When you spend time in the business leadership world, you start to hear a lot of cliché phrases and vague terms that other managers frequently use. Sometimes they use them to sound smart; other times, they’re just not sure of a better alternative. Either way, these overused words begin to sound like jargon over time, and may lose their meaning when you’re communicating with your staff.
We asked nine members of Young Entrepreneur Council to each share one word leaders often use, but shouldn’t. Here are some key words and phrases to avoid as a manager, along with a few suggested terms to use instead.
Young Entrepreneur Council members say these phrases should be avoided by leaders.
Photos courtesy of the individual members.
I don’t think anyone should be using this word—leaders or any team members. But it is used all the time. I myself find it easy to fall into the trap of using it. Most things aren’t obvious, or at least aren’t obvious to everyone (and if something is actually obvious, you wouldn’t need to waste energy stating it). So when you say “obviously,” you put people around you on the defensive, making them less likely to listen, absorb and productively respond to what you are saying. – Saloni Doshi, Eco Enclose, LLC
2. I Think
There’s no need to use “I think” in a statement. Not only does it diminish your authority, but the phrase is also often superfluous. “I think we should execute on this strategy” just isn’t as powerful as, “We should execute on this strategy.” Your tone can remain open and engaging by cutting out “I think” easily as well. We’ve trained our more junior team members to watch for words and phrases that discredit their opinions, particularly when they speak to the powerful CEOs and executives whom we work with. It’s incredible what a little editing of phrases such as “I think,” “I’m sorry” and “I just thought” can do to balance the power dynamic between “client” and “vendor.” – Beck Bamberger, BAM Communications
Say “teamwork” instead. No one is an island. Thus, even so-called “self-made” people need other people to survive. For a company to be successful, people need to work and act together as one. No one can actually say they made themselves alone. We need family, friends and a team to survive and be successful. – Daisy Jing, Banish
4. None Of Your Business
Leaders should aim to be transparent and vulnerable with their employees in order to build trust. If employees ask a question that a leader isn’t comfortable answering, they should explain why that information is confidential, but give any insight that they can. Simply telling a team member that something is none of their business is never helpful. – Kelsey Raymond, Influence & Co.
I’m a direct person with my team and feel that using the word “should” can be ambiguous and leave your team members wondering what you really meant. For example, if you say, “Don’t you think we should do that,” depending on the level of confidence the person has and their relationship with you, it will most likely lead them to just agree when they really don’t. I would simply say, “Let’s do X, because of Y. Do you agree or disagree and why?” – Jennifer A Barnes, Optima Office, Inc
There will always be limitations of some sort, but the majority of the time, you shouldn’t say that you or your team “can’t” do something. You can use your creativity and the creativity of your team to come up with innovative ideas that take your business to the next level. The more you say you can’t do something, the more your team will think the same, and that undermines your collective progress. Instead, think of what you can do to succeed and go from there. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
7. Paradigm Shift
It drives me crazy whenever I hear a manager or leader say, “There’s been a paradigm shift.” I always ask, “What does that mean?” I hear it so often that it doesn’t have any meaning. I think that saying, “There’s been a fundamental change in A, B or C,” is much clearer and more direct. Be clear and concise in your communication. Just say what you mean without the jargon or technical terms. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC
It’s often just a cover for a lack of clear planning and strategy. It’s better to offer a clear solution than to claim that something is “dynamic.” At the very least, give three points around the topic that show you can present your knowledge on it. – Nicole Munoz, Nicole Munoz Consulting, Inc.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with your team’s ideas and creativity, but saying “yes” to everything can be detrimental to your focus and, most importantly, your productivity. You should always be open to new ideas, opportunities, collaborations and to creating an environment where the team’s ideas are honored and respected. But always saying yes will muddle and distract your mind. Successful people say no to almost everything, and their businesses have skyrocketed. So try to validate your team’s ideas and opinions, but at the end of the day, those ideas should be subordinate to the organization’s goals and policies. By doing that, you’re more likely to increase your own productivity and also your team’s efficiency. – Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz
Here, we share Part 2 of our conversation with Dr. Kim Cameron, one of the world’s foremost researchers and thinkers in the area of organizational culture and positive leadership. Cameron is a Professor Emeritus of Management and Organization at the University of Michigan, where he co-founded the Center for Positive Organizations. Find Part 1, which covered survivor’s guilt and envy when organizations downsize, at this link.
Please note, as may be evident in the conversation, this interview was recorded prior to the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests.
You’ve written about the importance of gratitude as an individual practice that, regardless of circumstances, can transform your experience and your wellbeing in the moment. Tell me about it and how it applies to our current context of the coronavirus.
KC: This is difficult to live in all circumstances, of course, but one of the best pieces of advice I have to give is to look for the silver lining. Look for things that are going well, celebrate what’s right with the world.
