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Unboxing Logistics: An EasyPost Podcast

Navigating ESG in Logistics and Retail With Alanna Fishman From FTI Consulting - Ep. 32

June 20, 2024 | 43:02

In This Episode

What is ESG, how is it different from sustainability, and when should your company start an ESG program? Alanna Fishman, managing director at FTI Consulting, joins us on this episode of Unboxing Logistics to share why ESG is critical to a business’s long-term success. 

ESG vs. sustainability

Alanna explains, “ESG literally stands for environmental, social, governance.” ESG programs focus on minimizing risks and bringing value to businesses. 

To illustrate the difference between ESG and sustainability, Alanna shares an example. “Here's a sustainability statement: We believe in minimizing our footprint on the environment by reducing the amount of carbon we emit into the atmosphere. … An ESG statement would be, we are going to reduce our carbon footprint by X percent by 2025 because we can see that … this could result in millions of dollars of fines or fees or compliance costs.”

Why ESG?

Currently, the U.S. has fewer environmental regulations than many other countries. Because of this, many organizations wonder if investing in ESG is really worth it. Alanna assures us that it is. 

“You have to identify the risks that could potentially impact you from a financial or brand perspective. That includes environmental and social indicators—they're huge. You wouldn't run a good business by turning a blind eye to things that have an impact on you.”

She adds, “[ESG is] what brings in the best talent. It's what makes you want to stay for the long term. It's what makes you a better citizen of the world. It's what makes your company a better business.”

Technology’s role in ESG

Alanna believes that “the future is regulation.” But a regulated future doesn’t have to be stressful or scary. The rise of technology like AI will make it far easier to measure your business’s impact. “Particularly in retail and logistics, keep your eye on technology changes. [Technology] is going to facilitate so much of the burden of reporting and tracking and trending your data. The future might be regulation, but it's … easier than you think.”

Links

Transcript

Lori Boyer 00:00 

Welcome to Unboxing Logistics. I am, as always, so excited to be here. I'm Lori Boyer, your host. And I have invited on today, as our guest, Alanna Fishman of FTI Consulting, and she is here to talk to us about all things ESG. And I am so excited about this topic. Alanna, can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and your background?

Alanna Fishman 00:26 

I'm happy to. Lori, first of all, thanks for having me on. It's very nice to be a part of the podcast today. So as you mentioned, my name is Alanna Fishman. I'm based out of Denver and part of FTI Consulting, which is a global consulting firm. We have offices all over the world, all the different practices that you can imagine to provide value for our clients.

And I am particularly on the ESG and sustainability advisory team. So that is what I live and breathe every day. I help my clients every day, figure out how to get their foot in the door with their own ESG and sustainability strategies, offerings, protocols, processes. And so we have an excellent team here at FTI based out of New York. And we are, I've been going strong with this team for about three years now.

And prior to that, I was in a two other consulting firms. So all in all been consulting for about seven years and I have covered the gamut Lori in terms of all the different ESG work that can be done, from food and ag to industrials, to film and media, to consumer products. All the way from public companies to private companies. There's, there's really no edge to where we take our services and what we're able to cover. And so that's what we do every day at the firm. 

Lori Boyer 01:39

I love it. Our community, you guys are going to be in for such a treat because as you can see, we've really got an expert here on all things ESG and sustainability. I think this is such a big topic as of late and always really has been. But I love the idea of a consultant. And I'm just going to ask you quickly, this is off the record, off topic, but how did you get interested in this kind of area? 

Alanna Fishman 02:07 

My story is truly non linear. I've actually taken up a few mentorship positions because I'm trying to help other women, particularly in this space, figure out how they can get their foot in the door.

And it doesn't have to be the necessary, you know, you, you got your degree in school focusing on sustainability. There's a bunch of different ways people can get their foot in the door. And I came from an extractive mining company in my younger days, Newmont Mining. And that's where I've got my first taste of what environmental compliance looked like.

And I just felt like there was opportunity for me to learn more about it and how a company can really be a better corporate citizen and environmental citizen. I had my own mentor there and he told me, go ahead and get your master's degree in economics or something useful and come out and see what you can do in the space.

So I went to Johns Hopkins, the SAIS program out of Washington, D.C. And, you know, everybody comes out as an economist. But you can, you can focus on a variety of areas while you're in there. And I just came across a professor one day who mentioned the concept of ESG. It was very new. Nobody knew what it was.

And that idea really struck me, the idea that you can take care of your company's financial value and just general long term value while also doing the right thing for the, for society for your communities, for the environment. It doesn't have to be a trade off. And that idea was very powerful to me because that hadn't come up yet in my career.

So I just pursued that as an independent study with a few professors who had the right types of skill sets and knowledge base to help monitor and make sure I was actually doing work in grad school. Because that's, you know, what we're paying for in the end. And yeah, I came out with a with, you know, my economics degree, but also an environmental and social responsibility and was one of the first ESG consultants in the space. Everybody thought I was an activist for a year or so because it was so new. And, but then it just really picked up and have moved across different firms, building out their programs, just because there's a way to really figure out how to make your background relevant in this area. So it's been nonlinear, but I love that I ended up where I am today.

