Quantifying Sustainability

So I’ve been put in charge of quantifying how my company (brand) is becoming more sustainable. I am super passionate about pursuing this, however am a a bit uneducated about doing this. I am familiar with the materials and processes and recycle-ability etc. but am concerned about my ability to quantify. I realize that helping a company become more sustainable is more than just using recycled materials etc. but we are so big there is plenty of red tape so we need a jumping off point and just take it one small step at a time.

This will apply to all designed displays, actual products, store fixtures…basically everything. I’ve considered bringing in an outside consultant but worry that it may not be as useful for the amount of money spent as change will definitely will get resistance. Another one of the challenges is that I work for a luxury beauty brand (MAC Cosmetics for Estee Lauder) and our budgets will not reflect the shift to sustainability and we must still maintain a level of “chic” luxury that doesn’t change our brand image or perception.

If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions please let me know. I am attending the IDSA conference in Miami and hope to get some better understanding there but who knows, last time I went it was just plastic manufacturers pushing there eco resins with no actual conversation on process or shifting paradigms.

Thanks in advance!

I’m no expert, but sounds like you are over your head. I’d suggest to bring in any number of consultants who are pros at doing this sort of thing, figuring out C2G costs, total revenue expenditures vs. savings, carbon offsets, etc. esp. for a large company, they must have the deep pockets if they expect to get any useable report out of an endeavor like this.

The key to any job is knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t. From what you posted so far, this is far in the realm of stuff you don;t know so better to bring in someone who does and then lay the responsibility on them rather than taking it up yourself only to have the responsibility on your shoulders. Bringing in a consultant should not be looked at as a point of weakness, rather than a point of strength in identifying those areas you are smart enough to identify where you need professional experience and the value that comes with it.


One group I might consider talking to is PE International. They offer sustainability consulting in areas such as Environmental management, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reporting, Life Cycle Assessments (LCA), Carbon Footprinting, Water Footprinting, Environmental Product Declarations (EPD), and Design for Environment (DfE).

They also produce a software that can help you implement this into your own company called GaBi. I haven’t look into the software myself, still doing this all manually, but it looks promising and is also the basis for SustainabilityXpress that is being brought into Solidworks 2010.

PE International

GaBi Software

Thanks guys. I totally agree that its definitely best to bring in a consultant, I just feel that tere are so many steps in the process here where I work that they (the consultant) would encounter tons of resistance from people that dont want to help because its not there job etc. I’ am going to look into it though. Wish me luck getting it off the ground.

Thanks again

We are in the process of building a tool for ‘Quantifying and Managing Sustainability Scorecards’. It is still evolving but we will be glad to engage with users looking for this sort of a tool. We are still wresting with issues such as ‘Sustainability Standards’ to use for building the tool.

Please contact me for further details.

Sesh Raj

One quantifying technique that I’ve found to be quite useful is to follow SDMs - Sustainable Development Metrics. Basically a few different ways to measure how you or an organization uses its resources and manages waste. A nice outline of the metrics can be found in this blog post http://www.justmeans.com/Sustainable-Development-Metrics-Quantifying-Sustainability/23297.html Other than that there are some very easily quantifiable carbon footprint measures such as paperless communication and how it affects deforestation, also using videoconferencing instead of flying for international meetings: http://www.lifesize.com/en/Gallery_and_Resources/Our_Green_Approach/Reduce_Travel_Costs_and_CO2.aspx

Lots of good suggestions already here. Perhaps this will also help.

When we have been asked to take this task on in similar categories we started by getting the larger team to agree on what the long-term ideal is for the offering. Specifically, we broke it down into the all of the elements that make up the offering (carton, package, label, ink, product, manufacturing, shipping, etc.) and set a goal that was ambitious but limited to known materials and methodologies currently available (often in other categories). We then set up a five-year plan to achieve that ideal. The first step was making the changes that were easy to immediately implement (inks, materials, etc.). Later we tackled the more difficult/structural issues (product formulation and shipping). It turned out to have five separate steps with the precise definition of the last step changing with technological advances. It was cumbersome at times but I think it made it all a lot more palatable and measurable.