I’m going to give you a two or three studies to explain. In one study, there are a group of students who are in a classroom. The students are all asked to keep a journal every day. Half of the students are assigned to write in their journal three things for which they are grateful or the best three best things that happened today. The other half of these students are assigned to simply keep a normal daily event journal: write down events and relationships, problems they faced, whatever.
At the end of the semester, several studies were conducted. One of them was to give everybody a flu shot. Turns out, one week later, those keeping a gratitude journal are healthier. They had more antibodies in their system than the others. People were given a mental acuity test by asking them to memorize information or come up with some sophisticated rules for difficult decisions. There is more mental acuity displayed in the first group than in the second. In fact, grade point average is almost a half a grade higher among that gratitude group.
In another study, people were given a creativity task. Something like, how many uses can you think of for a brick, or a ping pong ball, or a piece of paper? Again, the gratitude group had a broader variety of ideas.
Gratitude is a very well researched topic now, that is, to concentrate on something for which you’re grateful. In fact, one of the most effective therapeutic techniques has been not only mindfulness meditation (loving kindness meditation probably is the most effective) but also to count your blessings. This means , think of all the bad things going on in your life. Think of all the problems you’re facing. Think of all the stress you’re encountering. Now, flip those and ask, “What am I learning? What should I be thankful for? What’s not occurred that could have? How can I be thankful for even the most difficult situations?”
I’m not a therapist or a psychiatrist, but it’s an interesting and very effective therapy that people are using, especially in crises like we are facing right now. Gratitude can seem kind of syrupy, but it actually matters in terms of health, resilience, and performance.
Do you know of any teams that are doing gratitude practices together?
KC: I do. There are a number of organizations with whom we have done some work or research. For example, there’s an experiment going on right now at the University of Michigan involving the business and finance group. That’s approximately 3,000 employees at the university and a very diverse group. They are colleagues from groundskeepers and custodians through people managing multimillion-dollar investment portfolios. So white collar and blue collar employees, all over the campus. A diverse group.
They decided they were going to implement something they simply referred to as “positive leadership culture.” We gave them an assignment to “infect” 90% of the employees in business and finance in 90 days, the 90 in 90 challenge. Well, what does infect mean? It means gain the ability to teach this new set
of values, this new set of principles and implement a 1% change directed at positive leadership. They exceeded the 90 in 90 challenge. All the empirical markers are up, as you might expect. But one of the best things is the custodians and the people who are out in the field, who are in the tunnels, the people in the offices and the administration, they’re all keeping gratitude journals.
The former head coach at the University of Michigan basketball team, John Beilein, who was hired by the Cleveland Cavaliers to be their basketball coach, keeps a gratitude journal. His athletes keep gratitude journals. He starts every entry in his journal with a scripture, by the way, which I think is admirable. John is probably known as the best bench coach strategist in the NCAA. He’s quite an amazing guy, just a wonderful human being who’s decided to take gratitude seriously.
We have at Michigan the head swimming and diving coach, Mike Bottom, who is also an Olympic coach. He was in Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics. He has the swimmers keeping gratitude journals, and they win the Big 10 Championships almost every year. These are Olympic athletes, getting really serious about trying to perform every day. Mike says, “you know what, I’ve got a practice that will help you.” And it sure does.
Gratitude seems especially important right now, now that we’re with our families in home isolation. Reminding ourselves of what we’re grateful for can help keep us calm when we’re a little frayed around the edges.
KC: Frayed around the edges, that’s right. Gratitude is just kind of a grounding technique.
I have a friend who’s little daughter was going to kindergarten, and she just hated it. Didn’t like it at all. Her mom thought, “I don’t know what to do with her because she dislikes school so much.”
The girl’s teacher suggested that the mom get a sticker book and when the little girl came home, her mother would say, “All right, take a sticker and show me the best thing that happened to you today.” As it turns out, her little daughter started really looking for things that she loved to do at school and that would be represented by a sticker. Her mother said they ended up together calling the sticker book her gratitude journal. The little girl couldn’t write it, but she could put stickers in this book to show what she was grateful for. The mother said somehow it resonated with that sweet little girl.
Gratitude is an all ages practice. I have one more question for you. This is a time of unprecedented disruption, but whenever things change, there’s a chance they can change for the better. What are you hopeful for, that we could come out of this period being a better world, being a better place around our offices? What are you hopeful for?
KC: You’ve highlighted it perfectly. We know it will not be the same. We will do interesting things. Technologically, we will do interesting things in terms of leading people, helping people lead themselves, helping people learn how to thrive better on their own as opposed to being dependent on someone else.
I think those kinds of things will happen. But my hope is, and my wish as well, is that we will use this crisis to come together. That rather than dividing us, my hope is that the crisis will cause us to identify our common core: the things we most believe in and trust and the things that bring us together and that we share. That’s what I would hope. That we emerge not only stronger but more loving and collaborative and a group of people who say I’ve learned to love and appreciate you more than I did before.