Lori Boyer 04:07 

That is so fantastic. And I do think that ESG sustainability and economics degree really do pair well. Because that is one of the biggest questions and aspects that people worry about is yeah, can I do all these great things but also make a profit? And so I'm sure we'll get into that. But before we even do I would love, I'm going to ask you a couple of questions just to get to know you even a little better So you'll be on the hot seat here, but 

Alanna Fishman 04:40 

I love it. I love it. 

Lori Boyer 04:41

Okay. First question I have that I've been asking people this season is what is your go to comfort food? 

Alanna Fishman 04:50 

Cake. 

Lori Boyer 04:52

Cake! 

Alanna Fishman 04:53 

It's so good every time, you know. 

Lori Boyer 04:57 

Alanna, we are like bosom friends because cake is my favorite, too. I am such a sucker for cake. Flavors, kinds, homemade. Restaurant, store. What, what, where, how? Tell me. 

Alanna Fishman 05:10 

I am the cheapest state, anywhere. Any kind. Except not coconut, but like any kind. 

Lori Boyer 05:16 

Oh, not coconut. 

Alanna Fishman 05:17 

Oh, no. It's just like the texture's a little weird for me. But you know, I would say almond is probably, if I had to choose one, like right now, I'd say an almond type of cake. But it's just always good and at the end, you just feel like the day's been fine. 

Lori Boyer 05:29 

That's right. 

Alanna Fishman 05:30 

So, yeah, it's absolutely it. 

Lori Boyer 05:32

And I believe you can have cake for breakfast or lunch or dinner. 

Alanna Fishman 05:36 

Completely. It's a tart in the morning. Yeah. 

Lori Boyer 05:38

Yeah. An equal opportunity cake eater. 

Alanna Fishman 05:41 

I do not discriminate. 

Lori Boyer 05:42 

It's for everybody. 

Alanna Fishman 05:43 

Exactly. 

Lori Boyer 05:45 

Okay. Next time we're in the same physical location, we are having cake.

Alanna Fishman 05:50

Yeah. I couldn't agree with you more. We'll each bring our own flavors. That's a dynamic flavor profile. 

Lori Boyer 05:56 

That's great. That's perfect. Okay. One more question. What kind of hobbies do you have? What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Alanna Fishman 06:03 

Recently, I started taking up photography. I just needed an outlet to do something completely left brain, if that's the right side of the, correct side of the brain, I should say, where you're getting a little bit more artistic, just so much of my day goes to strategy and problem solving.

And I just found that there had to be something to turn off the brain and do something slightly different, get you really focused on the things that just pass you by too quickly when you're too focused on work. And so I'm not any good at it, I just started, but it is truly one of those things that when you start to find what you enjoy doing, like being outside at, looking for colors and images. It's just, it's very, it's very relaxing. So I'm really getting into that. That's new though. Brand new. I'm just, I found it recently. 

Lori Boyer 06:46 

You're in the Denver area, right? That's lots of gorgeous opportunities for photography. 

Alanna Fishman 06:51 

Yes, yes, yes. My dog gets the brunt of it, but that's the rent he pays. So yeah, that's right.

Lori Boyer 06:56 

That's right. He's the talent. It's okay. 

Alanna Fishman 07:01

You'll remember this conversation one day when he's framed. 

Lori Boyer 07:04 

That's right. Okay. So at the very beginning of every podcast episode, I like to ask my guests to share some takeaways. If people were only to remember one or two or three things today that they can implement into, you know, their practices, their work, what are those takeaways that you would share?

Alanna Fishman 07:24 

So the ESG space continues to boom, right? So I think just a general, it's not a takeaway, but it's just probably something more to keep in mind for those who are interested in this space is it's not slowing down. The misconceptions going on about, you know, political rhetoric and what that what that means from a capital markets perspective where ESG is going.

It's not right. It's moving quickly, and it's a dynamic space. And so I think the thing to share with the audience today is there. I think there are three things that the audience should take away with in terms of if you're interested in ESG or sustainability is within the company or just kind of like your own.

But for those who are interested in the space, the first takeaway I have is although regulation is delayed in the United States, and even though there's really nothing to do right now from regulatory perspective there, you cannot sit back and just wait for it to come to you. You have to take action right now.

So if you're in this space and you're in a company or you're in a private company that's trying to figure out what do I do? Does this really impact me right now? The answer is yes. Do not sit on your hands, get on it, figure out how this applies to you because the world is interconnected. Everything influences everything. People influence people. And so you can't make the decision to unilaterally sit on the sideline when actually you're a big part of it. You're part of someone's supply chain. You're part of, you have customers that care about this. You have peers, you might even have investors that care about it.

So you have to do this. And when regulation hits and you really have to do it, and now you have a clock ticking, so it doesn't make sense to sit on the sidelines. So that's, that's one misconception I think is a key takeaway for those listening to the podcast today. The, the second is, Lori, are you familiar with the term greenwashing?

