3p Contributor: Deborah Fleischer

Deborah Fleischer is founder and president of Green Impact, a strategic sustainability consulting practice that helps companies walk the green talk. She helps companies design and launch new green strategies and programs, as well as communicate about successes. She is a GRI-certified sustainability reporter and LEED AP with a Master in Environmental Studies from Yale University and over 20-years of direct experience working on sustainability-related challenges in both the public and private sectors. She brings deep expertise in sustainability strategy, stakeholder engagement, program development and written communications.Deborah has helped to design and implement numerous successful cross-sector partnerships and new green initiatives, including the California Environmental Dialogue, Curb Your Carbon and the Institute at the Golden Gate.She has helped create lasting alliances among such organizations as Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy with companies such as Disney, Arco, Bank of America and Passport Resorts.You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact or contact her directly at Deborah@greenimpact.com.

Recent Articles

Annie Leonard: Reconnecting to Your Role as a Changemaker

| Wednesday October 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

musclesIn the wake of the success of the Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard, now executive director of Greenpeace, had the opportunity to travel to dozens of colleges and universities.  In her keynote talk at the opening ceremony of the AASHE 2014 conference in Portland on Sunday, she shared that while in college she thought of the journey to sustainability as a sprint.  Today, she has matured into thinking about it as a relay race, where we might not be around to see the results we are working toward.

According to Leonard, change is slow and hard.  Below are several tips from Leonard on how to reconnect with your role as a changemaker and recommendations on leverage points that can make a real difference, including commit to 100 percent renewable energy, divest from fossil fuels, leverage purchasing and encourage student engagement, as well as some great advice on how to stay positive on the path to sustainability (don’t miss the last quote at the bottom of the post). While targeted toward higher education professionals, many of these tips apply to any company or institution.

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Six Tips for Improving Your Rank as a Green School

| Friday August 29th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Green Impact blog.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Sierra Club’s Annual Cool Schools rankings are out.  And the winner is … the University of California, Irvine. Congratulations, Anteaters!

After assessing the methodology and rankings of the top winners, compared to the others, I offer the following six tips for increasing your ranking as a green school:

  1. Participate in STARS;
  2. Tackle waste reduction, energy use, and water use;
  3. Create a sustainability hub;
  4. Craft and promote success stories;
  5. Tackle sustainable food; and
  6. Don’t shy away from SRI.

1. Participate in STARS

UCI, and the other top winners, are a participant in Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance. American University, ranked No. 2, is STARS Gold rated.  The Sierra Club rankings are based on a survey, officially called the Campus Sustainability Data Collector.  Schools did not need to be members of AASHE’s STARS program to use the collector, however, I am sure reporting of the data is much easier for campuses that have already gathered the appropriate data into the STARS system.  Click here to learn more about how the ratings were scored.

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3 Tips for Transforming Hospital Food Into Something More Sustainable

| Tuesday August 19th, 2014 | 2 Comments

Sustainable Food DFThe University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is world renowned for its cutting-edge research and medical care. It is also a leader in sustainability, modeling healthy, sustainable food choices for patients, staff and visitors. In the recent 2014 townhall (see minute 21.20), an attendee asked University of California Office of the President (UCOP) President Janet Napolitano about UCOP’s sustainable food initiative, advocating for a move away from an animal-based diet. She responded that while UC is not moving toward a total vegetation approach, campuses are adjusting their procurement process to buy food from smaller, organic growers. Napolitano commended UCSF for its sustainable food efforts, notably efforts to eliminate antibiotics from the meat it serves at UCSF Medical Center.

I had the opportunity to speak with Dan Henroid, the medical center’s director of nutrition and food services, to reflect on UCSF’s successes and challenges as it moves the needle on sustainable food. Based on our discussion, I offer the following three tips for other hospitals and institutions seeking to improve the sustainability of the food they serve:

  1. Reduce conventional meat consumption in order to purchase more sustainable meat;
  2. Collaborate to promote sustainable food practices; and
  3. Get your local team on board.