State of the Sector 2020 report notes that the UK now boasts more than 260MW of community-owned energy capacity and has the potential to power 2.2 million homes by 2030 and support nearly 9,000 jobs
2020 will prove a “pivotal year” for the energy sector as community energy groups diversify and test new business models in response to the coronavirus crisis and a tougher policy environment.
That is the headline conclusion from Community Energy England’s(CEE) annual State of the Sector report, published today, which paints a picture of a community energy sector undergoing “radical and rapid change” due to the closure of the government’s Feed-In-Tariff (FiT) on 1 April this year and the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The update confirms that at the close of 2019, the total community-owned energy capacity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland reached 193.9MW of capacity, of which 155.4MW is solar and 33.6MW is wind. Total UK community-owned capacity increased to 264.9MW.
Solar projects dominated the community-owned electricity sector in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 2019, accounting for 14MW of a total of new 15.4MW of installations. Wind projects accounted for a slimmer 1.2MW tranche of installations, while hydroelectricity made up the rest. Meanwhile, community organisations in the UK installed 2.1MW of heat generation capacity and 547kWh of battery storage, while delivering 102 energy efficiency projects.
Last year saw a surge of community-owned electricity installations compared to the year before, an increase the report authors suggest was likely prompted by the imminent closure of the government’s FiT subsidy scheme.
The end of the FiT scheme will dramatically alter the support landscape for community electricity projects. Some 97 per cent of community electricity projects in 2019 were supported by the now-ended subsidy scheme.
In today’s report, CEE argues that the Smart Export Guarantee, a policy introduced by the government last January which asks suppliers to offer a payment tariff to small-scale generators, offers only a “limited form of replacement” for the more generous FiT scheme.
The government maintained that the falling cost of renewables justified an end to the popular FiT scheme, which helped drive renewables installations but was funded through a levy on energy bills. Ministers have predicted that lower renewables costs means projects should be able to be deployed without subsidy support.
However, today’s report warns that while renewables costs have fallen significantly, the financial case for many small-scale renewable projects will be “drastically diminished” throughout 2020 and 2021.
Looking ahead, the CEE said the community energy sector will need to identify and develop new business models, ownership schemes, and technologies in order to thrive in the new post-subsidy world.
“With the energy system in a critical stage of transition towards a more decentralised, distributed and digitised system, as well as wholesale changes to the policy support landscape, 2020 will be a pivotal year for the entire energy sector,” the report notes. “For community energy, electricity generation projects are expected to become more financially marginal and difficult to deliver, with a shift towards new models integrating local energy generation with demand management services to achieve project viability.”
The group forecasts that there could be a greater uptake in community shares over debt finance as communities seek to make increasingly marginal projects work. And existing organisations are likely to diversify their approach by embracing energy demand reduction projects and investigating whether low carbon heating, smart grid, and transport projects could be undertaken alongside renewables installations.
The report argues that knowledge sharing and introducing more effective and standardised methods of quantifying and explaining the wider social and environmental value community energy projects can bring could also play a role in catalysing the sector in the years to come.
The report also notes that the community energy sector will likely see fewer projects developed this year due to the impact of Covid-19.
However, it argued that the sector’s response to the crisis has demonstrated the vital role community organisations play in providing local services and fostering community cohesion. Community energy projects across the country have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds between them to support pandemic response initiatives during the crisis.
As such, the sector remains upbeat about the role it could play in the clean energy transition in the coming decade.
In a new ‘vision’ document published alongside the state of the market report, CEE predicts that with the right support and policy mechanisms community energy could be powering the equivalent of 2.2 million homes by 2030, contributing 5,270MW to the energy system, supporting 8,700 jobs, saving 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, and adding over £1.8bn to the economy each year.
Swimwear season is finally here. When you think of sustainable fabrics used in the fashion industry, images of cotton and other natural fibers most likely come to mind. However, when it comes to swimwear, natural fibers are a no-go. Performance is key.
The use of upcycled synthetic fabrics, slowing down manufacturing, creating timeless designs, and utilizing deadstock materials are just some of the directions in which the sustainable swimwear industry is headed. While the luxury sustainable swimwear market now offers a decent amount of options, I rounded up three brands that you may not know, but that should definitely be on your radar.
If you like old Hollywood glamour blended with sustainability then you need to check out TABACARU SWIM, a luxury swimwear brand designed by Founder/Creative Director, Stefana Tabacaru that’s produced in Los Angeles from entirely upcycled fabrics. Launched late last summer the brand is mostly direct-to-consumer with the exception of a few retailers.
“Intermix picked up our first collection and while we are really trying to focus on a direct-to-consumer strategy, of course there are a few retailers that are our dream to work with,” says Tabacaru. One of the retailers that align with TABACARU’s customer-base is Moda Operandi, where Tabacaru interned for a year. “Moda Operandi plans to have a trunkshow with our swimwear this summer, and although the date is TBD with so many things happening in the world, I couldn’t more excited!” The brand will also be launching on THE YES this month.