Is that familiar to you? 

Lori Boyer 09:07 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. 

Alanna Fishman 09:08 

Yes. So for those listening, it's just, it's the, it's the sentiment that you're saying all the right things from a sustainability perspective, but you're not actually doing any of the right things. It's all just a marketing communications ploy to get the right attention put on you, even though you're not actually making the right efforts.

Big problem, because back in the day, you could say or do whatever you want from a sustainability perspective. There was nobody monitoring you. And that is not the case anymore. And so the second takeaway is what you say matters. It matters a lot. And people are watching and listening to you because they're looking for a leg up. Whether it's a competitor who's like, oh my gosh, this company said that they had, you know, a biodegradable product and it's not. They will call you out on that and try to get market attention on it. Or short seller or investor or whatever.

There are people who point to you and say, they said this. They can't prove it. It's fake. It's false. And you've seen all the headlines coming through, and that can cost millions of dollars of effort. So greenwashing is here. Most of it is unintentional, but what you're doing is being scrutinized, so be careful what you say.

Lori Boyer 10:11

I love that. I love the whole phrase, what you say matters. I think that everybody understands that in general, you know, it's, it's, it's. In the, in the old days when I was a kid, you know there, it was a lot easier to say things and not have that many people hear or see or even know. But today you have to expect that claims you make are going to be checked. 

Alanna Fishman 10:34 

Yeah. 

Lori Boyer 10:34

And that once it comes out to be a big negative, it's painful. It, it, it hurts. So, okay. Yeah. Those are fantastic. I love them. Everyone, get ahead of this. Don't let greenwashing scare you away from doing anything. 

Alanna Fishman 10:52 

Exactly. 

Lori Boyer 10:52 

Right? 

Alanna Fishman 10:53 

Yeah. 

Lori Boyer 10:53

You've got to be part of it, the regulations are eventually coming. It's better to stay ahead of it than to not be involved. But be actually sincere. We're not putting on just a fake face here and pretending that we're doing great things. So that's what I heard from you, right? 

Alanna Fishman 11:10 

Completely. You absolutely nailed it. That's right. Those are good takeaways. 

Lori Boyer 11:13

Okay, awesome. So let's talk ESG. So we hear the phrase ESG a lot, sustainability. How are they interwoven? What really is ESG versus sustainability? Are they the same thing? Walk us through it. 

Alanna Fishman 11:26 

So ESG literally stands for environmental social governance. That's the actual definition. It is sustainability. It's sustainability if you think about it it's kind of like a broad umbrella of all the things and stuff that fall in the sustain that fall into sustainability. ESG has a more nuanced lens if you will to focus on the elements of risk that could impact your company or value that could drive upside value for your company.

So it's not just, for example, philanthropic giving, which can fall in sustainability, if you will, sustainability of your community, sustainability of, you know, those surrounding your operations or what it might be. ESG has that more nuanced lens. And so that's why you're seeing it permeate capital markets.

It's because there are fundamental measures to showing how when you do environmental, social and governance programs correctly, and you identify the different metrics that drive value or risk for your company, and you manage against those metrics, to drive to ensure that nothing is going to accidentally sink you, perhaps, you will naturally create a better environment for your company to thrive. Which just again, it's very nuanced.

It falls in sustainability, but that's really where the delineation happens. And I think that's where political rhetoric has started to creep in a little bit. Because the way that I, I describe ESG to my clients and the way FTI just generally takes our position is we're not looking to create a marketing campaign for you.

We're not looking to say all the right things. We're looking to actually get you credit for all the great work you're doing in your environmental realm or your social realm. We're looking to say, this company has been doing this or that great things. Really good for the environment, really good for your communities And you just haven't been getting credit for it because nobody's deemed it as ESG. So we're trying to get our companies credit for that and then identify the gaps.

Lori Boyer 13:19

Can you give me a couple examples of something that's ESG compared to just sustainability, so I can kind of understand. Maybe an example. 

Alanna Fishman 13:28 

Here's a sustainability statement, if you will. We believe in minimizing our footprint on the environment by reducing our, by reducing the amount of carbon we emit into the atmosphere.

That's a nice sustainability statement. That's a good, solid, very popular statement. An ESG statement would be we are going to reduce our carbon footprint by X percent by 2025 because we can see that, you know, with this regulation or these rules and laws in place, this could result in millions of dollars of fines or fees or compliance costs.

So you're taking it to something that is a high level soft statement to something that is like, and here's how we're actually tracking. 

Lori Boyer 14:07 

Specific and measurable. 

Alanna Fishman 14:09 

Specific and measurable. 

Lori Boyer 14:11

So that's kind of the keys. And so anything that falls under sustainability, so if it was your community or if it was your own employees or something, if you have something you're measuring and tracking, then that's now an ESG.

Alanna Fishman 14:25 

That's an ESG. That's ESG strategy. Right? So when we're developing these strategies. You identify what's material to your company, what could, and material is that standard definition the SEC uses. Like that, you know, would otherwise have changed an investor's decision to invest in you had they known that there is a, so if it's material, you have to report on it from an environmental or social perspective.

