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Helping client companies become more environmentally sustainable

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Helping client companies become more environmentally sustainable

Earth Day Sustainability Panel

Corporations are beginning to change their operations and strategies to become more sustainable. This can seem like a huge undertaking for a company that is already long established, but some Umbrex and Veritux consultants are focusing on helping client companies become more environmentally sustainable.

Nidhi Chadda, Founder and CEO of Enzo Advisors, says it’s often hard to know where to begin.

“When we guide companies and investors in thinking about sustainability and how it impacts their respective businesses, we always take a quantitative and qualitative holistic approach,” she says of Enzo, a female and minority led global sustainability consulting firm that helps companies build scalable and sustainable business models and strategies.  

Chadda presented a case study during an Umbrex Earth Day Sustainability Panel on how her firm developed a roadmap to sustainability and lowering emission production for a large oil and gas company. 

How Enzo helps companies lower emissions

Nidhi Chadda of Enzo

The client company had no knowledge or experience with Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), nor did it have an ESG program. The first step was to run a diagnostic and benchmark assessments to identify materials that are ESG risk factors, and find opportunities where sustainability could be improved with processes and materials. 

Next was to identify a plan of action. Enzo developed the roadmap to identify what to focus on and develop in ESG strategy both for environmental and social frameworks. 

After the plan of action is developed, Chadda and her firm assist in setting long-term targets and goals. 

“These targets are typically aligned to the UN sustainable development goals and they cover a measurable environmental and social framework, and focus on impact and developing milestones,” she said. 

The first part of implementation is data collection and thinking about the right infrastructure to track Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for environmental and social framework. Next, Enzo assists with new product development in a thoughtful approach that includes strategy to improve KPIs. 

“Overall, when we move into business transformation, it’s the launch of these initiatives developed in the beginning,” Chadda said.

The main concern for the oil and gas company was to decarbonize its initiatives and operations.

Lastly, Enzo Advisors helped with external communication and determining how best to communicate the changes to the various stakeholders.

“This is relevant to customers and everyone involved in the value chain. Customers do want to invest in decarbonized oil and gas companies,” Chadda said. “Working with partners to find ways to reduce emissions is very critical to this company.” 

This program is a recent development at Enzo and takes about six months to complete on average. Her team works quickly, but for a larger company the process could take up to a year or more. 

As a follow-up to this program, Chadda introduced how to develop a transparent and credible net-zero pathway for businesses.

“We have an integrated climate change framework that starts with the carbon footprint,” she said.

The approach she takes is to find how to look at emissions within a business in three scopes, and do an emissions calculation.

  1. Make sure the numbers can be audited and the client has credibility.
  2. Target setting and developing a strategy.
  3. Reporting.

The first step was to work on climate change framework, starting with the company’s carbon footprint.

“We calculated their emissions in detail using the model we developed, and identified the areas that were most material to their overall carbon footprint,” Chadda said. 

For example, her team discovered that their electricity purchase for one facility was very high. This presented a good opportunity to incorporate renewable energies.

Next, a deeper look into the value change and the categories of the scope three emissions provided the ability to identify areas in which to cut back. Some of these included product material sourcing and adjusting contracts on renewables.

“This gave the potential to reduce 50% of emissions by making a few edits — one on renewables contract, second capital improvement opportunities in facilities, and third was exploring electric vehicles in the companies fleet.”

These changes could get the company on track to its goals by 2030.

“If we can engage with our suppliers and customers in a more meaningful way, and help them develop their own targets within the next couple of years, we also would be on our way to developing science-based targets,” Chadda explained.

The success of this program also depends on how engaged the company is with the process. 

Data collection can sometimes be a big challenge Enzo faces. Some companies do not have data infrastructure in place. If they don’t, Enzo brings in people to gather data to begin the process and identify the biggest areas of focus and relevance.

How Think Zero helps clients adopt sustainable business practices

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Ushma Pandya of Think Zero

Ushma Pandya then presented how her company, Think Zero, helps clients adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly business practices and achieve their waste sustainability goals. 

Think Zero has been in business for five years and has a wide variety of clients, including Disney, Eileen Fisher, and Verizon.

Companies are now more interested in waste and sustainability. Pandya said this awareness came in a linear fashion — at first the corporate world was focused on energy, then turned its attention to water use, and now the focus is on waste. 

She shared the guiding principles her team asks clients to think about:

  • Reduce what is put in the trash in the first place and avoid single-use plastics.
  • Encourage reuse over recycling.
  • If you cannot reduce or reuse, do the best possible job in recycling materials.
  • Make decisions based on the infrastructure available today.
  • Follow materials all the way to their ‘end of life’.

This approach is in direct contradiction to the old way of doing things, which was to take things out of the earth, then toss them into a landfill once they had served their purpose.

“Since you never saw them again, it was not our problem,” Pandya said of how companies thought.