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6 Tips for Making Your First Crowdfunding Campaign a Success

| Wednesday June 25th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: A version of this post originally appeared on Green Impact.


Today, more and more nonprofits and universities are turning to online crowdfunding to support projects, research, and entrepreneurship. In January a Forbes article reported that 2013 “yielded an estimated $5 billion in global crowdfunding with about 30 percent of that total going to social causes.”  When many people make a small donation, magic can happen.

In the spring of this year, Green Impact had the opportunity to support the Haas School of Business Center for Responsible Business (CRB) design and launch its first crowdfunding campaign.  The campaign was a great success, raising over $125,000, which was matched by an alumnus, bringing the total support to over $250,000 for the Haas Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Fund.  As reported in Haas Newsroom,  “The crowdfunding platforms aim to attract engagement and financial support for research and innovation, community activity, and entrepreneurial ventures that typically fall between the campus normal funding methods and models.”

Is crowdfunding for you?  A crowdfunding campaign might make sense if:

  • You want to raise money for a specific project or campaign;
  • You can create a sense of urgency within a specific period of time—for example, matching funds will be offered for the next six weeks;
  • You have an existing network of supporters you can tap into; and
  • You have the staff capacity to manage the campaign.

Haas chose the ScaleFunder platform, a crowdfunding provider that focuses on nonprofit, university, and technology funding. UCLA is also using the platform for UCLA Spark, an online crowdfunding platform aimed at providing critical fundraising support for innovative projects by UCLA faculty and official student organizations.Other popular platforms include Kickstarter,Indiegogo, and CauseVox. Check out How to Use Crowd-Funding Sites to Raise Money for Your Non-Profit for more details on the different platform options.

As I reflect back on the campaign, I offer six tips to help you maximize the success of your first campaign:

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Conflict Minerals: 4 Keys to Conflict-Free Supply Chains

| Wednesday June 13th, 2012 | 2 Comments

With Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) rules on conflict minerals expected out by the end of June, there has been a flurry of conference panels, blog posts, videos and articles on the importance of knowing what lurks in your supply chain.

This article offers 4 keys to navigating your supply chain so you can ensure it is conflict free:

  1. Understand the issue: There are a variety of good resources available to get informed about the impact of conflict minerals, including an upcoming Webinar by Source 44 and a slightly older, but excellent video by the Enough Project (full disclosure, Green Impact is helping to produce the Webinar).
  2. Build on the EICC/GeSI Protocol: Don’t reinvent the wheel–build your response upon the successes of the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC) and Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) reporting template, even if you are in a different industry.
  3. Go deep into your supply chain: Successfully understanding what is lurking in your supply chain will require more than sending out a spreadsheet to your Tier 1 suppliers.
  4. Get ahead of the regulatory curve: There is no need to wait until the regulations are promulgated to begin navigating your supply chain. While the final details of implementation are unclear, the intention of the Dodd-Frank act is clear – if you have conflict minerals in your supply chain, be prepared to disclose your due diligence strategy.

Let’s get into detail on each point…

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CSR 2.0: Seventh Generation’s New Report Goes Beyond the THUD Factor

| Monday November 1st, 2010 | 2 Comments

Seventh Generation’s new sustainability report, Corporate Responsibility 2.0 was released last week.  Those familiar with last year’s award-winning report (named by Ceres as best SME report), will be pleasantly surprised by the changes this year.  While the report still holds true to Seventh Generation’s reputation for a high level of transparency and great design, this year’s report has a new twist:  it is an entirely web-based, interactive report.

I had the opportunity to speak with Chris Miller, corporate consciousness manager at Seventh Generation, to get some insight into the report. Earlier this year, I wrote about the five attributes that go into a great sustainability report.  I’m going to use these five criteria as the framework for reviewing Seventh Generation’s new report:  materiality, stakeholder inclusiveness, target setting and tracking, completeness and ease of use.  Plus a new one I want to add:  transparency.

I’ve been recently criticized for not being positive enough in some recent reviews.  Well, I am breaking that trend here–this is a very solid report and the new format is a model I hope others will consider.

