Monday, November 27, 2006

VIEWS: CSR in China

This November I spent a week in Shanghai, giving a workshop to Fortune 500 companies on "EHS and Strategic Sustainability Planning". It was my first trip to China, and my first opportunity to speak in depth with senior EHS managers operating in Asia. What I experienced there reinforced what I'd read about corporate social responsibility in China.

1. Multinational corporations (MNCs) and local business are held to two different standards.

One of the most interesting take-aways from my trip to China was the consensus among Fortune 500 companies that they are held to a higher standard than their Chinese competitors—in fact, a MUCH higher standard. Time and time again I was given examples of how a multinational company would be required by the Chinese government to meet regulations more stringent than EU standards, while their local competitor over in the next town was allowed to completely ignore even the most basic environmental precautions.

Lesson: The social and environmental impacts of globalization will hit big companies first, and multinational companies will need to be prepared to go above and beyond local "best practices" when introducing new factories in China.

2. Corporate social responsibility is too new to have much traction.

My workshop was officially titled "EHS and Strategic Sustainability Planning: Creating Competitive Company Value as A Good Corporate Citizen" and included topics like:

§ Sustainability in a Chinese Context

§ Wal-Mart and Sustainability: Implications for China's Supply Chain

§ Communicating Sustainability Performance

The first day opened with a session on environment, health, and safety (EHS)—where I talked primarily about the importance of having the "three Ps": policy, programs, performance. The next session was called "Beyond EHS" and talked about the emerging CSR issues that companies will need to address in order to keep up with larger sustainability trends. This session included things like diversity, human rights, unionization, community relations, and stakeholder engagement.

During this session, I was met by a lot of blank stares, and even some giggles. Because as far as the EHS has come in China, issues like diversity and human rights still don't make sense there. It's more than a matter of cultural context; these operations simply do not see a business case for promoting "soft" CSR issues. Not yet, at least.

Lesson: MNCs need to pay more attention to "soft" CSR issues, and make sure that adequate resources are devoted to issues beyond environment, health, and safety. This is ESPECIALLY true for companies that have global standards for CSR—because it's only a matter of time until they get caught operating with different standards.

3. Culture shifts are the key obstacle to long-term sustainability.

The final lesson I took away from my trip is that—while there are many obstacles to implementing a broader sustainability agenda in Chinese operations—cultural context is the most challenging. For MNCs moving into China, it's not just a matter of setting up the same programs, standards, and goals as at the headquarters location. If the employees don't understand the logic behind sustainability requirements—if they don't feel engaged and empowered in the process of making the facility a more responsible business entity—then CSR simply doesn't work.

Lesson: While global CSR standards are great, companies need to be aware of what a huge impact culture plays on the ability of a facility to "buy-in" to sustainability. New operations, in particular, need to make sure that enough time and energy is spent educating employees about the "why" behind CSR programs and performance goals.

Friday, November 24, 2006

NEWS: Welcome!

Welcome to the *new and improved* Strategic Sustainability Consulting blog. Our website has undergone major renovations for 2007, and we're pleased to have a new home for all things blogg-y. Here you'll find news on sustainability and corporate social responsibility, views from our president, Jennifer K. Woofter, and other items of interest.

(We've also moved over the "best" entries from the previous SSC blog, so be sure to peruse the archives!)

NEWS: SSC Issues It's Own Sustainability Report

We're proud to announce the publication of Strategic Sustainability Consulting's first annual sustainability report. Using the Global Reporting Initiative's G3 Guidelines, we've reflected on our first year of operations and goals for the future. You can download the entire 12-page report here.

