STRATEGY – Five ways to get your bosses to talk sustainability

18 October 2016

Do your bosses still treat sustainability as an afterthought or somebody else’s problem? Here’s some advice distilled from the work of thinkstep’s sustainability strategists at our recent conference.

Are you a silo’d in sustainability manager? A member of a sustainability team that seems to only skim the surface? Or just somebody struggling to bring sustainability into your workplace?

Your background might mean you are not exactly a ‘business native’. You might be in a role with an outdated or limited scope. It might be more about compliance to regulations than creative thinking. And your business’ core activity might seem light-years away from true sustainability.

You have a tough job to do. But to do it well might take a bit of translation. You might express your passion to banish waste as ‘improving efficiency’. You might talk about purpose as ‘brand differentiation’. You can champion environmental and social justice by protecting your company’s license to operate. 

But you should never forget that you really deal in people, not ideas. People with families and concerns for the future that provide fertile common ground.

Your goal is to integrate sustainable thinking into the core operations of the business. To make it the culture.

Here’s how:

  1. Collaborate, collaborate, and collaborate some more.You have an internal campaign on your hands. You are going to need allies. Never pass up an opportunity to make a friend. Never miss a chance to be useful. But be strategic. Work out who has the influence you need – it may not be the one with the senior title.
  2. Lead, don’t report.Take the initiative to demonstrate the benefit of what you are doing. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Go to them with great ideas that install sustainability and help them do their job.  
  3. Think outside of your (recyclable) box.Become the ‘go-to’ person for creative solutions. Prove the value of your initiatives in terms of what your colleagues want. 
  4. Share the knowledge. Make sure everybody in your business wants the information you gather. Treasure and share customer feedback and brand feedback. Help your colleagues experience how the business is being perceived.   
  5. Never give up.This can be a slow process. Then you reach a tipping point. Set yourself manageable milestones. Celebrate them whole-heartedly. Convince one influencer at a time. Install one new idea. Make it work. Then move on to the next.  

Read more about thinkstep’s work at our recent conference – Communicating in an Age of Authenticity.