For the third year in a row, Needle Consultants' Chief Instigator Marc Ross will be speaking at the #NoCoHempExpo in Denver about why and how companies can infuse #CSR into their brand. The NoCo Hemp Expo is the largest gathering of the hemp industry in the world. He speaks at 11 am on Fri., 3/29 in the Let's Talk Hemp Amphitheater. https://nocohempexpo.com/
February 27, 2019
Needle Consultants, LLC's Chief Instigator Marc Ross proudly announces the launch of A Better World Podcast, thirty minutes of inspiration from the worlds of conscious business and the arts. In each episode, listeners will hear from leaders who recognize that our civilization is at a crossroads, where resources are becoming scarce, people are becoming fragmented, and government is dysfunctional. Instead, we are turning to our business leaders and cultural icons to lead the way, to inspire us, and to help us all in the mission of leaving the Earth a bit better than we found it.
Episodes are currently streaming on Anchor FM and wherever podcasts can be heard.
Why offboarding is as important as onboarding
A lot of attention is given to the onboarding procedure for new hires. You want to make sure the new folks feel comfortable in their surroundings, meet their co-workers, learn expectations, company polices, and safety procedures, and of course most importantly, know where the bathroom, breakroom, and snacks are located! They meet with HR, fill out their forms, and away they go into their new role in your company.
But far too often, little attention is given to offboarding, termination, or laying off these same employees. Whether the separation is for cause, restructuring, financial reasons, or a voluntary resignation, we need to do a better job “divorcing” our workers from our companies. And that’s even more true if the company is perceived, and holds itself out, as being a “conscious company” that emphasizes an authentic concern for people and planet along with profits.
There are a number of reasons why more forethought must be given to offboarding in the conscious company, each with its own business imperative and unique exposure points.
Nothing is more frustrating, time consuming, and costly than dealing with a protracted employee separation. Most HR directors know there are specific procedures that must be legally followed with separation laws particular to each state. Whether you’re living in an “at will” state where employees can be fired for any reason without showing cause or if you’re laying off people, you want to make sure you have all of your i’s dotted and t’s crossed, that you’ve documented any performance issues, made layoff/termination decisions in a non-discriminatory way, have clearly outlined any post-separation benefits, and that you have soon-to-be former employees sign separation agreements. Even if the separation is by resignation, you want to have a formal checklist to protect your company from potential legal issues.
In addition to potential legal costs associated with less-than-thoughtful separations/terminations/layoffs, there can be other costs associated with unemployment insurance (depending on the circumstances and state law). You’ll also want to be consider that it may be worth paying some on-going expenses for those employees post separation for a period of time, rather than pay more money to lawyers for disgruntled former employees.
Unless the former employee was particularly toxic to the company, remaining teammates can often feel a sense of loss if the former employee involuntarily separated from the company. This can create a culture of fear and insecurity, and may even lead to other remaining employees dusting off their resumes and going on interviews, resulting in further departures. If you want to keep the wheels on the bus moving, creating a conscious environment around separations is absolutely necessary to a healthy work environment.
Alignment with Core Values
If your company has a mission and core values around treating people with dignity and respect, you don’t want to be that company that is known for calling workers into an office on Friday afternoon to tell them they’ve been let go while someone is packing up their desk, and then having security escort them out of the building. To be sure, there may be real fears around the theft of intellectual property, exacerbating toxic work situations, and even in some extreme cases, potentially violent reactions to consider and address. That said, if you’re operating an ethical and conscious business, and if your termination practices match those values, you can deescalate and rebalance what is almost certain to be a traumatic situation for your soon-to-be ex-employee.
The last thing any business owner or manager wants is a raft of bad publicity to erupt after the separation of a former employee. With most Americans getting their news and information from social media sites, it’s very easy for a disgruntled former employee who perceives that they weren’t treated well or fairly, to wreak havoc on a company’s reputation through posts on a number of social media sites – be they relatively anonymous company reviews on Glassdoor to negative personal accounts to friends and family on Facebook or LinkedIn.