We'd love to know what you think--so please send your comments to

NEWS: SSC Goes Carbon Neutral

As Seen On CSRWire and SocialFunds:

Press release from:

Strategic Sustainability Consulting Reduces Carbon Footprint to Zero with

Carbon Offsets Help Company Meet Environmental Goals in One Simple, Economical Step

(CSRwire) (Silver Spring, MD) September 15, 2006 – As a consulting firm focused on the sustainability of small and medium-sized businesses, it’s no surprise that Strategic Sustainability Consulting wanted to reduce its contribution to climate change. What is a surprise is how simple and affordable it was for the firm to reduce its footprint all the way to zero, thanks to, the leading non-profit organization carbon offset provider.

Strategic Sustainability Consulting’s carbon offset with shows how a firm can make a real, practical commitment to addressing climate change. worked with SSC to calculate their carbon footprint and will purchase and retire renewable energy certificates (RECs) on its behalf, making their operations CarbonFree™.

"As Strategic Sustainability Consulting works with its clients on practical solutions for dealing with climate change, they’ll now be able to offer their experience with carbon offsets as proof of how easy and affordable taking action can be," said Eric Carlson, Executive Director of "We are all responsible for climate change and we all must be part of the solution. This commitment on their part shows the firm is dedicated to walking the walk on climate change."

Jennifer Woofter, president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting, stated "Minimizing environmental impact is one of the main services we offer our clients. Even with years of experience, however, we were still surprised to see how easy and cost-effective it was to offset our own carbon emissions. was so helpful through the process that we now recommend the organization to all our clients." is a non-profit organization whose goal is to make carbon offsets and climate protection easy, affordable and a normal way of life for every individual and business. Carbon offsets enable individuals and businesses to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in one location, where it is cost effective, to offset the emissions they are responsible for in their normal activities, like home, office, driving or air travel emissions. For instance, a clean, zero CO2 wind farm can offset the carbon dioxide produced by a coal-fired power plant. The financial support from these offsets support the development of clean, renewable domestic sources of energy.

About Strategic Sustainability Consulting

Strategic Sustainability Consulting provides organizations with the tools and expertise needed to actively manage their social and environmental impacts. It specializes in helping under-resourced organizations—like SMEs, NGOs, industry groups, and government agencies—implement sustainable solutions usually reserved for large, multinational companies. For more information, visit

About reduces the threat of climate change by making it easy and affordable for any individual or business to reduce their carbon footprint and support climate-friendly projects. With its easy-to-use calculator, low offset cost per ton of CO2, and certified offset projects, is proving that anyone can reduce their impact on climate change easily and efficiently. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit business, and a member of the EPA's Green Power Network, the Chicago Climate Exchange, and Ceres. has more than sixty corporate and non-profit partners, including the National Wildlife Federation, the Calvert Group and Working Assets.

For more information please contact:

Eric Carlson, Executive Director

NEWS: Hybrid Car Incentives for Small Businesses

Strategic Sustainability Consulting was interviewed for a July 5, 2006 article by on the newest perk: hybrid car incentives. That's right" more and more companies are offering cash incentives to employees who buy hybrid vehicles. But is it relevant to small business? Check out our thoughts.

RESOURCE: Helpful Websites for Small Business CSR

It's time for another list of helpful resources for small business. Enoy!

Intangibles and CSR
Source: Business for Social Responsibility (via GreenBiz)

Understanding how value is created through assets like knowledge, expertise, and operating systems -- the "intangibles" -- is integral to understanding how long-term wealth can be created and enhanced through strong CSR (corporate social responsibility) performance. Published in April 2006, this business brief explores the multifaceted link between a company's "intangible assets" and CSR. The brief provides a framework for better understanding the business case for CSR.

Sustainability Engagement Boosts Financial Performance
Source: Ethical Corporation (via Greenbiz)

The research arm of a leading sustainable investment fund has produced a new report grading more than 1200 companies by their preparedness in terms of environmental and other CR issues, providing more evidence for a link between non-financial and financial performance. The research, published jointly with consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers, represents one of the most complete efforts so far to compare companies, and sectors, based on their non-financial performance.