Governance is the same, Lori, that it's been for forever. Don't bribe people. Make sure you have a business ethics policy in place, you know, that's all the same. But now really the new stuff is the environmental stuff like water, climate, biodiversity, waste management. And then social is employee health and safety, supply chain management, professional development, community engagement all those elements. So that's why they have different categories. So you can properly identify who, what fits into your, your realm. 

Lori Boyer 15:14 

Okay. So Alanna, when would you say that a company needs to have an official ESG initiative or, or why is that even important? Do small companies not need to, but only large corporations need to? What are your thoughts here on kind of integrating this into a company?

Alanna Fishman 15:32 

My thoughts, and I think the general sentiment in the market is you have to do this in one way or another, so it doesn't matter if you're public or private, it doesn't matter if you're in the food and ag space or the healthcare space, figure out what's relevant and impactful to you and build your program around that.

The question, but why? Why ESG? Because why wouldn't you? It's good business. You have to identify the risks that could, that could potentially impact you from a financial or brand perspective. That includes environmental and social indicators. They're huge. So you wouldn't run a good business by turning a blind eye to things that have an impact on you.

And that applies here as well. So I think that's, that's the critical, that's the critical element to come back to as we talk about ES and G programs. And when you're building a program, again, it doesn't matter if you're public or private. We have a bunch of private capital clients, for example, in the private capital space, have to have a certain level of ESG diligence that goes into how they invest in companies.

So they have their own ESG strategy in place. Whereas a publicly held corporation has to identify its ESG metrics because its investors are requiring it or because major customers are saying, if you do not do this, you will no longer be a preferred supplier to us. Which is happening more and more now.

They just don't have a choice. Like, we have a client who came in the door in the healthcare space, who their biggest customer, a lot of, a big customer to a lot of different suppliers in this space said, if you do not do this from an ES and G perspective and come up with certain reporting standards that we asked for, we're not gonna use you anymore because it's important.

It's important to us as this customer to have it. So that's driving a lot of attention here as well. So that's why ESG is important. If you're not doing ESG, you're behind. Everybody else is doing it. You're not gonna be able to answer the questions that are most important to the stakeholders who are asking for it.

Lori Boyer 17:25 

Absolutely. I spoke with a company not long ago that, you know, they were really wanting to grow, expand, they were getting more investment. They were wanting to IPO at some point, but they didn't have much of an ESG strategy at all. And so they're like kind of behind the game, trying to hurry and put something in and maybe even make it fit where it didn't quite fit.

Alanna Fishman 17:44 

Right. 

Lori Boyer 17:44 

So I love how you kind of talked a little bit about making it work for a company and kind of where they particularly are. So what are you saying? If like, a certain company maybe is in an industry that puts off a lot of, you know, gases or something, maybe they focus on that. But somebody else, you know, if it's a retailer, maybe they're focusing on returns or is that what you're saying is that each individual can approach it differently?

Alanna Fishman 18:10

Totally. Every company should approach it differently. It's, there is no vanilla out of the box solution to each and every company now. It's back to our conversation of cake, because that's clearly riding on the back of my brain now since we discussed it. But there's the traditional ingredients to it, like there's only a certain amount of ways you can make a cake.

It's similar to ESG, like there's only so many ways you can go with it, but there are nuances to each company. Like how big you are, how many resources you have to build, to put ESG into the program. But a good example of this is for retail. Retail's material ES and G metrics are going to be quite different than those of, you know, healthcare companies, of those of food and ag companies.

So, for example  food and ag companies are very focused on water because they cannot grow their product without it. So if you have decided to create a vineyard in a very dry spot, that is a major risk for you. And that's something that the management's gonna want to keep their eye on. Retail, yeah, I mean, it's important.

It's part of the process to create products in the retail space, but it's less critical than if you were an ag, for example. But what is critical is, for example, human rights and labor relations. If you find out that you're having child slave labor in whatever country, you know, coming up with the first tier, the third tier of supply chain for you that hands your products to this supplier that hands their product to you. Someone finds that you could, you could lose the company over something like that. And so you have to figure that out. 

Lori Boyer 19:39

I love that point. And I have talked to a lot of people about sustainability and ESG, and that's one that I haven't heard spoken of as frequently. Is the idea that you want to put your efforts into things that are going to make sense for you specifically and that are going to benefit you.

Alanna Fishman 19:56 

Yeah. 

Lori Boyer 19:56 

And that comes back to that, you know, it's still an economic thing. This is still keep business and make business. And so you put your efforts in where it's actually going to help you as well. 

Alanna Fishman 20:07

A hundred percent. Lori, these are business decisions. You can't boil the ocean and choose all the different sustainability candies out of the bag just because it sounds good. There's time and resources and money that go into this. So you have to figure out your time and money to actually manage the risk that applies to your company. And that, you know, different environmental issues apply to your company, different social issues. To differing degrees as well. There are elements that cross cut industries like climate change and emissions. That's pretty much everybody.