While being mindful of offboarding procedures won’t eliminate these risks, they certainly can be minimized through a few easy techniques.
Regardless of whether the circumstance is a voluntary resignation or a termination or layoff, you always want to be ethical in how you handle these situations. If your policies and procedures seem like a scene out of a movie or TV show where the boss is in essence saying to the employee, “You’re FIRED! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” you’re doing it wrong. Likewise, if you’re firing employees by text, email, telephone, or by passing off the responsibility to a non-supervisor, you aren’t being conscious or ethical. In-person meetings and/or exit interviews are key to this process to help the individual employee, the manager(s), and the remaining workers “heal” from the separation. Communication should be a two-way street and managers should be prepared to actively listen to any concerns raised by the employee. Chance are that if one employee feels a certain way, other remaining employees do as well. This is a golden opportunity for you as a manager to accept some well-placed criticism, even if, perhaps, delivered in a less than eloquent or an inartful way.
If the separation is from an involuntary termination or layoff, managers/employers want to be as transparent as is possible with the departing worker. If proper and healthy performance reviews have been made along the way, the terminated employee may not be particularly surprised. Despite any performance factors (individual or company-wide) that contribute to the separation, information should always be delivered as delicately and kindly as possible. This leads to my third pointer…
Be Kind and Compassionate
It’s often said that “you get more flies with honey than vinegar.” Even in the case of a resignation, there will be mixed feelings that surround the employee, the manager, and most likely, the remaining team. In a termination, there can be even stronger feelings that overwhelm the participants. Keeping procedures kind and compassionate can defuse intense emotions and provide healthy closure for all. Just as “conscious uncouplings” have become a trend in divorces, so too, can employment separations. Having plans to consciously offboard a former employee is a golden opportunity to leave an ethical and positive mark on that person, on you, and on the company.
Needle Consultants, LLC & National Cannabis Industry Association Publish Employee Engagement Trends in the Cannabis Industry
Between October 2017 and May 2018, 180 employees in the cannabis industry completed an Employee Engagement & Satisfaction survey, created by Needle Consultants, LLC. The survey was promoted and sponsored by the National Cannabis Industry Association. The intent of the survey was to obtain national baseline data regarding cannabis companies’ engagement of their employees and, potentially related, workers’ overall satisfaction with their employers. The narrowly designed survey collected data on employee satisfaction, employee desires around benefits (traditional and nontraditional), and employee opportunities to engage in communities, as well as gathering general, anonymous demographic data. Read the White Paper HERE>
For the second year in a row, Needle Consultants' Chief Instigator Marc Ross will be a featured speaker at the NoCo Hemp Expo - the largest hemp industry conference and trade show in the world.
On Saturday, April 7, at 2:15 pm on the Main Stage, Marc will be moderating a panel entitled, "Cannabinoids and Pro Football – A Natural Fit," sponsored by Athletes for Care. Featuring the following retired NFL players, the panel will touch on the interplay between corporate social responsibility, the drug war, and the NFL's policies concerning the use of cannabis:
Tickets are available at: http://nocohempexpo.com/ticket-sales/
As a Philadelphia native who has also lived in the die-hard football cities of Pittsburgh and Denver, watching both the Steelers and the Broncos win Superbowls during my residency, I have to admit I was a bit jealous. Despite nearly 50 years on this Earth, I had yet to witness the same for my beloved and often beleaguered Eagles. The Eagles have broken more hearts than any of the other Philadelphia team. Obviously, all of that was put aside and supplanted by joy this past Superbowl when the vastly underrated underdog Philadelphia Eagles, beat the mighty (some say Greatest of All Time) New England Patriots, besting the great Tom Brady with a backup quarterback and a handful of franchise player injuries.
But what most football fans don’t know is that while the NFL set a big, audacious goal of having Superbowl LII be the first, large-scale zero waste event, one of the two competing teams is already light years ahead of the rest of the league when it comes to sustainability initiatives.
