Designing Scalable Programs – Lessons for Non-Profits

Being resource constrained is the reality for nearly all organizations, regardless of industry, mission, or size. Non-profit organizations, however, face the additional challenges of being mission-driven, not cash-flow generating with big plans and small budgets. In working with a small, San Francisco-based non-profit this summer designing a strategy to scale their organization’s reach on a global scale, I learned a lot about the questions to ask and had the following thoughts:

  • Define success early, figure out how to measure progress towards it 6-ways from Sunday, and design flexible-enough programs that can be adjusted as the understanding of success changes.
  • Design IT infrastructure and technology ecosystems that will allow you to capture the information needed to measure success across geographies, manage/facilitate your communication with relevant stakeholders, and provide data to support your flexible management approaches.
  • Understand your organization’s internal strengths and weaknesses and staff accordingly. When scaling internationally, ask yourself if your organization geographic, cultural, technical prowess to be successful – and identify and (aggressively) screen local partners that will play to your weaknesses.
  • Make a timeline! Don’t worry about sticking to it – but use it as a roadmap to keep your organization on track.

Key Takeaways from a Summer Facilitating Greener Marine Transportation

Photo by Fahrul Azmi

Over the past few months, I have had an opportunity to work on projects mostly focused around enabling businesses to be more sustainable in their marine cargo supply chains. While this work was extremely interesting, the overwhelming majority of it had more to do with learning the languages of supply chain procurement, business logistics, and collaborations. Here is a brief summary of what I have learned:

  • Everybody reports up, s**t  always rolls downhill, and there are always going to be more people involved in a decision that you originally anticipated. The take away here is that it is always important to ensure that you understand the objectives of a business as well as your clients before you make a recommendation. So always start by asking questions, taking notes, and encouraging the company to bring all relevant decision-makers to the table early so that you can get the background and make the right recommendations that will resonate.
  • Businesses want to do the right thing – the right thing for their bottom line, their shareholders, their customers, their social license to operate, and the environment. In a world where there is so much chaos and opportunity for improvement, it is important to find the lowest hanging fruit first. Identifying opportunities for business to do the “right thing” that will also positively impact another one of their Key Success Factors (KSFs) and working your way up the tree by building trust and a good working relationship is the key to bringing about more meaningful change in the private sector without having to resort to policy.
  • There are two types of organizations: Organizations that want to be ahead of policy, and organizations that are compliance driven. While it is important to keep in contact with both types of organizations, it is even more important to understand that behavior change is a long and arduous process, and your time might be better served working with the cutting edge to then inform sound policy and bring the laggards along that way.
  • Understanding inter-company dynamics within a value-chain or business ecosystem is important for the purposes of coalition building. Without profound vertical and horizontal collaboration, progress in the area of efficiency gains and sustainability is virtually impossible.

Photo by Josh Spires

Driving for Sustainability in Maritime Cargo

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

Everyone who has spent time in or around a port city has seen one: a massive container ship, loaded high with containers bound for various markets near and far. Despite their visibility in port areas, most consumers (and regulators and environmentalists) demonstrate a lack of understanding of just how vital this industry is to our economy, environment, and goals to build a more just and sustainable world for all.

Today, the international shipping industry is responsible for the transport of around 90% of world trade, about 2.5% of global GHG emissions, and is the underpinning of our globalized economy. As companies companies continue to globalize and goods continue to need to be moved between various production centers and consumers, the growth of the container shipping industry is only expected to keep pace. Studies suggest that depending on future economic and energy developments, shipping emissions are set to increase between 50% and 250% by 2050. (EU Commission)

Photo by Freddie Collins on Unsplash

These findings have been determined by regulators and shippers (those who own the cargo) to be incompatible with both their public and private-sector commitments during COP21 in Paris in 2015, and thus the spotlight has been shown squarely on this previously out-of-sight, out-of-mind industry to make sure to clean up their act. In 2015, the EU Commission and Parliament implemented their Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification program (EU MRV), requiring ship owners and operators to annually monitor, report and verify CO2 emissions for vessels larger than 5,000 gross tonnage (GT) calling at any EU and EFTA (Norway and Iceland) port beginning on January 1, 2018. Similarly, the IMO announced in 2018 that they would also be requiring the reporting of fuel consumption data for any vessels over 5,000 GT making international voyages beginning on January 1, 2019.

There are two pieces of good news here:

Photo by Mikkel Jonck Schmidt on Unsplash

First, it must be said that although regulation has been slow to catch-up to mandate a change in industry behavior, there is already a massive push for sustainability that is coming from within the marine cargo value-chain itself. Shippers – those companies like Nike, H&M, Ikea, Walmart, etc. who own the cargo and contract with carriers like Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, etc. who own the vessels – have become increasingly sophisticated when it comes to understanding their emissions from operations as a result of both public and shareholder pressures. Further, these companies are now finding themselves in need of better understanding their emissions from transportation in order to continue to build a more complete picture of their GHG footprint and many are now even integrating sustainability metrics as key decision factors in procurement decisions. These business leaders engage with each other through the Clean Cargo Working Group, a collaborative initiative supported by BSR that was the first ever body to develop a standardized reporting framework from marine cargo shipping built around enabling sustainability-focused business decision.

Second, advances in both energy and network technologies have opened the door for massive efficiency gains, poised to revolutionize the landscape of container shipping before 2050. Alternative fuels such as HVO, LNG, Hydrogen, and yes – even electrification – are already popping up in the fleet composition of global carriers. Further, IoT-sensor-based monitoring, block-chain-enabled port management, and AI-assisted vessel operation and terminal logistics projects are already operational in Hamburg, Los Angeles, Rotterdam and the new IBM-Maersk joint venture TradeLens. According to the IMO, these existing operational and technological advances have the ability to reduce sector emissions by over 75% if fully implemented, and are a crucial step towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of this industry.