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Questions Every CEO Should be Asking About CSR Reporting

| Friday October 29th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sustainability Reporting:  Seven questions CEOs and boards should ask was released yesterday by Ernst & Young, as part of the Webinar they held on reporting.

The paper explores the following questions:

  1. Who issues sustainability reports?
  2. Why release a sustainability report if you don’t have to?
  3. What information should a sustainability report contain?
  4. What sort of governance, systems and processes are needed to report on sustainability?
  5. Do sustainability reports have to be audited?
  6. Challenges and risks of reporting
  7. How can companies get the most value out of issuing a sustainability report?

The Webinar explored the same questions, with discussion by several experts, including Mike Wallace from the GRI.  A summary from the report follows.

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The Green Corporate Ladder and Closing the Salary Gap: Four Tips for Women

| Wednesday October 27th, 2010 | 5 Comments

GreenBiz.com’s 2010 CSR salary survey report came out this week.    As reported by GreenBiz.com, some of the interesting trends detailed in the GreenBiz Salary report include:

Compensation is strong: Sustainability executives are compensated at salaries comparable to those of their peers at larger companies. Vice presidents of sustainability earn an average of $192,064, whereas directors of sustainability earn an average of $160,320 and sustainability managers earn an average of $103,197.

Execs are smart: Sustainability executives tend to be well educated, as 65 percent of vice presidents, 57 percent of directors and 58 percent of managers have master’s degrees. Managers with master’s degrees earned almost twenty percent more than those with bachelor’s degrees.

But two other key trends were apparent to me after reviewing the report:

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Ernst & Young: Triple Bottom Line Reporting and What CEOs Should Ask About It

| Tuesday October 26th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Ernst & Young’s upcoming Webcast on Triple Bottom Line Reporting: Creating business value while mitigation risk reflects the growing trend of traditional financial reporting and sustainability issues intersecting.  I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Starbuck, the Leader of Ernst & Youngs’s Climate Change and Sustainability Services Practice.  The firm is in an interesting position to integrate sustainability into its core services:  assurance, advisory, tax and transaction advisory services.  In addition, it has created a specialty service focused on the triple bottom line, including a focus on helping clients with pre-reporting readiness, such as data gathering, identifying metrics and advising on ratings and criteria.

We spoke about the business case for sustainability reporting and the upcoming Webcast. Starbuck explained, “The Webcast is going to be focused on understanding the business value and risks of sustainability reporting and will talk about the different channels companies are using today to report their sustainability performance.  And we are also going to focus on our upcoming white paper–Seven Things CEOs and Boards Should Ask About Triple Bottom Line Reporting.”

Why Report?

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Sustainable Brands Seminar Series: An Opportunity to Go Deeper

| Monday October 25th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sustainable Brands Seminar Series debuted in San Francisco earlier this month and will be hitting the road later this year, traveling to Twin Cities, New Jersey/NYC and Austin.  I attended the first two days, in a series of five, which focused on Brand Strategy with Jennifer Rice from Fruitful Strategies and Communications with John Marshall Roberts from Worldview Learning.

The seminars attracted a small, yet lively mix of communications and marketing consultants and companies, both brand names and smaller start-ups. The format of day-long workshops was designed to allow sustainability professionals to dive into a topic and go deeper than time allows at the typical Sustainable Brands conference session.

I think it is a great model, and I enjoyed the opportunity to focus in for the day on specific topics.  I would have liked even more time for sharing and discussion among participants and think a stronger showing from companies would make the experience even richer.

The series includes five topics:

  • Brand Strategy: Building the Credible Sustainable Brand
  • Communications: Designing Communications that Resonate
  • Product Design: Sustainable Product Design: an LCA Approach
  • Supply Chain: Making Supply Chains More Sustainable
  • Data and Metrics: Managing Your Sustainable Brand Plan: Management Systems & Metrics for Driving Ideas to Reality

To register, click here.  To hear some of the highlights from the first two days, read on.

