After the final deliverable was presented, Anne Sophie Lambert, Associate Director at Accountability Lab, noted, “The student consultants exceeded our expectations in their ability to tackle some of our biggest organizational challenges with competence and professionalism.”

Reflecting on the experience, Chelsea said, “It was definitely a test of my organization skills and really pushed me to take my leadership to the next level.  More importantly, it was also extremely satisfying to see, first-hand, the impact of our product.  The success of the project depended greatly on the success of our teamwork and I could not have asked for a better team*.”

About ChangeTheWorld.org Nonprofit Consulting
ChangeTheWorld.org Nonprofit Consulting Program matches talented undergraduate and graduate students with semester-long business consulting projects for nonprofit organizations in need of consulting assistance with strategic projects. This program is open to all students at the University of Maryland. Apply to be a ChangeTheWorld.org student consultant or contact Program Manager Pammi Bhullar (pbhullar@rhsmith.umd.edu) with any questions. Applications to be a Fall, 2014 ChangeTheWorld.org Consultant are due September 15th, 2014!

*Smith Graduate Team included Chelsea Wallace, Rahul Shah, Mae McIver, Wenxiao Lu, and Jeanne Powell