Lori Boyer 20:35 

Yeah. 

Alanna Fishman 20:35

But, you know, retail is one where supply chain is a fundamental aspect of how the companies do business and how you manage risk. And  waste is another one where packaging waste to ship products from A to B, like, can you reuse any of that? Are you using too much of it, is just going into a landfill?

So there's packaging waste and circularity, fast fashion. Are you just discarding of clothes in a dumpster or can it be upcycled back to someone else? And companies are actively investing in solutions like this to figure out more sustainable packaging solutions. Because customers like me and like you, Lori, love seeing that on their website.

We're like, they're great. Oh my gosh. It's the same shoes, same price with this guy is, you know, 50 percent more sustainable in their packaging. Why not? That helps, that helps tip the scale towards those. And that's where the market's headed. So yeah, great example of how you can really think about what's material to you and then determine the strategy around that.

Lori Boyer 21:27 

Yeah. I love that. So let's say we're talking strategy. So let's say we've got somebody out there listening today and they say, okay, I know I've been needing to do this. I really want to kind of get some, some balls rolling. What is the process? What, what would you recommend? Obviously, what do you go to in?

If you're big enough, obviously I totally recommend getting a consultant, somebody like you to guide you. Right. But, so let's say that somebody is wanting to try it on their own. What, what are the steps you kind of take? What, how do you go in and help companies figure out, do you start by saying, okay, what are the initiatives that matter to you? Which, which part of the ocean should I boil? You know, what, what, what are the steps? 

Alanna Fishman 22:07 

I think the first step, so we, at FTI, we don't want our clients boiling the ocean. It's overwhelming. You'll scare them away, and then ultimately nothing is, you do too many things at once, it's to the detriment of the greater project.

So we try to start off small and tactful, right? So we come up with, start small and be tactful about it. So the first step is, what do you have the budget for? Do you have, if you're doing it internally, you don't even need a consultant. Right? Can this person who is in charge of it spend X percent of their time calculating your emissions footprint?

If you don't have time to do that because you're wearing five other hats, then that's where the ball starts to roll of, okay, if you want to calculate your footprint, you're going to need to get some help. And here's the budget to do it. So the point is, is you have to, the number one step is what's feasible for you company.

What is your budget? Who is able to help you? And what's the timeline you have to do this?  Budget's critical because internal, internal resources still cost money. If somebody's attention is going here, it's not going there, which costs money. And then of course, you bring in consultants that cost more money.

So if you have a limited budget, you have to, that helps you better identify the priority projects like scope one through three or GHG emissions accounting program. Or Lori, it could be as simple as just educating your board. Perhaps this board is getting up there in age, really stuck in their own ways, doesn't really understand like the benefit of doing ESG from a risk management, business decision perspective.

Sometimes just educate the board and leave it right there. And that's another thing. So you can start small. They're very fast, very easy to do. Or some of our clients come in like, we want to do a full ESG program. To which we'd say, great, we're still not going to boil the ocean. Let us identify what's material to you.

We look at their industry, we look at their peers, and we say here are the top 10 things that your peers are doing that you should consider doing. And that's where we start. And then there's that process of saying, here's where you are today. Here's we want to be tomorrow. And then here are the 10 steps you have to make to get to that final spot. So it's. 

Lori Boyer 24:13 

I just want to make sure I'm, I'm tracking it well. So we're going to start small by looking at our budget and, and figuring out how much time, budget meaning time, as well as finances. Who is, who is going to oversee this? Are we bringing somebody in? Are we dedicating people from internal to work on this? 

I loved the educating the board. And I also think that that can be true internally as well. Kind of educating your own company, you know, getting kind of the idea of it in front of people. 

Alanna Fishman 24:46 

Yes. Yes. 

Lori Boyer 24:46 

Then so you said looking at the competition. So I love that idea. I'd love to hear more in terms of doing that kind of market research, how you figure out those top things that are going to be material for your company.

 So one of them, you said, look at your competition. What is your competition, competition doing in this space? Alanna, what if they're doing nothing? What if you're like the number one, you're like the go getter. Like what else do you do? 

Alanna Fishman 25:10 

I won't lie to you, Lori. That's been, that's been something that has slowed progress down. Because if nobody's doing anything, then the natural human nature reaction that is like, ooh, should I? 

Lori Boyer 25:20

Yeah, I don't need to do anything. 

Alanna Fishman 25:21 

Right, exactly. So that is a deterrent. But we have now reached the date and time and relies on regulation is literally on the sidelines waiting to come into place. So it's almost irrelevant if your peers are doing it. It's just as a matter of do you want to be hauling to figure this out with your hair on fire?

Do you want to start now when it's under your timeline, your budget, and you can get this done? Which is why, just to be frank about it, you can't wait. Just start. This is going to hit you no matter what. Even if you start very small, you're making progress that will naturally bring you value down the road.