Zero Footprint

Zerofootprint’s goal is to connect people who care about the environment for the purpose of reducing ecological footprint. The organization aims to be the world’s foremost content hub for green, linking millions of people from across the globe engaged in sustainable commerce, and helping to inform people, who want to strive toward a more sustainable lifestyle. Of particular note is the Green Events section, where readers can find environmental events in their local area.

VIEWS: Sustainability Reporting and G3

Last week, Strategic Sustainability Consulting submitted feedback to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) concerning their new edition of sustainability reporting guidelines, G3. Our comment represents a coalition effort of business, academic, and NGO communities from eight different countries--all who believe that GRI can be improved further. Our main point:

Our main concern, however, is that the G3 Guidelines (like the 2002 Guidelines) do not provide an appropriate context for reporting on performance indicators—namely, a definition of sustainability that is both scientifically sound and directly measurable. While the G3 Guidelines provide an excellent structure for reporting on economic, environmental, and social issues, this lack of a rigorous definition of sustainability means that reporting organizations cannot truly be held accountable for their progress towards sustainable development. Indeed, without an explicit recognition of the constraints underlying sustainability, organizations may not even internally understand the requirements of a sustainable society.

You can read the whole document (2 pages) here.

RESOURCE: Climate Change for Small Business

Have you ever wondered, "What can my small business do about climate change?" ClimateBiz now has a dedicated section of its website devoted to helping answer that question.
Individual small business owners often have difficulty imagining their role in managing climate for the simple reason that it's hard to measure climate impact on such a tiny scale. But the total climate-related impact (or "carbon footprint") of small businesses certainly add up. While your small business may produce actual greenhouse gas emissions, it certainly has an indirect impact on climate: electricity, heating, cooling, and transportation all translate into BTUs with global warming potential.

RESOURCE: Choosing An Environmental Consultant

Choosing an Environmental Consultant: Guidance for Small Businesses is a free, 32-page document by The New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, Small Business Assistance Program.

The Small Business Assistance Program (SBAP) created this guide to provide information so that small businesses that need to hire an environmental professional can make an informed decision. This guide will help you more knowledgeably hire an environmental consultant by:

-- guiding you through the proposal process
-- listing questions to ask consultants
-- suggesting how to review the proposals you receive from prospective consultants
•-- providing tips for negotiating a contract with your chosen consultant

Although this guide deals primarily with companies needing technical environmental services (like help deciphering Clean Air Act regulations), the general scope of the report is helpful for businesses deciding to take the plunge with outside consulting services.

PEOPLE: Jennifer K. Woofter, President

Jennifer is the founder and president of Strategic Sustainability Consulting, a business designed to provide under-resourced organizations with tools to actively manage their social and environmental impacts. In this role, she draws upon her expertise in the fields of corporate social responsibility, ethical investing, and organizational accountability systems to help clients make the leap between good intentions and long-term sustainable performance.

Prior to the start-up of Strategic Sustainability Consulting, Jennifer was a social research analyst with Calvert Group. In addition to researching companies for inclusion in Calvert’s socially responsible mutual funds, Jennifer also led the company’s initiatives to promote corporate accountability through increased transparency and disclosure. Notable accomplishments include a major shareholder advocacy campaign to encourage sustainability reporting, and public support of state, national, and international corporate accountability legislation. Before her transition to the private sector, Jennifer also worked on Capitol Hill, as a staffer with the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where she focused on federal accountability systems.

Her publications include “Non-Financial Disclosure and Strategic Planning: Sustainability Reporting for Good Corporate Governance”, issue briefs on the topic of corporate transparency, and a variety of reports on women’s rights in developing countries (Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana). She was also on the team of Senate staffers that produced the 2001 report “Government at the Brink”, an agency-by-agency account of fraud, waste, and abuse in the federal government.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in Political Science. She went on to receive a M.A. in Political Science from Virginia Polytechnic and State University. Most recently, she was a member of the first graduating class of the Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability Master’s Programme at Blekinge Tekniska Hogskola (Sweden).