Think Zero helps companies move from that linear economy to a circular economy. She explained a circular economy as constantly trying to keep material that has taken a considerable amount of time to extract from the earth in circulation.

Why do companies care about this topic?

“It’s very much connected to climate change,” Pandya said. “We are pulling out more resources than we can use. We are using 60% more resources than the earth can generate.”

The extraction, creation, shipping, packaging, and use of resources contributes to 40-50% of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. This comes from production, consumption, and disposal of materials. 

When talking about waste within companies, Pandya explained it happens in three different ways. 

  • Business waste, ex: office space, cafeteria, shared spaces.
  • Production waste, ex: factory, warehouse, industrial kitchen.
  • Consumer product waste, what happens to the materials once it’s in the consumers hands.

Panya shared a case study with one of her clients, acting as a waste reduction advisor for an entire New York City commercial real estate portfolio. For that company, waste was about what was brought in and out of commercial buildings with numerous tenants. So to begin, Pandya and her team needed to see what was being brought in, and how the material was being disposed of.

They looked at:

  • Waste audits and data analytics. Hauler data was gathered and examined. Think Zero outlined to the client what could be done better to reuse and recycle. 
  • Tenant engagement. Tenants were involved in proper recycling, reusing, and disposing practices to aid in waste reduction diversion. This step comprises 50% of the process and includes behavior change, training, and compliance.
  • Diversion programming. This is about creating partnerships with local businesses for donations. Instead of being disposed of, items no longer used are donated to homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and other similar programs.
  • Building support. Pandya and her team give support to the client and tenants at any point to help with waste diversion. 

What does building engagement look like in reality?

For Pandya, waste diversion isn’t always about auditing and teaching clients behavior change. Being actively engaged onsite is also a huge factor in aiding in waste diversion. 

“We have waste stations with haulers that help employees or tenants sort their waste,” she said. This also serves as an education opportunity to show tenants how to better reuse, recycle, and compost.

A second study Pandya presented was for a massive single-use plastic audit at DisneyWorld. 

She said that being physically on-site is the best way she can do her job.  “I spent a lot of time figuring out what their footprint was on single-use plastic in the hotels, parks, and conference centers,” she said. 

Her recommendations led to two things: inputs into DisneyWorld’s single-use plastic goals for 2030, and identification of the initiatives that would be needed to achieve those goals. 

Importantly, Think Zero needed to find out what behavior nudges would be put into place. What could be done to make sure visitors did what they could to reduce, reuse, and recycle?

This is where being on-site helps Pandya visually see what visitors at DisneyWorld really were doing with their waste, even if there were recycling options available.

“The data gathered on paper through a computer, and how people actually behave with the material, are two different things,” she said.

JHL Solutions: The Circular Economy from theory to practice

Juli Lassow of JHL Solutions

Retailers across the country also present a huge waste problem, and retail companies need support to become more sustainable. 

Juli Lassow, a professional speaker, writer, and aspiring planet saver, launched her consulting business after working with Target Corporation and seeing the massive amount of waste after holiday seasons. 

“Seasonal holiday products were just being thrown away,” she recalled. “They did a decent job of creating sustainable products, but what was being done with the ones not purchased by consumers? How do we keep those products out of the landfills?” 

Lassow’s business, JHL Solutions, helps retailers find ways they can have a better impact on their communities and environments.

Lassow recalled a conference she attended with hundreds of companies looking to come together and brainstorm ways to grow their businesses, and have a more impactful way to go to market. She knew this was a perfect opportunity to teach sustainability practices. 

She was part of the sustainability team at the conference, and realized a lot of the people in the group were new to sustainability practices. She had to think of a way to get this group thinking about the best approach to learn relatively quickly.

Lassow decided it was best to use a simulation — a large screen presentation with participants using pen and paper to go through the scenarios. The simulation placed the group in the actual space where they are making decisions to make their businesses both more circular and more  profitable.

“This simulation allows you, as a facilitator, to meet the group where they are,” she said.

The simulation started with introducing the circulatory economy, and showing a linear versus circular economy. Then, a series of interactive rounds took the users through each part of the circular track, allowing them to make decisions based on their findings in the scenario — such as how to make a more sustainable product, how products and materials could be made to last longer, and how they can be reused or recycled. 

After the interactive rounds, groups discussed, asked questions, and debriefed, which Lassow said is an extremely important part of the process. Ultimately, the exercise allowed participants to begin to see what these practices could look like in their organization, and how they could bring them to life.

The group was also provided with resources to partners and vendors who provide sustainable solutions to businesses. 

Though a circular economy is a very new concept to most retailers, Lassow said these group simulations are a very successful and easy way to get people to begin understanding and implementing changes in retail waste.

“The simulation is a great way for adults to learn. Your brain makes more connections when you are actually in the space making decisions,” she said. “Being able to build out learning platforms to meet your partners where they are is the most important step.”