Twitter for Sustainable Business

17062008118“I didn’t know twitter could be used for business, I thought it was just for complaining and moaning on poor service” A comment from a recent chat on a construction site illustrates the level of understanding of twitter and social media within the sector.

OK, it is maybe more daunting to start using twitter today than it was four or so years ago when I wrote in the Guardian “Why Construction Should Engage with Social Media”, but the reasons and rationale for doing so remain the same, but now perhaps with more urgency.

I am often asked where to find the best source for up to date information and thinking on sustainability in the built environment, in design, in construction and in facilities management . My response is the same as in 2011, i.e. “There is probably no better, and certainly no more accessible, tool for keeping abreast with sustainability thinking, development, papers, case studies and failures than twitter”

We were reminded by Martha Lane Fox, in her Dimbleby Lecture this week of Aaron Swartz’s comment “It is not OK not to understand the internet anymore” and too right, its akin to not understanding or wanting to engage with email or the telephone or the radio or …

So just where would we start today? 

I liken twitter and social media to the radio, it’s live, it’s full of great comments and content, but also non stop and full of unwanted content or ‘noise’. Therefore one of the modern skills we have developed is filtering out noise from that we are really interested in – we use programme schedules, our beloved wireless sets to tune in and occasionally use the off switch. In twitter we can do this through lists, through hashtags and with suitable applications (think apps such as tweetdeck as your digital wireless) Not only is this now an essential life and business skill, for directors, managers and others in the built environment, its sadly not one included in the sector’s education and training.

There are great social media training courses out there – but many are the equivalent of the Letter Writing Courses that many us would have attended pre-email days. Informative and entertaining with many wow tips, but the content was soon eclipsed and rarely applied, which is why I continue to recommend and deliver one to one coaching over time.

Following hashtags such as #GreenBIM, #UKBIMCrew #CSRchat #sustldrconv will bring up to date thinking, links and help direct to your twitter stream. Start building your lists for great content and insight, check out the top 500 lists curated by Jim McClelland, for example: Built Environment SustainabilityGreen Infrastructure or BIMAnd keep your twitter ear open for curated lists: for example: 30 CSR Pro’s to follow in 2015 or the EcoBuild 2015 Influencers list

“Resistance to twitter is futile” as my colleague Andrea Learned wrote in her Linkedin article recently. You will start using it sometime soon, your competitors are most likely using it today, your staff are, and the most informed on built environment sustainability issues certainly are.

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Improvement through PAS 91

PAS 91 has recently been updated to align with the Government Construction Strategy.

PAS91-CoverHere are some of my thoughts on recently providing PAS91 support (training events, webinars and live bid support)

As with all bidding the trick is to:

 “delight the client to attain maximum scores and score higher than your competitors”

Easy?

PAS 91 used properly could significantly improve the SME contracting sector, on topics such as Diversity, Quality Management, Environmental Management and of course Building Information Modelling.

The scoring I have seen to date heavily favours certification – to ISO 9001, ISO1400 and PAS1192. Providing these certificates scores full marks, and exempts the bidder from completing a large number of questions in an attempt to describe arrangements that meet the standards, and only score eg 75% of available scores. (in one case up to 12 sides of A4 are expected!)

A contractor without these standards in place are already scoring less than those who have, before they start to articulate their practices.

It makes attaining these accreditations a no brainer, whilst of course providing the benefits of accreditation. From a clients PAS91 perspective it allows further in depth questions in the Specific Questions Module, for eg delivering value, evidence of localism, sustainable material procurement.

The BIM optional module in PAS 91 contains some tough questions, but also provides a useful guide as to what bidders should be preparing for.

Top tips for maximising PAS 91 points:

  • Get a (free) copy of PAS 91
  • Practice, prepare and fine tune  your responses, get them internally and independently checked.
  • Ensure you provide complete responses to all parts of the questions
  • Evidence, Evidence Evidence – use real evidence (think business storytelling) to support.
  • Be consistent between what you say in the bid, demonstrate on your projects and say on your website and or social media (watch those linkedin profiles!)

We will be providing further training, public and one to one webinars, and live PAS 91 consultancy support over the coming months. Do get in touch 

We are also developing 91Cloud a PAS91 portal due to launch soon – watch this space

Also in addition in conjunction with ibepartnership we have developed a low cast but high value package for achieving ISO 14001 for smaller SME contracting organisations. Again, please do get in touch 

A low carbon diet for construction boards

benchmark

Question for you:who on your board is really championing sustainability and the low carbon agenda?