When Tabacaru set out to create her brand she had three goals in mind: to create an entirely sustainable brand, to produce the collection in the US from the highest quality regenerated and upcycled fabrics, and for the brand to have a philanthropic mission.
“TABACARU SWIM is committed to nurturing a company that is socially and environmentally responsible and that includes supporting a more conscious level of design and giving back to the global community,” shares Tabacaru. “We source and produce everything in the Unites States, which allows us to ensure everything is ethically made, of the highest quality, and part of a supply chain that is eco-friendly, eliminates waste, supports small American businesses, and helps to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible.”
On what makes her swimwear unique Tabacaru tells me, “I think for me one of the things I wanted to convey was this old school glamour—in the tradition of Helmut Newton or Slim Aarons—there’s so much sexiness, yet there is a dark side to that glamour. It was also important for me to design for real women—not just a model who looks good in anything she puts on,” Tabacaru says. “We really focused on the fit. Like Spanx, it holds in the trouble areas and cuts in the right places so women can feel free to indulge in a glass of Rosé and a bowl of pasta. I wanted to create a line of swimsuits all throughout the day and you throw on a skirt and you look like you are in a timeless outfit.”
The entire swimwear collection is made from an upcycled nylon fabric. “We use Carvico’s Vita collection made in Italy of ECONYL®, which is a 100% regenerated nylon yarn derived from pre and post industrial waste such as discarded fishing nets and carpet fluff (the top part of nylon carpets which are at the end of their useful life),” explains Tabacaru. Instead of these materials being pitched into a landfill at the end of their lifecycle they are collected and turned into a new usable material through a chemical-physical process. Tabacaru is also mindful about not using any plastics in the packaging and shipping of the products.
“We provide our factory paper envelopes to use for packing instead of the standard poly bags most factories provide for individually packaging garments, and our second collection also has paper hygienic liners as opposed to the common hygienic liner made from a plastic sticker that can take hundreds of years to decompose,” explains Tabacaru. The brand also makes their swimsuit pouches out of recycled satin and offers biodegradable boxes for VIP gifting as well as black paper envelopes for their e-commerce deliveries. With regard to TABACARU SWIM’s philanthropic efforts, the brand donates 20% of their sales to Feeding America.
Based in Bali, Indonesia, ISA BOULDER is a swimwear label dedicated to creating hand-made pieces from local artisans that illustrate the duality in nature that is both beautiful yet imperfect. Launched in 2019 by Cecilia and Yuli, who prefer to stay behind the scenes (and not share their full names) and let the brand speak for itself, the brand utilized sustainably sourced deadstock material from Italy for its SS20 collection and sustainably made knits with no wasted product for its FW20 collection.
“We started working together on this vision of a locally-designed and produced womenswear label with a strong emphasis on Indonesian craft and traditional skills. Both of us are Indonesians, and have lived here for the majority of our lives, so it is important for us that our company can highlight our local artisans’ talents while also being able to challenge our ways of designing clothing,” the founders tell me.
When it comes to sustainability, the founders not only want to focus on working with sustainable materials and production practices, but also designing timeless pieces.
The ladies explain, “By staying true to our own research process and presenting a collection which we genuinely feel strongly about, we hope that our designs can be enjoyed at a more personal level by our wearers. We also try to work with materials that are very delicate and need a higher level of maintenance, as we believe that one way of ensuring that we do not take clothing for granted, is this act of care we should have for our garments. Through offering a bespoke service, we also hope to create a stronger bond for our customers with their clothing, as it is personalized and customized to their needs.”
ISA BOULDER’s aesthetic is unique—it’s sort of a quirky sexy that incorporates fabrics like satin not often seen in other swimwear brands.
“Sometimes, inspiration can come through draping, or exploring the material itself to see what forms will work well with cartain techniques,” the women tell me when I ask where they get their inspiration. “Certain limitations or material challenges are what will interest us most, because we want to produce high-quality products, even if the design is experimental at heart. Finding the solution to what was initially a design problem will often lead us to work on ideas that we never could have come up with.”
On what folks can expect next from the brand the pair tell me knitwear is next on the agenda. “Like our swimwear, our knits are also all hand-made, so there is this tactility and human touch to it, which we believe is a technique worth treasuring over computerized knitwear,” they explain. “Through ensuring an all-local production, we hope that the techniques and talents of Indonesian local artisans are not lost with time, and consumers’ appreciation for traditional methods are reinvigorated with experimental designs.”
If you are seeking an understated sustainable swimwear brand that still remains sexy, you need to check out RENDL. Designed in Vienna, Austria and founded in 2018 by Rosa Rendl, the RENDL swimwear collection offers a modern twist on sports swimsuits designed with all body types in mind, impeccably made, and combined with environmental and social awareness.