And so that's the important thing. I think you summarized it nicely. Just time, budget, and just human resources to get it done. Fundamental. If you don't have those, this won't work. And then when the project doesn't go right, or it takes too long, that's, that is where all good things in sustainability and ESG kind of end. You might as well just figure out what you can do and get that done.

And then starting from there. And then for those who want to build a bigger program, still be tactful about it. You're not going to boil the ocean. So figure out, you know, and this is really usually in conjunction with a consultant who can do this efficiently, just because we've done it a zillion times.

And it's just one of those things where we know your competition's doing this, you might want to consider doing that type thing. So we come back to you with a roadmap of okay, retail company ABC, we're going to take a look at your supply chain, your waste management practices, and your energy efficiency of your warehouses and stores in this geographic region.

Let's start there. Port back, and then all of a sudden you have a limited but powerful ESG program. And then you build, over years, build and build. Doesn't have to be done in the same year, same month, just give yourself time to do it and do it right. 

Lori Boyer 26:59 

Well, and that's why I think it's so important what you said earlier about starting now and starting small, is that you don't have to do it all at once. If you're waiting 10 years, you might have to do it all at once, you know, we need to be proactive, not reactive to regulations and, and even consumer expectations and investor expectations and global you know, the global nature of our world today and how the regulations in Europe may be different than in the U.S. and you're suddenly wanting to expand and you haven't, you know, what are those kind of things? 

Alanna Fishman 27:32 

Exactly, exactly. That's right. Proactive, not reactive. Nothing bad comes from it. Yep. 

Lori Boyer 27:38 

Exactly, and that way it's, it's in your control. So do you have an example maybe of a solution, the, you know, kind of a tailored approach maybe that you've made for somebody? Can you walk me through a story? You don't have to say their name, but you could say, I worked with a so and so company, and here were some of the things we put together and how it worked. 

Alanna Fishman 27:56 

Here's a good one. This because it's a little outside the box. And I think this might resonate with people. They had said in an interview with someone at one point in their communications campaign that they were going to be net zero by 2030.

And their, their program was driving in that direction and they were doing all the right things in their operations to minimize their footprint. And yes, everybody was so excited and it got really good press. And then we got a phone call because one of their their lawyer, their GC called and said, okay, the problem is, is the executive team said that, but we are nowhere near that.

We're actually not going to even hit that year. So what do we do? It was a total accident. It was because we had talked about it in a meeting once, and it was a goal, but it came out as an actual fundamental promise. And we just, we don't want our customers to thinking that we lie. We don't want them thinking that we're doing the wrong things.

Lori Boyer 28:44 

Because what you say matters. 

Alanna Fishman 28:46

Because what you say matters. And like, and it was, it was totally on accident. Totally on accident. And so, what we did in this case, this is not an ESG program, but this, this really goes to the tailored element bit. So what we did is we took a look, we're like, well, what are you doing today?

What can you meaningfully say is accurate about your program? So we took a look, dug into their, their data, their processes, their protocols and said, you're not that far off. In fact, you have excellent things to shine to the market right now. Will you be net zero by 2030? You could be to our just very recent conversation, if you put a lot of time and resources and budget into it, you could definitely do that. But your company is not there and it's not a huge business priority right now. So here's what we're going to do. So we created a communications campaign around it. Here's what you're doing very well. Here's what your customers should know about your program on what you're doing right in this space.

The commitment you're making today from a waste management perspective, a carbon reduction perspective. And we got that in play, and then we just had that same person who accidentally made the communication claim, walk it back and just say, listen, misunderstanding. This is where we actually are, and we're here because we know we want to be honest and transparent, and we know it's gonna take us a little bit more time to get down that path.

And that's one of the strategies we built for them is coming back to the data. What does the data tell? What can you show the market you're doing? How can your customers be proud of you and really back to your brand to what you've done right? And that was ultimately how that was handled. Quick and furious project, but it was very interesting to see because it happens all the time. So not a program development, but important to what's going on.

Lori Boyer 30:18 

I learned a couple of really important things that I hope everybody picked up on. First thing was that greenwashing. We talked about greenwashing, and even if it's accidental, we've got to watch what we say. Transparency really, really, really, really, really, makes a big difference. People don't always expect us to be perfect. In fact, most people understand we're not, but the more you're trying to kind of cover it up and, and be something you're not, the bigger problems you're going to run into. 

Alanna Fishman 30:51 

Right. 

Lori Boyer 30:53 

The second thing I really love is the fact that they were already doing things in an initiative and they were unaware. I hear that all the time when I talk to experts in the space.

It seems that companies are doing a lot more in the ESG and sustainability space, sustainability in general as well, that they could then turn it into that kind of looking at exactly what you're doing and checking the risk and. But you're often already doing a lot of things and you don't realize it. You just haven't deemed it to be, you know, oh, this is a sustainable issue. 

Alanna Fishman 31:32 

That's exactly right. I, I'd venture to say it in general statement that 70 percent of what a company does from its health and safety perspective, its environmental, particularly as it relates to regulation, environmental diligence, that's all ESG. It's just taking it to that next level and calling it what it is, identifying new metrics that's comparable across industries. And that's really where the the paradigm shift has happened. So but yeah. 

