Thursday, November 19, 2009

Downstream Pressure and Collaboration

For those of you who think working in CSR is all about aligning initiatives with a company's strategy, rest assured that there are much more tactical projects that cross my desk. It's no secret that everyone in this field is thinking about supply chain impacts. With Walmart pushing for asustainability index and requiring that its suppliers answer 15 questions regarding their sustainability practices, every company is thinking about how to go about this in practice.

My company is a Walmart supplier. And Walmart's focus on sustainability is great for someone in my position. Here's an important customer that cares about my work and here's a fantastic opportunity to show how what I do adds real, tangible value for our company.

Recently, this "customer pressure" has translated into a new project for me. I've been working with one of our sales executives and several Walmart executives on demonstrating the financial and environmental value of one of our service offerings.

I just got off the phone with members of the Walmart team and I think we have our project mapped out. Now, it's a matter of finding the right people in my organization who have the information and data I need to perform my analysis ... all before our next call in two weeks.

It's an interesting project, but it's one that's very tactical. I'm looking forward to working on something a bit more tangible and data-driven, but it requires me to dig deep and remember some lessons from modeling (financial and otherwise) classes. What's tricky (and exciting) here, is that there's no clear and easy way to approach this. It's a new project and it requires the company to think in a different way. I cannot lean on the past work of other colleagues, but I have to chart a new course.

Having worked on similar projects in the past, I know that the math may be fuzzy and no one will confirm that I'm approaching this in the right way. Instead, I'll get a lot of questions and people will (rightfully) wonder if my approach is the most logical one. There are no clear answers to these questions, but we can arrive at a good approximation of our environmental impacts.

In the end, it's a great chance for me to work with people from other companies and to see firsthand how they approach sustainability. It will give some visibility to my work and hopefully demonstrate that I can be of service to other parts of the business as well!

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