“My swimsuits are designed anti-sexy and therefore possibly even sexier,” says Rendl. “I always see the power in women who wear my pieces and I love how they get an awareness of how empowering a well-cut, comfortable piece of clothing made of a high-quality fabric can be. I design conceiving the female body without the need for body-optimization. Once one lets loose of the restricting thought of having to look perfect, it’s extremely liberating and empowering. I think underwear as well as swimsuits for women are often still designed in an unpractical, uncomfortable, and sexist way.”
Most women can relate to Rendl’s perspective. I can think of several intimate brands that cut into my petite yet curvy figure and make me look misshapen when that isn’t the case in reality. Rendl continues, “It is important to create something that empowers women by understanding their needs and therefore I emphasize on comfort, quality and functionality in my line. I think as a result the woman who wears my swimsuits appears confident and empowered—and that’s sexy.”
Rendl gets a lot of her inspiration from the politically charged times we are living in currently. “We live in a time with a movement for a change in consumerism, pro-environmental thinking and back to a more human, social way of creating and consuming. My part of it is to create a slow fashion line that’s not dumping designs and remnant stock season after season. Quite in reverse, I want to create a permanent line of classic, timeless swimsuits that lasts many seasons and doesn’t go out of fashion,” Rendl tells me.
The Signature design characteristics of RENDL are the square neckline, the blocking of colors and shapes, and the linear, streamlined silhouette. “For color and shape inspirations I love to look at modern architecture and mostly female 20th century artists and designers such as Eileen Gray, Katarzyna Kobro, Emilie Flögl, Man Ray, Jean Arp, Sonia Delaunay, Friedrich Kiesler, Kiki Kogelnik, to name a few,” shares Rendl. “I also love the 1990s understatement in fashion. That’s where many of my signature characteristics come from: the square neckline, the spatial, streamlined silhouette, and the muted tones of beige, grey, and green.”
When it comes to sustainability, Rendl believes in growing her brand slowly, organically, and using awareness in her decision making from material selection, to how items are produced, and how the garments are both distributed and packaged.
“Being a sustainable brand means rethinking everything. It’s definitely a challenge,” states Rendl. “As a brand I put a strong focus on producing with social fairness and having a regular, direct exchange with my female led production company in Sofia, Bulgaria. I am also proud to work with an Italian fabric that is made of EconylⓇ yarn, a regenerated nylon made of ocean waste. By producing in Europe another focus lies in having a low carbon footprint and in regards to packaging, I am trying to keep it to a minimum and don’t use plastic packaging, instead I use recycled cardboard packaging.”
Rendl is planning to expand her eponymous brand soon with ready-to-wear pieces like tops and slip-on dresses. Rendl tells me, “All very basic cuts, comfortable, made from light materials, and easy to wear.”
Somehow, I suspect whatever she does next it will still be seductive even without her intending it to be so.
Government approves business case for Pembroke Dock Marine project, allowing plans for major new Marine Energy Test Area to move to next phase
Plans to build a world leading marine energy hub on the Welsh coast received a boost this week, after the UK and Welsh government approved the business case for the high profile Pembroke Dock Marine project.
The proposed £60m development would establish a Marine Energy Test Area within the Milford Haven Waterway which would be led by Marine Energy Wales and would enable technology developers to test their marine energy devices close to their base of operation.
It would also feature a new 90 square kilometre Pembrokeshire Demonstration Zone delivered by Wave Hub Limited to enable the testing of full-scale wave and floating wind energy devices.
Meanwhile, a Marine Energy Engineering Centre of Excellence would provide a technology, innovation and research centre delivered by the Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult.
And the redevelopment of land at Pembroke Dock, which would be led by the Port of Milford Haven, would provide supporting infrastructure to the expanding marine energy industry.
The business case approval means Pembroke Dock Marine can now start accessing £18m of funding that the UK Government and Welsh Government have already released to the Swansea City Deal programme as a whole.
Pembroke Dock Marine is also seeking £28m from the £1.3bn City Deal programme in the coming years, which it expects to help leverage a further £32m of public and private funding.
“The impact of Covid-19 has further heightened the importance of Pembroke Dock Marine, so the project’s approval is very welcome news for Pembrokeshire’s residents and businesses,” said Cllr David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire Council. “Worth £73.5 million a year, Pembroke Dock Marine will also make our economy more resilient in future by transforming Pembrokeshire and the City Region as a whole into a global example of best practice for zero carbon, marine energy innovation.
“With phase one of the Marine Energy Test Area having already opened last year, we now stand ready and wholly committed to accelerate working with our partners to deliver the project. This project will place Pembrokeshire and the City Region at the heart of a growing global industry, helping further raise the region’s profile as a place to do business and invest in.”
His comments were echoed by Andy Jones, chief executive of the Port of Milford Haven, who said the latest approval was “an exciting step – not just for Pembrokeshire and the region but also for our economy, our communities and our environment as we work towards net zero decarbonisation targets”.
The marine energy industry is hoping to receive a boost from the government’s imminent green recovery package.
The UK boasts some of the best marine energy resources in the world and is home to a number of leading developers and test centres.