Lori Boyer 31:58

Yeah. So maybe that's another great step we add to our list there is kind of look at what you're already doing. Find out, you know, oh, wait. We are doing more than we thought. Maybe we're a little bit further ahead than we knew, and we can be proud of these elements, and now we can continue to make steps. So, that kind of brings me to my next thought. So, for those who maybe are doing some things, most companies out there are trying to do something, right?

Alanna Fishman 32:21 

Yes, yes, yes. 

Lori Boyer 32:21 

Even if they don't have official plans. So, how do you, you know, what are the, how do they take next steps? What do you encourage so it's like, oh, we've got a foundation, we're doing some good things. Yes. Should I do more? Should I do less? Do you recommend, I guess, that people are continually trying to do a little bit more? Can they stick with what they're at? Do you get what I'm saying, Alanna? 

Alanna Fishman 32:43 

I totally hear what you're saying, Lori. I think, I think this is an excellent question because it kind of comes down to the, Did I check the box? And am I done? And it goes into really anything in the business space of no. Like you, you started. It's never done in business, but there should be a sense of accomplishment when you have done something in the ESG space because it is quite challenging, nuanced, tactical.

So there is a lot of value to be had for that. And once you've started having an open mind of innovation, curiosity. So now I've decided here's my ESG program. Here's what's material to my company. We're able to report on, let's just say, best case, all of the metrics we've deemed important. Like, let's just say that's where you're coming in.

That's even really hard, Lori. A lot of companies who've identified what's material, they're only going to get in the beginning first two or three years, 75 percent of those metrics outlined and to be able to capture that data. It's like, it's a whole separate step of, we know it's important. Now how do we get the data around it?

How do we get our systems in play? How do we get people to report this to a centralized repository so our CEO knows we're not going to be net zero or whatever. And so it's this whole second step. So really it kind of moves from the basics of have you identified what's material to you and have you identified your program to now, how are you creating a solution internally to make this happen like clockwork now? So that you're not asking everybody each year, can you please send me my emissions data for these 10 operations? Can you please send me any any OSHA or health and safety issues over the past year. Now all of a sudden you're coming up with going to make it efficient and effective. And very few companies are at that point because that is a much more advanced level. It requires software, technological solutions. AI is going to change the entire face of ESG.

It's going to change everything. But ESG is certainly not an exception to that. So it's one of those things of you might have made great progress and there's a next step. So have an open mind. Be curious about it. Say, what have we done and how can I make this process better? Do I need more resources?

Do I need someone overseeing this process? Do I need software solutions? And those are the things that can take years to do. And again, step by step, pick, pick the thing that needs to happen first and go from there. So that's probably the best way to think about it. Otherwise it gets a little bit overwhelming to creating that program that's like a clock and works on its own. 

Lori Boyer 35:05 

Okay. I love that advice. Everyone out there, I like to say this. Sometimes we get really excited about an initiative and we are like, I'm implementing 297 new things this week because I heard 297 amazing ideas and I want them all. You got to back yourself off and be like, okay, I can pick one or two.

And that's my focus. And then when I've got those down, I'm going to grow to three and four, and I'm going to go on and eventually we're going to get there, but you've got to start smaller or everything tends to just fall apart. It's like any goals that we're setting, we're trying to lose weight or we're trying to, you know, sleep better. Start small, continue to just build off it.

So I love that kind of the idea of like, oh, if I want to be net zero by 2030. And maybe in 2030, if you've hit that goal, you're setting some sort of new goal. You know, I just flew through the, through DFW, Dallas airport, and there was a big sign on the wall, the first net zero airport in the United States.

Super excited. No, it doesn't mean they're done. There's probably now new things they can do, and maybe it's small. Maybe some years it's like, oh, we're just going to get better about our transparency. Our goal is simply to set up our website, to share more data and communicate better. Or maybe some years they have more energy and budget, as you said, and you can do something awesome, like you're getting in the negative or something.

Alanna Fishman 36:24 

A hundred percent, or it could even mean that maybe it's net zero by 2030, all of your emissions. Like, we don't know if that's just their scope one, their scope one and two, or scope three. So that's the other thing too, which teeters back on the greenwashing thing. Be straight up what you're doing. Yes, there is no one saying like this is what net zero means for scope one, two, and three. You can be net zero scope one, that's a very honest thing to say, but just be honest about it.

Because that's what your customers are going to come back to me like, oh my God, I bought your product. And you have absolutely. Not that, you know, net zero influences a lot of product purchases, but it might for those. And the point is to just be transparent about it. So that's kind of that next step is the airport could have that at DFW.

But it very well could be that they could expand that to include a greater scope of their emissions profile. I don't know if that's the case. Sorry, DFW, if you've already done that. But Shout out DFW. 

Yeah, shout out DFW. I feel bad, like, cause I fly through them. Don't want to be mad at me. Like flag me on the no fly list.

Lori Boyer 37:22 

Like you get stopped every time. 