A few years ago, when I found out my friend Lindsay Arell of Honeycomb Strategies was working on a sustainability plan for the Philadelphia Eagles, I was intrigued. Using a combination of renewable energy and innovative waste diversion/disposal methods, the organization is setting new standards for a league that usually doesn’t bother measuring its waste impact on the planet. Further, these efforts strategically also engage fans/customers. With the success of a fan-built Green Team, last year Lincoln Financial Field (the home stadium of the Eagles) went 100% landfill free! In addition, the stadium features the largest installation of solar panels in the NFL, thanks to a partnership with NRG Energy, leading to large energy cost reductions.
Beyond waste diversion and energy usage reductions, the Eagles organization has been innovative in reducing the use of harmful cleaning chemicals, reducing bottled water usage by staff and fans, and realizing additional wastewater reduction through the expansion of flushless urinals. And last year, the organization took sustainability to a new level with the installation of a food waste digester to optimize efficiency and properly dispose of pre and post-consumer food waste.
But, to be fair, the Eagles aren’t the only team working to reduce their ecological impact through sustainability initiatives. Both of their Superbowl rivals, the New England Patriots, and their Superbowl hosts, the Minnesota Vikings, have programs of their own. The Eagles were really just the first team to comprehensively address sustainability and they continue to set the standard, pushing the league further into environmental responsibility.
“Our organizational philosophy has always been that the path to sustainability is a journey not a destination, which is why we developed our robust Go Green program with the opening of Lincoln Financial Field in 2003,” said Christina Weiss Lurie, President Eagles Charitable Foundation, Eagles Social Responsibility. “We view it as our responsibility to be leaders both on and off the field, and that starts with our commitment to serving as environmental champions in the Greater Philadelphia region. We hope that our Go Green measures inspire others to adopt sustainable practices, all in an effort to enhance the quality of life for people around the world.”
For a complete summary of the recent sustainability achievements of the Philadelphia Eagles, you can check out this handy infographic.
Of course, it wasn’t only the Eagles who made an impact on the Superbowl by being a great example of CSR and sustainability, but also the corporate sponsors who bought expensive ad time to run commercials. It seemed as if CSR was the focus of the majority of the commercials. From beer companies like Budweiser and Stella Artois addressing water security to others addressing diversity (Coke) and inclusion (T-Mobile), CSR was front and center during every break in the action.
It doesn’t matter whether you were rooting for the Eagles or the Patriots in Superbowl LII, a casual commercials watcher or a halftime Justin Timberlake fan, or even if you land on the side of anti-football (which, admittedly, is fodder for an entirely different kind of article on Corporate Social Responsibility). Regardless of where you fall, I think we can all agree that what the Eagles’ organization is doing with regard to sustainability, community engagement, and protection of the planet is to be admired and emulated. In the end, the Eagles are winners both on and off the field.
When I last attended the Outdoor Industry Association’s Outdoor Retailer Winter Show (OR) in Salt Lake City in 2016, the companies outwardly promoting themselves as active, responsible brands were few and far between. There was Patagonia promoting their first full-length documentary about dam removal entitled Damnation, and KEEN Footwear’s public outreach to protect more public lands as national monuments with their Live Monumental campaign. The Outdoor Industry Association was primarily focused on sustainable apparel with the launching of the then-new Higg Index. But otherwise, it was business as usual – a normal trade show with buyers meeting sellers and sellers meeting buyers, parties, and networking. And then there was me – one of the few representatives from a nonprofit trying to forge relationships to attract sponsorship dollars and donations.
What a difference a couple of years (and a new administration) makes. With the election of President Trump and the confirmation of Ryan Zinke as Department of the Interior Administrator, things were bound to change. But when Zinke announced his intention to conduct a review of National Parks and Monuments with an eye on raising fees and reducing their size, which would, in turn start to impact the bottom line of an industry that relies on outdoor recreation, things got real. Very quickly it became apparent that two exceptional and notable national monuments located in Utah – Grand Staircase Escalante (established over 20 years ago under President Clinton) and Bears Ears (established last year under President Obama) -- were on the chopping block for massive reductions. And then, when the Utah Congressional delegation along with Utah Republican Governor Gary Herbert supported the reductions of public lands in their state, activist companies took notice and dug in to wield their power.