However, technical challenges and concerns over the relatively high cost of wave and tidal energy technologies have meant the sector has to date struggled to emulate the success of the offshore wind and solar sectors.
But advocates for the industry maintain that stable policy support and R&D funding could enable it to slash costs in the coming years, allowing it to provide a reliable and sizeable source of clean energy in support of the UK’s net zero emissions goals.
With increased interest in environmental topics by incoming students as evidenced by year-over-year growth in interest metrics tracked by the HBS Business and Environment Initiative (BEI) and the founding of the Sustainability Club, we saw sustainability curriculum as a driver for admitted student matriculation into the HBS program. Further, during our own business school application processes, we were struck by how challenging it was to identify HBS’s sustainability and environment related course offerings, and how few there seemed to be compared to the other leading business schools.
This realization led us to develop a project aimed at analyzing the EC sustainability course offerings, making information about the existing offerings more accessible to RCs during the course selection process and to provide recommendations on how HBS can expand its sustainability course offerings.
To deliver on our analysis we devised an action plan which consisted of four major parts:
Refining the scope of the project with input from the BEI, SSAs, and HBS Faculty.
Creating an initial quantitative benchmarking of the EC curriculum relative to peer schools and best-in-class sustainability schools to inform the second iteration of analysis.
Further diving into course analysis with input from faculty to identify and recommend EC course offerings and improvement plans.
Circulating the findings of our analysis by:
Providing interested RCs with a comprehensive list of sustainability course offerings at HBS, and graduate schools eligible for cross-registration (namely Harvard Law School, Harvard Kennedy School, and MIT Sloan).
Working with the BEI to institutionalize this analysis on a yearly basis.
Partnering with faculty to develop future sustainability course offerings driven by student input.
With these findings, we dove deeper and organized course offerings across schools into the HBS course Units to allow faculty at HBS to analyze their own Unit’s performance relative to other business schools. We found that while most other business schools have a Clean Energy course, a Sustainable Finance course, and a Sustainable Operations course, HBS currently does not offer any such courses.
EC course offerings are based on student demand. For a specific course offering to exist, students must fill the class through the EC course ranking system. Supply and Demand drive the existence of all EC courses.
To facilitate sustainability related course offerings, data of student demand can be instrumental in making the case for adding a new course.
One immediate outcome of the analysis was the creation of “EC Sustainability Classes Infographic” – an easy-to-read infographic to help current RC students choose their EC courses. The infographic lays out HBS course offerings and Harvard cross-registration opportunities that EC students have successfully taken in the past.
Recommendations and Next Steps
Based on the business school benchmarking exercise and our conversations with faculty, staff and students, we recommend the following next steps:
Develop a Short Intensive Program (SIP) related to Sustainability to be offered in January 2021.
One related offering for 2021 is Tough Tech led by Jim Matheson.
We also recommend the creation of SIP that is entirely environmental sustainability focused and ideally has “sustainability” or “climate” in the title, which is important in conveying to students that environmental issues will be central (rather than tangential) to the class.
Investigate new EC course offerings in lagging Units
Energy Course – FIN, BGIE, STRAT
Operations Sustainability – TOM
Sustainability / Clean Tech Entrepreneurship – ENTR (could partner with Greentown Labs in Cambridge)
Survey RCs on potential course offerings
Develop sustainability course prototypes and survey RCs just after EC course selection to quantify interest in new courses
Work with BEI to handoff EC Course Infographic for yearly updates and distribution to students.
Work with BEI to ensure sustainability related courses don’t compete for the same time slots in EC year.
A Note of Thanks
We would like to thank Jennifer Nash and Elise Clarkson for their help on this project as well as Professors Mike Toffel and Rebecca Henderson for their continued support. Additionally, we would like to thank Courtney Fairbrother, Leah Ricci, and Allison Webster from the Harvard Operations Sustainability group for their support and input.
How information, incentives and inspiration can make a difference
We’ve all been there: you’re in a pinch and you’re on the go, but you’re hungry, thirsty, or both. What usually comes to your rescue? Plastic! Whether it’s in the form of drink bottles or takeaway coffee cups, plastic houses our favorite drinks. Yet, we pay too little attention to it: how it’s made before it reaches us or where it goes after we throw it away.
But when bottled and takeaway drinks becomes a frequent habit, the waste piles up. In our use and-throw culture, we throw 2.5 million plastic bottles away every hour, each of which take an average of 450 years to decompose. Every 1-liter bottle takes 250 mL of oil to create. You’d think that, at least for the bottles, we can recycle the plastic, but we’re still not very good at that…only 9% of plastics are recycled globally, despite many more being recyclable. Reduction remains the best option, especially when it’s relatively easy and can keep sustainability “top of mind.”
At Harvard Business School (HBS), we sell thousands of plastic bottles and to-go dishes every week (often even when we are indeed dining “to-stay” in the Spangler Center). HBS uses compostable materials for the majority of takeaway, which is certainly better for the environment than plastic, but worse than using reusables in its lifecycle environmental cost. As it’s too easy to forget, even compostable cups require a large amount of material and energy to produce — a disproportionate waste for the twenty minutes that they are used.