Board members, as Lucy Marcus reminded us at construcTALKs, need to balance continuity with change, to embrace the changes in technology.

From my experience in (small-medium) construction organizations, boards are too focused on looking back at performance, rather than forward; and when looking forward, tend to do so with the risk-eye of past problems. And sustainability is often only discussed when necessary, as part of an ISO 14001 project or incident issue. Too often, as 14001 sits with Health and Safety, sustainability takes a back seat. Rarely do construction boards view sustainability as a critical strategic, opportunity issue, rather than simply one to be dealt with at project level.

Yet the world is moving forward, and increasingly so towards a low carbon environment and economy. Only those with proven performance and attitude of low carbon approaches may well survive—all the more reason to have board members champion change. Non-execs tend to provide the independent financial and governance role, but increasingly they should drive the organization towards change.

Perhaps it’s because construction boards are slow to embrace the communication power social media can bring that they remain out of touch. I do wonder whether we had the same issue when other, now well-established, means of communication emerged; did we resist telephones, faxes, conference calls and emails as we seem to be doing with social media?

If construction boards were more diverse and embraced a wider range of views and outlooks, through board composition and social media awareness, the transition to a low carbon construction economy would be more successful.

Construction boards really do need to embrace social media potential, not just as a tool for others in the organization, but for the board itself, tuning into discussions and commentaries on emerging standards and legislation and sharing what is working or not. The likes of Twitter, Linkedin groups, blogs, forums and news aggregators are abundantly rich with low carbon and sustainable construction information.

This is all vital client, competitor and industry intelligence that enables boards to move their organization forward – and, through embracing social media in this manner, become role models for its mature use.

To quote from Lucy, boards need to be both Grounded and Stargazers.Are construction boards so grounded they go underground? Or do they at least from time to time stand on a hill and gaze the stars to wonder, then to understand what is out there?

This post originally appeared on CSRWire in April 2011 and savedhere from now defunct Posterous blog 

Managing sustainability knowledge across social media.

fs social media workflow

After last weeks UCLAN Centre for Sustainable Development,  Social Media launch session I was asked how to ‘manage’ and ‘filter’ what you can learn and share across the world of social media sustainability.  It was not too easy to summarise in a few minutes on notepaper, so here is my ‘work flow’ and the five key applications used:


Inwards …

Twitter

Most of my inflow arrives via twitter or twitter based apps, eg tweetdeck or hootsuite. I have a number of established feeds or filters established which enables me to keep a real time watch on activity relating to the topics I am concerned with, or related to my clients interests.

Google Reader

Blogs and websites I follow are RSS subscriptions into Google Reader

Flipboard

Described as a social magazine, Flipboard is a brilliant feed application that enables me have a one stop ‘viewing’ place. In addition to having twitter searches feeding into Flipboard, I also have Google Reader, linkedin groups I follow, hub feeds such as the Guardian Sustainable Business and 2degreesnetwork. (Feeds also include cycling, outdoor, walking and weather interests.)

Managing …

Instapaper

Instapaper works across many platforms and is my main ‘receptacle’. It is used to collect and tag articles for later reading. Train journeys and waiting times are great Instapaper reading catch up time. From here I retweet, and / or move to Evernote for keeping or further reference.

Evernote

Rapidly became my everywhere note book. I am drafting this in Evernote! Articles or extracts in Instapaper wanted for reference are exported to Evernote and filed away with tags. These can be for future reference, inspirations for blog posts or, importantly topics on which I can hone, improve or enhance the services I provide for my clients across the built environment.

Outwards …

Tweets can be made either direct from Instapaper or buffered through Buffer which enables some interesting time lapse tweets, or repeated tweets to catch differing time zones. (Care is needed with buffer however to be sure to react to responses!)

My Blog

From Evernote and within Evernote I can easily then compose and curate articles and  for this and other (eg Green Vision) blogs

So there you have it. This has been an established work flow a quite a while now and one that  works for me. It would be interesting to know your work flow and what works for you.

Having a strategy or plan to deal with social media is critical to making effective use of your time online. Building on the support provided to organisations  to date on similar social media strategies, we can help you hone your social media plans, with one to one face to face sessions, or on online via (eg) skype.