Alanna Fishman 37:23 

But that's something to think about as well. And it just goes back to that whole concept of just, just start like, and be transparent. So there was an interesting thing that happened where a company did not meet their goal. And they were like, we are so sorry, community.

This is in their sustainability report. We are so sorry, community. We didn't get there because we had new suppliers. We're in growth mode. This happened to this site. This happened to that site. And they explained it. And they're, they're stuck just in the sustainability realm because I was like, thanks for telling us that.

Instead of just kind of trying to hide it under the rug or change their calculations or definitions or footnote things that you can't see, they're just transparent about it. And they're, they're a desired brand because they did that. So it's just, that was a very important lesson for me to see that that happened. You don't know until you know, and that was a very solid way that they handled that issue and can keep improving from there. 

Lori Boyer 38:17 

People believe and expect some of those challenges. I know that I've read studies, for instance, that when you've got your online reviews, if you have all positive reviews, people actually don't trust it.

That much you've got to have some bad ones sprinkled in because everyone expects that everyone knows nobody's gonna be perfect. We're gonna mess up. There's gonna be times that you know, life is life. And so that transparency, that lack of greenwashing. Don't try to be something you're not and people are actually going to trust you more. And but you've got to be sincerely actually working also don't fake it, so.

Alanna Fishman 38:50 

Exactly. 

Lori Boyer 38:50

Okay. We are having such a great conversation. We're running out of time, though, Alanna, so I'm gonna think of our final questions. I guess, where, where do you see the future going? What, what initiatives or any final advice do you have? Okay, that's two. That's true. I'm going to ask you, where do you see the future? And then I'll ask you any final tips or advice for people. 

Alanna Fishman 39:15 

I think the future is regulation. It's just, you can't take back all the progress that's been made. Do I see litigation? Do I see things being delayed for forever, particularly in the United States? Yes. But I do think that we're moving into a frame of, of mindset now, which is you have to do it.

Lori Boyer 39:33 

And so, Alanna, you want next to your name, your quote, the future is regulation. 

Alanna Fishman 39:40 

If you could have told me that, that was what I was going to have next to my name. I'd be like, oh, I should be more careful. I should come up with something really brilliant. But it is true. 

Lori Boyer 39:47 

It's, it's, it's one of those sad, we're being transparent.

Alanna Fishman 39:49 

Yeah, we're being, we're being sadly transparent. 

Lori Boyer 39:51 

We're not saying we want regulation. We're just saying regulation is here. 

Alanna Fishman 39:55 

Yeah. Who loves regulation, all that reporting, but it is, there is a lot of value to it. And, and it is where we are. It's happening globally. It's happening in the U.S, it's happening to the point where now just take a look at it and say, okay, what do I want to do to proactively prepare for this?

So, cause before it wasn't mandated at all. And now I think anybody listening or just anybody in general can say, I can expect that at some point, whether my near for future, that this is going to be something I have to report on. And that is what I would say. I would also say keep your eye on technology changes.

That's, particularly in retail and logistics. Keep your eye on technology changes. That is going to facilitate so much of the burden of reporting and tracking and trending your data. So the future might be regulation, but it's also perhaps easier than you think. Because of what's happening with AI, what's changing every day in systems and just general solutions, that's going to be something that everybody is monitoring. So it's going to be exciting to see how that all changes. 

Lori Boyer 40:56 

Yeah, that's a fantastic tip too. Just technology is a huge second, you know, right hand man in, in this battle. It can really, really help you get some understanding and, and make it easier. Okay. Any final comments for our viewers? Any goodbye tips that you've got for them?

Alanna Fishman 41:15 

I think final comment is, you know, just have fun with this. ESG is not, it shouldn't be a burden. It's actually, when you take a look at what it is for your company, there's so much to do and so many great things that help make your company an excellent place to work. It's what brings in the best talent.

It's what makes you want to stay for the long term. It's what makes you a better citizen of the world. It's what makes your company a better business. It's, it's exciting. It's not something that you just have to check the box for and just like, oh, I have to do this. It is what every company needs to just be better.

And there's a lot to lean into for that. So just have fun with it and start small, start small. Don't let it overwhelm you. Just get your foot in the door and just try to take your perspective, bring your own spin to it and what you know the company needs. And I think that a lot of people will have a good step one from there. 

Lori Boyer 42:04 

Very well said. Thank you so much, Alanna, for being here. I have learned so much. I feel like you and I could keep talking for a long time on it. But if, if our audience, if anyone in our community wants to reach out to you or learn more about how to do it or, or even do consulting, are you on LinkedIn? What's the best way? 

Alanna Fishman 42:23

I'm on all the things that my company tells me a consultant should have in place to be easily reachable. LinkedIn, FTI's website all of that. I can certainly share my email but would love to be in touch with anybody who just wants to talk about ESG, cake, DFW, whatever. It's, you know, all the good stuff. I'd love that. 

Lori Boyer 42:41 

Perfect. Awesome. Okay, everyone start small, have fun, and just do something. So thanks again for being here and we will see everybody next time.