Plastic reduction thus intrinsically links to the global climate change crisis we face, and the role business leaders play in addressing it. After all, nearly a third of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions stem from how we make, consume, and dispose of things. It also aligns with Harvard’s own goals: the Harvard Sustainability Plan aims to reduce waste per capita 50% by 2020 from a 2006 baseline, with the aspirational goal of becoming a zero-waste campus.
With this in mind, we sought to understand how we could reduce our waste footprint without sacrificing the convenient options we enjoy. We split this into two parts – Bottles and To-Go Ware.
We began by aligning our project with Restaurant Associates‘ (RA), the lovely staff who run on-campus food operations. After hearing their thoughts, we decided the first step was to understand how students felt about plastic beverages and benchmark best practices with other Harvard schools and organizations.
We put together a survey, which was filled out by 270 Required Curriculum (RC) students and revealed several insights. We were pleased to find that students were overwhelmingly supportive about stopping or reducing bottled beverage offerings: 80% of respondents felt neutral to very positive about the prospect, and over 90% already used reusable water bottles. We then wondered why, despite such interest, many students were not using existing sustainable options like the Grille’s Freestyle machines, which allowed you to dispense drinks into reusable/polycarbonate cups. We found that there was low awareness about these machines, and that students sought a variety of options in their drink of choice that were not offered through fountain dispensers. Looking ahead, we recommend that HBS increase awareness of these machines and diversify the drinks that are available through them: our survey revealed a particular enthusiasm for sparkling water, which could be offered as a way to increase popularity and early adoption! We also recommend reducing the “real estate” currently devoted to plastic options and swapping free water bottles at events for pitchers/cans, nudging those who might be choosing bottles simply on a whim.
“We use way too much plastic already, but now we have the opportunity to be a leader in sustainability,” “It would be better for the environment if we stopped offering plastic bottles,” and “This is a good idea that will just take some adjusting.”
We also recognize that a minority of students remain skeptical about reducing plastic bottles, but hope that many of their concerns could be addressed through the use of more sustainable materials. We also continue to work out operational, sanitation and price concerns regarding queues, post-pandemic hygiene and affordability. Despite these challenges, we believe we can make a concrete difference to how students view and use plastic bottles on campus, leading them to more sustainable dispensers and conscious consumption. We also hope that the sales and waste data we collect can inform the creation of a “how-to” primer for other plastic-free organizations.
The cup habit
Our second objective was to reduce the number of to-go cups used on campus. HBS students love coffee and tea, so this had the potential for huge environmental impact – without sacrificing the much needed caffeine intake that fuels our day. Although HBS already offered a “large coffee for the price of small” promotion when bringing one’s mug, we felt the traction this has gained was below potential. We considered several options – a discount for bringing your own mug, a surcharge for to-go ware, a loyalty card – that could more effectively incentivize behavioral change. Based on our survey, research and conversations with RA, we found great support for discounting the price of hot drinks bought in reusable mugs. To calculate how high such a discount could be, we ran a unit economics analysis (armed with learnings from first-year strategy and operations courses) to estimate how expensive it was to produce, buy and compost the cup – externalities to the environment included. We found these costs to be $0.50-0.75 per cup, a discount HBS could offer for those who brought their own mugs without sacrificing revenues (and even increasing them as usage grew!).
We then studied various barriers that prevented students from carrying their own mug. The biggest one, our survey revealed, was lack of awareness. Many students wanted to change their behavior, but were simply not aware that discounts existed or how big the scale of the plastics problem was. We therefore made advertisement and awareness a central pillar of our proposal, offering ideas for using infographics, barista-training and on-campus “influencers” (looking at you, Dean Nohria!) to spread the message. We also found non-monetary blockers to behavioral change — such as the mess of washing the mug or not owning a leak-proof one at all. To address these, we suggested “quick tips” on reusable cup use and recommended replicating the success of company- and section-branded cups by offering all incoming RCs mugs that doubled as college stash.
With these multi-pronged approaches and the support of HBS staff and faculty, we hope we can create stickiness to the habit and crucially, make people think twice before they consume plastic bottles and takeaway cups. To amplify the impact, we aim to monitor and share usage and revenue data following our nudge programs and share them with other schools to inform change. One plastic bottle and coffee cup at a time, we hope these lifestyle changes both create impact and push future business leaders to be concerned about the environment.
Silverstream Technologies solution smothers ships’ hulls in bubbles to save on fuel. Credit: Silverstream Technologies
Silverstream Technologies has developed a system where a carpet of microbubbles is spread across a ship’s hull in order to reduce friction, save fuel and slash carbon emissions.
A clean technology firm that has developed a system that spreads a carpet of micro-bubbles between a ship’s hull and the water to reduce drag and enhance fuel efficiency has landed a £1m deal with Carnival Cruises.