First, Patagonia’s founder and all-around beacon of morality and light for the industry, Yvon Chouinard, vowed that his company would boycott the Outdoor Retailer (OR) shows long-held in Salt Lake City, unless the Utah politicos changed their tune. Soon after, other companies joined the boycott and still other large retailers like REI and The North Face strongly urged the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) to move the biannual shows. OIA had to directly address the issue -- and they quickly did. After attempting to persuade the Utah delegation to change its position, the OIA announced that it would be uniting with Patagonia and others and leaving Utah.
It made perfect sense that Denver, Colorado rose to the top contender spot to host the OR shows. Colorado had recently enacted the nation’s first state Public Lands Day. While Colorado’s politicians courted the OIA (which, coincidentally, is based in Boulder, Colorado), the Colorado conservation community created a Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance to court more of the outdoor industry to relocate to the state and activate them in numerous public lands issues. Having successfully organized, lobbied, and campaigned for two, new federally protected areas (Browns Canyon National Monument in 2015 and the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Action in 2014), it was clear that Colorado’s credentials regarding the protection of public lands and natural resources were tops in the United States.
So, I went to the OR Winter Show wondering if anything had changed from 2016. It suffices to say that the biggest change was that while sustainability was still a topic high on the OIA’s list of priorities (with a full day of programming plus other workshops around it), the actual companies participating in activism in conjunction with their brands had multiplied by orders of magnitude. Demonstrating the power of this growing, influential partnership was an all-star, kickoff event entitled Night Zero Untamed. This event was a Colorado conservation community welcome party to the outdoor industry, celebrating the partnership these co-dependent interests have with each other. The massive event featured speakers including the Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper and the founder of Black Diamond Peter Metcalf, and was sponsored by nearly two dozen NGOs alongside corporate partners such as New Belgium Brewing Company, The North Face, Columbia, Patagonia, KEEN, Smartwool, Chaco and Clif Bar.
Back at the OR, OIA held workshops on using brands to address climate change, sustainable sourcing, marketing sustainability, and organizing for the protection of public lands. Both Patagonia and KEEN continued to highlight their work around sustainability and activation to protect public lands, but what impressed me was the number of other groups, not normally associated with activism had started to become, well, active.
Companies both large and small highlighted sustainable sourcing and products made from recycled materials. Others, like First Lite and Under Armour, traditionally viewed as being aligned with a politically right-of-center audience, joined in the discussions on public lands conservation. When 4 pm on Fri. afternoon arrived, it seemed as if the entire convention hall floor turned into fundraising parties for environmental and conservation nonprofit organizations. Patagonia held a fundraiser for The Conservation Alliance (as did several other companies), featuring a fiery, call-to-arms speech by CEO Rose Marcario. Sole Footbeds and Scream Agency hosted several B Corps during their “Steps Toward Sustainability” party, giving other equally conscious vendors a platform to talk about their good deeds, all while raising money for Big City Mountaineers. Outdoor Research hosted a party featuring an art auction to raise money for Conservation Colorado’s public lands protection work. Others hosted parties to raise money for Protect Our Winters, the Access Fund, and Friends of Gold Butte (National Monument).
All in all, it seems that OIA’s relocation of the OR shows to Denver didn’t just move a few trade shows to better align them with their core constituents and corporate partners, but in the process, lit a much-needed fire of activism within the outdoor industry – an industry that depends on public lands and a vibrant outdoor ecosystem to survive and thrive.
I don’t know when it happened, but over the holidays, I suddenly realized that I was in the “family resort” demographic. You know, one of those families that vacations at an all-inclusive, Caribbean resort that has a whole host of activities and amenities that cater to not only couples and young, active people, but also to families with young children. These days, it doesn’t matter whether I’m on vacation, getting the oil changed at Firestone, or checking into a doctor’s appointment at Kaiser, I notice Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and corporate citizenship initiatives everywhere. And I’m looking at these initiatives critically to see whether they are window dressing or are actually “moving the needle” with regard to their practices.
