I had the privilege of attending Bob Willard’s introduction to the Sustainability Advantage Ultbook as he came through Montreal on his way to Boston for the launch of its beta version in November 2016. I was intrigued because his book offers a way for people to evaluate potential projects’ drawbacks and benefits to a company in a way that a traditional approach does not.

Many sustainability professionals can only do so much within the confines of their jobs. While they may want to convert an entire fleet of vehicles to biodiesel, electric or hydrogen, it’s not easy to convince the C-suite that the projects will pay off (and sometimes they don’t). Once a sustainability professional has implemented waste and water reduction opportunities, they want to move on to the “harder things” such as improving energy and water efficiency, or, gulp – changing entire business models because it reduces costs, preserves resources, and retains customers….or does it?

That’s where Ultbook comes in. It is actually a book designed in an Excel spreadsheet – several spreadsheets, actually – that helps sustainability professionals evaluate the benefits and risks of potential projects.

Ultbook is divided into five possible categories of “value-creating sustainability initiatives,” as they are referred to in the book. A project will likely fit into one of those categories more than others. The categories focus on environmental or societal goals:

Environmental:

  • Security of Supply: Projects that lead toward sustainable supplies of natural resources, including water, and protection and restoration of ecosystem services, across the company’s value chain.
  • Climate stability: Projects that lead toward no emissions of greenhouse gases and the use of only low-impact renewable energy, across the company’s value chain.

Societal:

  • Society Wellbeing: Projects that protect and improve the health, wellbeing and resilience of local communities and society at large, across the company’s value chain.
  • Customer wellbeing: Projects that provide products and services that protect and improve customers’ overall health and wellbeing and projects that inform and engage customers appropriately.
  • Employee wellbeing initiatives: Projects that provide decent, well-paying work and safe, healthy, respectful and enriching working conditions for all employees, across the company’s value chain.

Each of these five categories are directly related to the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  By evaluating your proposal through Ultbook, you can directly see how (and which) SDGs your project would be contributing to.

How it works: Because Ultbook is an Excel workbook, all that is necessary is to fill in the numbers where indicated and the spreadsheet will do the calculations. It should be noted that there is a lot of room for assumptions in terms of the effects of the proposal, whether on customer development, public perception, or increased (or decreased) revenue. These numbers can be argued both positively or negatively so it’s important that this exercise involves representatives from all potentially affected parties and the finance department. Done in this way, as a team, the results are more likely to be more realistic than if one person fills in the numbers on his/her own with their own personal biases.

Ultbook is still in beta form. Bob told me that he’s looking for feedback and will continue to tweak it up until a firm release date of it in May, 2017. If you’re interested in using it, download your copy here: http://sustainabilityadvantage.com/books-dvds/ultbook/

If you have thoughts or comments on how to use it or improve it, don’t hesitate to contact Bob Willard directly at bobwillard@sustainabilityadvantage.com.