Silverstream Technologies’ innovative system, which pumps tiny bubbles through vents on a boat’s hull to reduce friction between the vessel and the water, reduces fuel consumption by between five to 12 per cent, according to the Department of International Trade.
Minister for Exports Graham Stuart yesterday touted the technology as the “perfect example” of how maritime businesses can leverage new technology to slash their carbon footprint.
This week’s deal with the US cruise giant is the latest in a string of contracts secured by Silverstream Technologies of late, following agreements with Grimaldi Group, oil giant Shell’s shipping division, and Lloyd’s Register.
The DoIT, trade advisor for the London-based clean tech firm, said that it expected the company’s overall turnover to double by the end of the year, due to pipeline of deals in Europe and Asia.
Noah Silberschmidt, Silverstream Technologies founder and chief executive, wants the microbubble technology to establish a greener global shipping standard. “Shipping is one of the hard to decarbonise global industries so we have spent the last few years independently testing our system to support our claims,” he said. “We want to become a standard on new build vessels in the industry and to be the ‘new normal’ for sustainable shipping.”
The carbon-intensive maritime sector, which facilitates 95 per cent of all of the UK trade, has a long way to go before it reaches its net zero emissions target by mid-century.
But Stuart said that companies like Silverstream would contribute to the country reaching its zero carbon goal. “The UK is a global leader in green transport solutions and the perfect place for companies like Silverstream to go global and contribute to our net zero 2050 ambition,” he said.
Harry Thechari, chair of Maritime UK, echoed the minister’s sentiment. “Silverstream Technologies shows that innovative solutions are being found to help the maritime sector reach its net zero carbon emissions challenge – and then be exported around the world. With 90 per cent of all global trade moving by ship, the market opportunity is vast,” he said. “By developing cutting-edge green technologies, our businesses are delivering sustainable solutions and real economic and societal benefits.”
This everyday biking seminar is geared toward sharing the knowledge and empowerment to take your riding into your own hands, and getting out on the roads, bike lanes, and pathways to get yourself to exercise, run errands, and have fun. Biking is fast, free, and fun (and you’ll get fit), and the experts at MassBike have honed their tips to get you over those barriers. Come with your questions and your stories, and learn along with fellow bikers on campus. You may even gain a bike-buddy to try the commute!
Please join us for a lunchtime virtual workshop to host a presentation and Q&A about riding. The knowledgeable instructors from MassBike will go through the basics in an hour-long presentation, and answer questions coming from our attendees.
This event is hosted by Harvard’s CommuterChoice and MassBike, but is for everyone! Please invite anyone you’re quarantined with. Please RSVP and you will receive an email with the Zoom invitation.
A new angel fund dedicated to decarbonization (18:50)
Ramez Naam, futurist and board member for Seattle-based angel investor network E8, chats about the new Decarbon-8 fund and why seeking racially diverse founders will be a priority. “Because if we are going to help some people build companies in this, and they’re going to profit, as the entrepreneurs should, we’d like some of that to go back into those people, in those communities,” he says.
Funding biodiversity (31:14)
William Ginn, author of the new book “Valuing Nature,” talks with Associate Editor Deonna Anderson about ways the private sector can address biodiversity.
Voices of the clean energy equity movement (48:25)
GreenBiz Senior Analyst Sarah Golden shares highlights of conversations with Bartees Cox, director of marketing and communications at Groundswell, an organization that brings community solar to low-income customers; Alexis Cureton, former electric vehicle fellow at GRID Alternatives, which works to bring clean energy jobs and access to low-income communities; and Taj Eldridge, senior director of investment at Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator.
*Music in this episode by Blue Dot Sessions, AdmiralBob 77, Stefan Kartenburg and Lee Rosevere: “Throughput,” “Our Fingers Cold” and “Hundred Mile — Atmospheric” (Blue Dot); “Two Guitars” (AdmiralBob 77); “The Vendetta,” “Guitale’s Happy Place” and “Arc de Triomphe” (Kartenburg); “Curiosity” and “I’m Going for a Coffee” (Rosevere)
*This episode was sponsored by UPS.
Mark your calendar for these upcoming GreenBiz webcasts. Can’t join live? All of these events also will be available on demand.
The future of risk assessment. Ideas for building a supply chain resilient to both short-term disruptions such as the pandemic and long-term risks such as climate change. Register here for the session at 1 p.m. EDT June 16.
Supply chains and circularity.Join us at 1 p.m. EDT June 23 for a discussion of how companies such as Interface are getting suppliers to buy into circular models for manufacturing, distribution and beyond.
Fleet of clean fleet. Real-life lessons for trucking’s future. Sign up for the conversation at 1 p.m. EDT July 2.
State of the Profession. Our sixth report examining the evolving role of corporate sustainability leaders. Download it here.
The State of Green Business 2020. Our 13th annual analysis of key metrics and trends published here.
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