A year ago, my mother decided that for her 75th birthday, she wanted to take the entire family to one of these all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. My only other experience with that sort of vacation was 20 years ago on my honeymoon and a few cruises over the years. Unfortunately, I got an all-too-close, first-hand look at how the cruise industry does corporate responsibility and sustainability (spoiler: not well at all) and hoped that a resort on an island would do a better job. Let’s just say that I left the Melia Hotel’s Paradisus Palma Real Resort more than a bit impressed.
One of the first things I noticed was sustainability signage. In the rooms there are signs about water conservation, in the public bathrooms there are signs with actual metrics around hand dryers saving trees and flushless urinals saving water, and in each of the bars there are notices about not giving out plastic straws unless requested.
All lights in the room are on timers that turn off power when not in use. Instead of single use plastic cups at the outdoor bars, biodegradable, waxed paper is used instead. Keg beer is more prevalent than wasteful bottles, there aren’t any tiny umbrellas or other wasteful drink trinkets, and the gift shop even has items made of recycled waste (an initiative that the islanders have taken to very seriously, as you’ll see in the film linked below).
I also noticed that there were a number of co-waste (divided recycling vs. other waste) cans located throughout the site -- though not all waste stations contained the recycling cans. This led me to question whether an island like the Dominican Republic even had recycling facilities available since it appeared that much of the waste would be co-mingled. Thankfully, after some quick checking, I found that the D.R. has a VERY robust and modern waste management system where often times, those engaged in “trash picking” of recyclables earn an usually high wage. In fact, the D.R. is one of the most progressive countries in the Caribbean when it comes to waste management.
OK, so my fears about greenwashing waste management were allayed. But what is Melia’s (a Spanish company) actual corporate commitment to corporate responsibility, the communities in which they operate, and other sustainability initiatives. Are they really measuring all of their impact, their supply chain, and how do they stack up against competitors in the D.R. and beyond? These are all questions that took some time to dig into, though again, my first hint was the signage around the resort – awards from Unisef, Blue Flag, Earthcheck, TheCode.org, ecpat, and the Global Code for Ethics in Tourism.
Melia also proudly displayed their corporate Mission, Vision, and set of sustainability values right in the lobby of the resort for all to see.
I wanted to know more.
Thankfully, Melia’s corporate webpage made finding these answers relatively easy to uncover – and most are contained in their Annual Report. Melia has a 365 degree view of sustainability which considers the entire value chain as a way to measure success. The company also takes the time to measure its total “social cash flow,” identifying how the company’s wealth generation is distributed to internal and external stakeholders, including employees, public institutions, and suppliers – and benchmarks those findings against previous performance as well as against others in their industry (when available). The amount of transparency that Melia undertakes is beyond impressive, but no less impressive is its vision for 2020, striving to be among the best hotel groups in the world based on the three benchmarks of excellence, responsibility, and sustainability.
To be honest, the only questions that I have remaining about the company are: 1) How does Melia address the massive amount of food waste that they likely have from the restaurants, bottomless buffets, and parties they host each night at the resort; and 2) What, if any, green building practices are utilized at the resorts? I’ve yet to unearth these answers.
I thought I went on vacation to “forget” about work. Far from it. Instead, I left vacation with a strong satisfaction in my family’s choice to vacation at a Melia property and also, a reminder to review these sorts of factors when considering our next vacation!
This past summer, I was a finalist for a company stewardship position with a large food manufacturer in the Pacific Northwest. Although they purportedly liked the combination of my community engagement, philanthropy, and corporate environmental compliance background, it was my lack of supply chain experience that ultimately resulted in them favoring another candidate over me. It was with this lesson in mind that I enthusiastically attended the Sustainable Brands New Metrics conference in Philadelphia. My aim was threefold: learn everything I could about the interface of supply chain with sustainability/corporate responsibility; learn about the latest methods of measuring success and progress; and network with top sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) personnel from companies such as BASF, Johnson & Johnson, Eileen Fisher, Dell, McDonalds, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Genentech, and many others.