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Symantec: Trends in Sustainability Reporting

| Monday October 11th, 2010 | 1 Comment

This is the second in a series of posts on GRI and some of the trends in sustainability reporting.  The first piece focused on the new and growing trend of integrating sustainability metrics into annual reports. This piece focuses on the business case for reporting and highlights Symantec’s new on-line corporate responsibility report.

Try poking around Symantec’s new on-line corporate responsibility report, released today!

While I often find the typical  60 + page corporate social responsibility (CSR) report overwhelming, this user-friendly, on-line format worked for me.   I was impressed with how quickly I understood the company’s key issues.  And I easily pulled together a customized, printable report with the sections I was most interested in.

Last week I had the opportunity to have a lively conversation with Cecily Joseph, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Symantec, about the new report and trends in sustainability reporting. First we explored the obvious question, why bother reporting at all.  I was also interested in her perspective on the value of the GRI framework, especially to beginners.  And finally, we explored the issues of materiality and transparency, two best practices the new report has embraced.

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SunChips: Is Sustainability too Crunchy?

| Friday October 8th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Source: AP Images

It was just last year, with much fanfare, that I heard about the new biodegradable SunChips bag at Sutustainable Brands 09. And while the crunch of the new bags is not new news (it was even reported in the Wall Street Journal), I was surprised and sad to learn yesterday that Frito-Lay has decided to revert to the original non-biodegradable bag for five or its six SunChips brand bags because…of complaints from customers that they are too crunchy.  I kid you not.

There are now dueling SunChips Facebook pages.

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The One Report: Combining Financial and CSR Reports

| Monday October 4th, 2010 | 0 Comments

This is the first in a series of posts on GRI and some of the trends in sustainability reporting.  This first piece focuses on the new and growing trend of integrating sustainability metrics into annual reports. And suggests that perhaps your company should consider sending someone from finance to a GRI training.

In a recent story from Harvard Business School (HBS), Reinventing the Annual Report, Robert G. Ecces coins the term, “One Report,” which combines the financial and CSR/sustainability reports into one document that “provides the essential information on a company’s financial, environmental, social and governance performance and shows the relationships between them.”  Understanding GRI reporting concepts, such as the materiality principle and indicator selection, will be helpful to anyone tasked with overseeing an integrated annual report.

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Communicating Sustainability 2010: Three Best Practices Shared on Day 1

| Thursday September 23rd, 2010 | 3 Comments

I had the opportunity to attend Communicating Sustainability 2010 yesterday, a conference organized by Communitellegence and hosted by Applied Materials that focused on “integrating green and responsibility into your organizations DNA.”  The gathering’s intimate flavor and smaller size was refreshing and allowed for meaningful dialogue.

The agenda focused on sustainability communications, employee engagement and stakeholder engagement, as well as metrics and managing data. A highlight was the opportunity to hear directly from sustainability professionals in the trenches from companies such as eBay, McKesson, SAP, Sprint and Applied Materials.

While many solutions were discussed, three communications best practices stood out for me:

  • Start a conversation with employees
  • Deliver CSR reports in a web-based format
  • Use video and humor to educate employees on sustainability

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Green Teams: Three Examples eBay is Using to Meet Corporate Sustainability Goals

| Friday September 17th, 2010 | 2 Comments

Green teams and employee engagement. These two buzz words seems to be gaining traction. Earlier this year, GreenBiz.com launched a new green team center. And the topic is starting to be included on conference agendas; Communicating Sustainability 2010, hosted by Applied Materials next week, includes an emphasis on employee engagement.

Earlier today I participated in the latest green team offering, a Webinar on Green Teams and Employee Engagement:  How Volunteers Can Help Meet Corporate Sustainability Goals, sponsored by AltaTerra Research. The session summarized AltaTerra’s recent research on how to engage volunteer green teams in advancing organizational business and sustainability goals, and I believe a white paper will be following shortly.

Things perked up for me when Lorin May, Senior Manager, Environment Programs at eBay, provided an update on how it is engaging employees on sustainability and green teams.  Here are three examples of how eBay is using green teams to meet corporate sustainability goals:

  • Connect green teams to other business functions
  • Develop processes for idea generation and action
  • Engage green teams to be part of educational campaigns

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