The Elm Consulting Group International provides specialized sustainability services through our subsidiary Elm Sustainability Partners LLC.
While other sustainability advisors attempt to develop overly broad programs with ambiguous criteria, we focus on pragmatism and achieving success through small steps.
The Elm team helps organizations identify the environmental impact of operations and finding efficient, cost-effective ways to lessen those impacts. We assist in presenting new sustainability strategies to business partners, executives and external stakeholders. The right resources, tools and education can help motivate change within an organization. Business partners can use these resources to implement programs that are integrated into the organization’s processes, thus minimizing resource demands and maximizing long-term viability. Elm has extensive experience in developing and presenting relevant and useful tools and trainings.
Research and Trend Analysis
There often is one issue that serves as a lightning rod and catapults an organization into the sustainability arena. Organizations that are prepared for such issues are more likely to be perceived as leaders. Unprepared organizations may suffer from negative press and may wind up in a reactive or defensive stance that wastes money, hurts employee morale and damages the organization’s reputation. The Elm team uses our expertise and experience to help organizations identify, understand and get in front of these issues in a way that can enhance their reputation.
Developing and implementing a sustainability program that supports the business strategy requires a process that is thoughtful and well-informed. The Elm team uses our knowledge and experience and leverages our network to help organizations through this process. Effective communication is an important foundation for any sustainability program.. Elm assists organizations in developing and implementing communication strategies, including responding to media inquiries, motivating employees, and engaging environmental and social organizations.
Incorporating sustainability principles into material specifications and procurement processes can create unintended consequences. The quest for environmentally preferable materials may result in fewer suppliers or sources for chosen materials, which creates supply chain risk and possible business disruption. Internal conflict can arise between purchasing departments, supply chain and sustainability goals when business continuity programs/contingency plans are drawn up to address these risks. Elm assists clients in identifying and mitigating various risks related to supply chain sustainability initiatives.
Aligning Sustainability & Risk Management
Risk is a big word these days. But what does it mean?
The role of corporate risk managers is to define risk for their company and set financial benchmarks for risk tolerance, controls and treatment such as insurance. Executives in turn consider these values credible and make business decisions based on them.
But sustainability/ESG professionals frequently work in their own bubble and form their own definition and values for what they consider “risk” to mean. When this happens, sustainability/ESG risk is not aligned with the company, or executive expectations. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) found the gap between risk managers and sustainability staff determinations of “risk” is real, widespread and significant:
- Only 29% of reported material sustainability risks were disclosed in company legal disclosure of financial risks.
- 35% of companies included in the study did not disclose any of the identified sustainability risks in their legal disclosure of financial risk.
- 70% of companies in the study found that risk management practices are not adequately addressing sustainability risks.
Some of the impacts are obvious, but others are subtle – such as the lack of credibility sustainability has in executive eyes.
Elm is one of very few sustainability/ESG practitioners globally that have the benefit of traditional risk management experience and knowledge to effectively align sustainability and risk management. Read more about the gap between ESG and risk management here, including an eye-opening real world example of how moving beyond first-level controls reduced one client’s EHS/ESG risk by an astounding 50%.
It is time to rethink sustainability.
Is public ESG data investor-quality? Most of the approximately 300 ESG research/ratings frameworks use flawed unverified data from operating sites. Sustainability report assurances don’t go to that detail.
Is sustainability a four-letter word to executives? Overcoming old preconceptions and bias about sustainability is critical in adapting to current demands from the markets.
- Do you have sustainability/ESG buzzword overload? Focus on what is really important, filter out hype, jargon and irrelevant initiatives.
- Has the value of sustainability been credibly determined? In the past, a lot of smoke, mirrors and garbage economics were used to justify sustainability. Executives, investors and stakeholders are far more sophisticated today.
- How are risk reduction benefits quantified? Putting credible values on reducing sustainability/ESG risks requires specialized expertise, understanding impacts of multiple types of controls and breaking out of corporate silos.
- How can you get the most from your suppliers? Few companies achieve sustainability/ESG goals alone – suppliers must be involved.
- Make sure you can get what you need from them.
- Is your sustainability leadership prepared for the new world? Greater pressure than ever on corporate sustainability leadership demands technical ESG expertise and pragmatic business acumen. In the current environment, generalized policy or communications knowledge is frequently equated with greenwashing.