Lucky for me, most of the first day of the conference allowed me to dive deep into a bootcamp around supply chain.
Let’s start with the basics. A “supply chain” is a network between a company and its suppliers to produce and distribute a specific product. The supply chain represents the steps it takes to get the product or service to the final customer. It is comprised of vendors that supply raw material, producers who convert the material into products, warehouses that store, distribution centers that deliver to the retailers, and retailers who bring the product to the ultimate user. During each of these steps, there are opportunities to apply your CSR and sustainability screens to your supply chain.
Utilizing CSR/sustainability screens in one’s supply chain results in demonstrable benefits or Return on Investment (ROI). These can include greater productivity (increased employee productivity, reduced turnover, reduced operations and supply chain costs, reduced materials costs), risk reduction (increased compliance with regulations leading to reduced fines and regulatory costs, increased reputation, reduced operational costs), and growth opportunities (innovation, increased revenue, and increased market and brand value).
There are a variety of methods and tools to screen one’s supply chain for CSR/sustainability progress and thus, enjoy the benefits and ROI. Additionally, utilizing these screens within a supply chain can enhance the value of CSR, strengthen stakeholder relations, keep pace with policy developments, and help a business reach corporate vision objectives, including United Nations Sustainable Development Goals priorities.
As an example, one way to utilize a sustainability screen on one’s supply chain that can drive both environmental and economic goals is participation in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). CDP is a not-for-profit charitable organization that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states, and regions to manage their environmental impacts around climate, water, and deforestation (NOTE: next year CDP will include sector-oriented disclosures around energy, transportation, materials, and agriculture/land use). In fact, 25% of all global carbon (from over 6,000 companies) has been disclosed and recorded by CDP. In recognizing the tangible business benefits of disclosure and action, companies are raising their ambitions and taking meaningful steps to address climate change, deforestation, and water security. This ensures long-term sustainability and profitability, as well as equipping companies to respond to regulatory and policy changes, such as the Paris Agreement. In the U.S. alone and based on current disclosures, $12.44 billion in savings will be realized by emission reduction projections by 2,151 supplier respondents with a minimum savings of over $100,000 for each company.
In addition, there are a number of software/on-line tools to help businesses maintain responsible sourcing, assess risks, and analyze traceability, compliance, and performance with regard to their supply chains. One such tool is Supply Shift; another is Source Map. The American Production and Inventory Control Society (or APICS) also has tools to track supply chain commitments around cattle, timber/pulp (i.e. deforestation), palm, and soy. Another resource that assists businesses with sustainability in the supply chain is from The Sustainability Consortium.
All of this information around supply chain (as well as a plethora of information around measuring and improving employee engagement and creating purpose in the workplace to do the same) was floating around my head as I boarded my Southwest Airlines flight in Philadelphia, passing a sign advertising their partnership with Community Signature Blend Coffee. It was only after getting a cup of coffee on the plane that I realized the relationship between Community Coffee was more than just some philanthropic endeavor or publicity stunt. It was actually a supply chain decision that not only impacted supplier stakeholders (and communities from which the coffee was sourced), but also considered customers and their innate desires to feel good about their decision to fly Southwest. When coupled with other citizenship programs, customers could form more emotional bonds to the airline, leading to higher profits, thus demonstrating the impact that supply chain decisions can have on a business’ bottom line.
In the end, the Sustainable Brands #NewMetrics conference helped me gain a tremendous amount of insight into the utilization of supply chains to achieve both economic and sustainability/CSR goals for a company. I now have a whole host of new tools in my toolbox (and connections to many kind, experienced visionaries in the space) to help me as I continue to assist clients develop strategic and integrated CSR programs. And at least next time I’m interviewing for a position, I’ll be able to drop some supply chain knowledge during the interview.