Lockdown Economy USA in Sustainability Management Services with Nancy Mancilla
The interview was transcribed and adapted into an article by Grace Holloway.
Lockdown Economy: Interviews by think tank AlterContacts.org with real entrepreneurs sharing insights, challenges and successes during the COVID19 global pandemic to inspire, motivate and encourage other entrepreneurs around the world.
In this interview, we meet Nancy Mancilla, the CEO & Co-founder of ISOS, sustainability management services in San Diego, California. Nancy explains ISOS’ three services: one is training and coaching against global standards; the second service is advisory work; and third service external assurance.
The pandemic affected ISOS adversely, exceeding their growth and financial expectations last year. Due to the extra time gained by the lockdown, clients were able to dedicate that time and energy to the sustainability initiatives thereby growing this market. ISOS’ challenges were harmonizing work efforts with their clients, the learning curve of working together on that new environment. They solved this issue by demonstrating how we can do these things together. Nancy is grateful and feels positive about the future. With the UN backing this program, most of these companies are aligning to the Sustainable Development Goals. And though they may not know exactly how they are going to go about implementing them, they are committing and driving quickly towards achieving them in some form or fashion.
What do you do as a business?
Nancy: Sustainability can be such a vast space, it’s one simple word for so many angles. Our angle is through ESG disclosure, or Environmental, Social, and Governance disclosure. We help enable companies, mainly publicly traded, but some privately held companies and nonprofit organizations, in disclosing their environmental, social, and governance impacts.
We have three services. The first is training and coaching, which is against global standards. The second service is advisory work. We help the companies with determining what’s relevant, assessing their impacts, working with stakeholders, calculating greenhouse gas emissions, working on policies such as human rights or diversity equity inclusion policies, vendor codes of conduct, or whatever is needed to get to express performance to the outside world, a lot of which is driven by the investor community. Our third service is external assurance, which is verifying the non-financial data.
Where are you located?
Nancy: We are based in San Diego, California. However, our team is spread out across the country, and we have some team members in other parts of the world. We’re still pretty small, we say small but mighty. We carry a big positive impact, and then from time to time get to go diffuse at the beach.
How many employees do you have?
Nancy: We have close to ten right now, due to growing. We are trying to transfer a lot of people who were consultants to actual full time or part-time hires. At the same time, we are continuing to build out our base of contractors or consultants for different pieces of the work.
How did the lockdown and the pandemic which began last year affect the business?
Nancy: Every day we wake up and are super grateful for the business that we have. We exceeded our growth and financial expectations last year, even despite the pandemic. We had only stalled with one client, who was a part of emergency response measures in the United States. They had to put a hold on our project for a couple of months, and then they continued on. Outside of that, it didn’t slow any clients. In fact, since most people working in corporations now had extra time on their hands, as they were no longer commuting or going to lunch, they were able to dedicate time and energy to the sustainability initiatives. That meant we went into a hyper mode with them. A lot of the companies that hadn’t had the chance before to implement sustainability were now ready to. We’ve seen a lot of growth in this space.
Did you have any challenges last year?
Nancy: Our challenges were mainly related to trying to harmonize work efforts with our clients. Many of the clients were not used to working in a virtual environment. They maybe had some virtual meetings, but no interactive working sessions. For our team, we had started and always operated that way. We all had to work with getting our clients up to speed with this process. They also had to figure out with their IT teams what were the best, most secure methods to do this. I would say our main challenge was that the learning curve of working together in that new environment.
Did you do anything specific to solve this issue of interacting with the customers?
Nancy: I think largely just demonstrating the value of this effort. At first, it put a lot of people who weren’t used to it into a panic. They were worried about how they would continue to maintain business as they knew it, or how to remain just as effective and efficient on these different platforms. They had never used them to that degree before. I think we helped calm those concerns by demonstrating how we can do these things together. That’s the best value we could’ve brought to them in that instance.
Do you know how your competition is doing right now?
Nancy: I don’t really. There’s one group that has been the closest peer and friend of ours in this industry, based out of New York. I spoke to them in June, and at the time they said they had also experienced some of the most rapid growth that they had ever encountered in their history, and they had been around a few years longer than us.
It seems like the lockdown has been a positive experience.
Nancy: It has, and we’re surprised that everything has worked out this way. Unfortunately, we do think the world and the United States has encountered a lot of strain on different levels in the past year, whether it’s politically or socially. But to be on the inside and to see how much momentum and resources are being dedicated towards positive change is fascinating and rewarding. I feel grateful to be able to see that and feel positive about the future. Similar to the UN backing this program, most of these companies are aligning to sustainable development goals. Though they may not know exactly how they’re going to implement them, they are committing and driving towards achieving them.
How is your business doing now, and what are you looking forward to in the coming months?
Nancy: We’re working 12 hours days, so in the coming months we are looking forward to getting new, talented workforce partners to come on, and to feel equipped to help lead these efforts so that we can have a bit of a break. We also want to create the space that’s needed to be agile in the face of other unexpected turns in the world, national or state events.
Does it make any difference for the work that you do being located in California?
Nancy: No, actually our work can be done anywhere in the world. We just need a fast, secure wifi network.
Could you name three things that you feel you need help with?
Nancy: First, more time for our own personal sustainability. We need help finding time to re-energize, reconnect, and to continue being that force for good. Secondly, in that, maximizing that potential. We need help getting more people up and running to help us lead efforts. Thirdly, we need help finding more vehicles like this to get the word out from the traditional outlets of the corporate world or the investors or the markets to the people, as to what’s being done to be a part of this positive change. We need help looking for other communication channels to share that story. Those are the three main things we can look forward to or hope for.
About the Guest
ISOS Group: “As a leading sustainability services agency for more than a decade, we help drive value creation for some of the world’s most innovative brands. The integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into organizational strategy and investment decisions is growing. We are dedicated to helping companies formulate robust sustainability strategies, strengthen ESG practices, measure and improve performance, and produce decision-quality reports for a wide range of stakeholders.
ISOS Group specializes in sustainability reporting and ESG disclosure to help organizations increase value creation for all their stakeholders. We also conduct certified training courses and provide external assurance of sustainability reports and ESG disclosures and third-party verification of GHG emissions and climate data.