In addition coffee shop based, sustainability related, social media clinics will kick off  very soon. Watch his space, subscribed to this blog, follow on twitter or drop me an email

Is the new Linkedin app a game changer?

I must admit I have had a love hate relationship with Linkedin.

Loved it for its contact management relationship building power and the amazing groups which I see as modern digital communities of practice, Hated it for the clunky nature of searching – you have to go looking for interesting updates, even the email alerts prove too spammy as they only tell you an update has been made, not its content.

Until recently it hasnt fitted into my online workflow as say Twitter or Flipboard has (scan, save to instapaper, read offline at leisure then archive to Evernote)

I say until recently … the new iPad Linkedin app I am begining to see as a game changer. It has been designed as a morning feed app – ie you can bring yourself up to date with news from your contacts and updates to groups over a morning coffee, and note interesting articles for reading later, With a similar concept to Flipboard, it brings a brand new look and feel to the social network, and its a pleasure to use.

Since using the iPad app I have discovered much more function and ease in using Linkedin, for example running conversations through the message function, and I have been using Linkedin on other devices for a good number of years.

I am looking forward to learning more user tips from expert Su Butcher at our Linkedin/Twiiter training workshop in Manchester next week. See you there?

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your top three environmental books

What are the top three books you’ve read on environmental issues that you would recommend?   Why are they great reads,important or influential?

Join the discussion underway on the Linkedin Sustainability Questions page and learn what others feel are important environmental books. I will summarise all the recommendations here soon.

Not a member of Linkedin? contact me to get an invite.

on sustainability now

Last Tuesday I attended the Building Sustainability Now conference event, from my study, popping out from the event and discussions only to deal with phone calls and other work issues. I also made a good number of new contacts, either through email address exchange or social connections such as Linkedin. Oh and I didn’t use the car on that day.

Phil Clark has posted lessons learnt from the event, which as Paul Wilkinson points out must be seen as a success judging by the numbers registered and attended.  Phil has asked for ‘delegates’ feedback so here are my two pennies:

I loved the chat room in the lounge but would agree that there needed to be themed areas, as sometimes the debate was hard to follow.  The excellent moderator services of carbon coach Dave Hampton kept the discussion alive, particularly on the climate change debate with Brad, which must go as a classic on on-line forum debates.

However, being used to other forms of online events, I found the interface too static and became tiring too quickly.  For example compare with Second Life events where there is action, avatars moving, places to virtually visit, camp fires to sit around and discuss issues, the opportunity to talk in open chat or on a one to one or in a group, to pass information and links to others etc make it a more ‘live’ experience.

The question has been asked-  is the industry ready for Web 2.0 ?.  I would answer yes, but needs a little nudge and encouragement to join in. The increase in information that is communicated through web2 is increasing all the time, and the cost of attending real events (fees, travel and time away from office) will improve the take up I am sure.  And again I must plug the up and coming October Be2Camp event, which will have introduction sessions to web2.0 as well as exploring the leading edge of web2 and possibly web3 communications.

As to costs, I had a choice of event to attend last Tuesday – Sustainability Now – free and I could participate in my own time in my own office, or a Business in Virtual Worlds event – cost £599, travel to London, and a fixed agenda of speakers. Its a no brainer.

Outside of the event, I found it fascinating the twitter conversations that were taking place, on themes and discussions from within the event, illustrating the use of Web2. For example I was able to send a twitter message to Rob Annable, (who was online at the event, but not in the lounge when the discussion was praising his eco-terrace project), suggesting he pop back into the lounge.  Reinforcing my view Twitter stands to be the next email and texting killer application.

I did have technical problems in viewing the presentations – Real Player playing up this end – but question why recorded events where played at set times – maybe these should be available on demand

I like the exhibitors place but found a number of questions emailed to the stands still remain unanswered.

As to more international input, there has to be a programme that caters for international time zones to attract.  Nothing worst that turning up at an event real or virtual to find everyone has gone home.  In fact this may be one of the work-life balance issues that virtual events need to address.  I sometimes find myself on line in Second Life debates at 2 in the morning – because they are held in the sunny Californian afternoon time zone.

But saying all that it was an excellent event Phil, well done – and I hope that it will be repeated.