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Green to Gold Metrics for Business Sustainability

Sustainability metrics and reporting improve employee retention and recruiting

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Employees Appreciate CSR Reports

"Companies discover that the best audience for their CSR reports is actually their own employees, who are generally thrilled to find out what their companies are doing right. As a BP exec told me, the green stuff comes up in recruiting and training meetings all the time now," says Andrew Winston, author of "Green to Gold".

Green work and sustainability make recruiting much easier.

Ray Anderson put it powerfully: “In my 51 years in business, I’ve never seen an issue galvanize people in a company like sustainability.”

This is the core issue: sustainability, once you get past the gloom and doom warnings about environmental issues, is fundamentally an optimistic pursuit – a vision of a healthier, stronger world for all.

Metrics for Sustainability Success

In a previous issue, I discussed the importance of setting goals. But you can't know where you're headed without knowing where you are. Goals are useless without metrics.

It's fast becoming a requirement to have data on social and environmental performance.

Metrics are fundamentally a tool for managing a business and guiding smart execution; they can drive improved performance just as measuring cash flow helps companies seek profit. The most basic environmental metrics capture your own operational footprint. This "in the fence line" data on energy, resources, water, and so on, should be second nature.

Companies should capture data

  • " the full value chain, or what I call "full brand," impacts. Whatever your brand touches and you affect through your actions and product designs - such as suppliers, distribution, customer product use, and end-of-life/recyclability - you should measure
  • different "levels" within the company (global, regional, facility, product)
  • " both absolute and relative - or "intensity" - measurements, such as total CO2 and CO2 per dollar of revenue
  • " measurements that best fit the culture of the company.

Supplier Metrics for Sustainability

What's in an office chair? Furniture manufacturer Herman Miller decided it needed to know. As part of its wider commitment to sustainability, the company unleashed an aggressive Design for Environment program that required suppliers to share information on each component, right down to the chemical level.

Levels:Interface's EcoMetrics and GE's PowerSuite

The cliche "what gets measured gets managed" is at the core of Interface's sustainability efforts. They use key environmental indicators, called EcoMetrics, to assess its progress in greening the company.

GE's PowerSuite, designed to allow individual operations to own, track, and manage their environmental data and to monitor real-time performance. Managers can see a dashboard of metrics (click for a screenshot) on, say, water and air permit compliance at nearly any level imaginable - from global down to a specific manufacturing line within a factory.

Absolute vs. Relative: Bristol-Myers Squib

The absolute measurement is critical for metrics like greenhouse gases - climate change is an issue tied to total levels. But relative metrics, or measures of "intensity," help a company see how it's managing its own growth

Summary of Key Sustainability Indicators

Metrics for the Big Picture: DuPont's "SVA/lb."

"Shareholder value added per pound," or SVA/lb, measures how well each business unit is creating value given the amount of resources it uses. It focuses managers on the simple, but elegant truth - they need to create value while using less stuff. It reflects what DuPont wants to become - a more knowledge-based, rather than resource-intensive, entity.

Tools & Frameworks: GRI Performance Indicators

One of the leaders in setting standards for reporting, the Global Reporting Initiative has laid out what it considers the most critical metrics.

Andrew Winston, Founder of Winston Eco-Strategies and Co-author of Green to Gold covers more about sustainability in his "Eco-Advantage" blog.

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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