Feb. 28, 2017 12:58 pm

How this B Corp is using tech to help 1,000 companies build sustainability programs by 2020

Sustrana, founded in 2010, specializes in software-as-a-service to empower companies to find and take advantage of the sustainability values that work best for them.

Sustrana cofounders Jennifer Anderson and Nancy Cleveland.

(Courtesy photo)

One thing that keeps popping up in our coverage of corporate social responsibility is the variety of ways corporations and organizations can tackle sustainability. But that can also make it difficult for each entity to find what works best for them.

That’s where a company like Sustrana comes in. Based in Devon, the women-owned, B Corp-certified company has a mission of helping companies build and manage strategic sustainability programs, which it accomplishes through its online software tool and platform.

By providing them with the right tools and guidance, Sustrana essentially enables companies, such as tax software company Vertex or the workforce solutions corp ManpowerGroup, to find out for themselves not only how best to implement sustainability into their business practices but also why doing so adds overall value.

Recent developments for the company paint a bright future for Sustrana, founded in 2010 by COO Jennifer Anderson and CEO Nancy Cleveland, and its mission: The company was recently selected by investment fund Ben Franklin Technology Partners and impact investing network Investors’ Circle for funding.

“What we see in Sustrana based on its pursuit of such thorough corporate operating principles and practices is a company and an exec who backs up her vision with clear block and tackle action,” said Margaret Berger Bradley, director of investment partnerships at Ben Franklin, in an email.

“To Ben, that is a positive sign. It sets Sustrana up both as a resource to others in the region and as a model for what top-tier environmental practices can look like in a small but growing company.”

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Sustrana has also been collaborating with the NYC-based Inspiring Capital and its consultancy professionals to allow companies to combine Sustrana’s software with those professionals in order to maximize sustainability program-building efforts.

All of this will go toward the concrete goal the Sustrana team has set for itself — to enable 1,000 organizations to build strategic sustainability programs by the year 2020.

Assess, engage and get results

Sustrana Graphic

(Courtesy image)

Sustrana wasn’t always a SaaS (software as a service) company.

Anderson and Cleveland created the company with “the intention to really build a consultancy to help businesses identify the value points that sustainability would create for their organizations uniquely,” Anderson said.

“Uniquely” is the key word there — it can be overwhelming for each company to think about sustainability from its own business perspective.

Sustrana helps companies by answering these key questions through its six-step iterative process: “How do you assess the right thing to do, how do you engage people internally and how do you make sure you’re organized in the implementations to make sure you get results?”

As Anderson and Cleveland began to see CSR becoming more mainstream, the best move seemed to be to transition what they were already doing with consultancy over to the technology front. That transition didn’t really start until 2015, so it’s still new and in Anderson’s view, the platform is still a work-in-progress.

“It’s a pretty robust software platform but there is more needed to round out, to make it really reflect both the full six-step process and also to be as user-friendly and efficient for users to maximize and optimize as much as possible,” she said.

That’s what the seed funding raised from Ben Franklin Technology Partners and Investors’ Circle (the amount of which hasn’t been disclosed) will go toward, in addition to ramping up marketing efforts.

Clearing up the misunderstandings of CSR

What does the next year for Sustrana look like?

“I think one of our key strategies that’s going to help us to scale is working with supply-chain managers in large companies that are focused on sustainability among their suppliers,” Anderson said.

But another key aspect for Sustrana’s growth — and something the company believes it can excel in — is helping companies truly value CSR as being more than just “nice-to-have” aspects of the business that don’t have any financial value.

“What the platform allows the users to do is to clearly articulate what the value is of the different areas that they want to focus on,” Anderson said, “whether that’s energy, water, waste, human rights.”


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