Are You Ready For The Golden Age Of Sustainability Managers?
6 Tips To Make Sure You Stay Ahead Of The ESG-Curve For Your Company
The climate crisis is firmly back on the agenda, and political will around the globe has never been stronger. In fact there’s never been a better time for sustainability managers to step up and take their rightful place in the new corporate reality. So are you and your company ready?
It’s clear that the new agenda moves on significantly from annual reports and a couple of surveys. The time for talking is clearly well past its sell-by date. Now planners, politicians, and most importantly your customers, are demanding real action to tackle the rise in emissions we are facing.
So what can you as a Sustainability Manager do to drive the change that's needed in your organisation?
The first challenge is to find practical ways to demonstrate your organisation’s sustainable vision. Nowadays customers and staff increasingly look for more dramatic evidence of commitment. A small section in the annual report won’t cut it, which means you’ll have to start thinking outside the box. Luckily there are a growing number of ways you can start making an impact.
Tip 1: Inspire the bosses
Take it to the top. Whether you’ve just been appointed to your sustainability post, or have been manning the barricades for years, you’ll realise that nothing significant happens without the buy-in of senior management. If you’re lucky you have a direct line to the top which gives you the ear of the people that matter.
If you’re new, or sustainability is a low priority in your organisation (shame!), then you’ll need to build alliances, seek out power brokers and hustle your way to the permission levels. If you don’t, you’ll drown in a sea of frustration as your ideas are shot down by disinterested people in the decision chain.
- Create a great project plan which inspires management to act. A short but creative powerpoint will do!
- Look for opportunities to deliver it to sympathetic ears and eyes.
- Keep communicating sustainability through your organization by any means you can. Even a small poster on the cafeteria wall can generate interest which will help later!
- Keep your passion alive. If you show it, it will inspire others and you’ll soon build a core team of ambassadors.
Tip 2: Budgets rule
The best idea in the world is going nowhere without the right kind of budget to back it up. So you’ve got the project all mapped out, everything ready to go. Where’s the money coming from?
Senior management often don’t want to be bothered with the details of something they’ve signed off. So they expect you to find the budget. The surprise here is you can get help if you look around in your organisation.
A lot of sustainability work now crosses over into other departments such as HR or Innovation. Just because you don’t have a big enough budget to reach your goal, doesn’t mean you should give up.
Chat to colleagues about collaborating on an eco project and maybe sharing budgets if possible. And don’t forget that marketing and PR have a remit to make your organisation look good for prospective customers and investors.
They have budgets and what better way to make your organisation look like a thought leader than to demonstrate genuine compassion for the environment we live in? And after all SDG 17 is all about partnerships, right?
Tip 3: Don't be alone
If you want to have some real impact, you’ll need to recruit an army. An army of caring souls who have recognised the emergency and want to help. Don’t fear, they are everywhere in your organisation. Hidden mostly, head down, paying their mortgages. But give them an excuse and they’ll be there by your side. So how do you find them?
Well again, you can use your default communication channels to discuss or promote eco projects, goals and the like. We at Ducky offer a fantastic conversation starter with our climate campaigns. These short two week competitions identify climate change evangelicals very quickly and help you spread the message out across your organisation at every level.
Use these campaigns to build a passionate team who can help you drive change over multi-year programs. Think big, but get help first.
Tip 4: Be creative
Don’t expect results from the same old tired models of the past. The climate emergency remains as important as ever, but there are new conversations we can use to motivate action from your staff and customers. Out are the polar bears. We love them, but they are sadly too remote to inspire action. In are local, topical and immediate messages.
Yes we can all help by reducing our carbon emissions and footprint. No we don’t have to drastically change our world, just adopt a few new small lifestyle habits. If millions of us do it, major benefits happen.
Eating less meat once a week, repairing when possible instead of buying new, buying with a more eco conscious attitude. These are all part of the new patterns we can create which will make a difference. Why not create a project inside your organisation which offers a small prize for turning empty spaces into small meadows. Or offer some kind of extended warranty on your products to customers who sign up to your environmental newsletter?
One great idea is to bring local producers into your premises once a month to supply their products. It creates community, helps local markets and stores and demonstrates real commitment to your green agenda.
Top Tip: A local volunteer day is a fantastic way to encourage team building in your company and do some good in the community. Plastic clean up, tree planting or even running a recycle sales day in aid of a local eco charity are just a few examples.
Tip 5: Set meaningful goals!
The best plans in the world are doomed to failure without a solid foundation. What exactly are you trying to achieve with your exciting new eco strategy. The best way to avoid accusations of greenwashing is to make it clear that you are looking for specific benefits from your plans.
Short term wins are not the way to impress staff or customers. Long term, clearly thought out programs win hearts and minds every time. So go long, and make sure everyone knows it.
Then there’s the type of outcome you’re looking for. Staff loyalty and motivation is an important driver for corporate eco programs, but nowadays they have to be real. If the executive team don’t engage in the strategy, your employees will quickly realise that the whole thing is just window dressing. Set goals which mean something. A quantifiable reduction in CO2e, tons of plastic removed from the organisation’s premises and processes, a clear increase in more sustainable commuting to work practices.
Tip 6: Tell the world!
If a tree is planted in the forest and no-one is there, does it count? Well of course it does, but think how much more impactful it would be if a huge audience watched as this lone pine took root. By making doubly sure you’re using all the media tools, internal and external, that you can, you are maximising your impact. Not only are you motivating people, you’re teaching them too.
A key part of behaviour change is to repeat a habit until it becomes a part of our mental map. Run multiple environmental campaigns and projects over the year. Mix up the goals, rewards and messages.
Social media is an obvious start, with Instagram, Twitter and Facebook being obvious targets. But remember that these channels are all about establishing a long term conversation with your target audience. So don’t limit yourself to sporadic random posts. Sit down and create a proper plan and strategy for a long term program. In the same way, look around for opportunities to involve the local – and maybe even national – media in your eco activities.
You’ll be surprised how many editors will love to hear about a passionate eco campaign, delivered by a genuinely motivated team. This is the time when you should be getting super friendly with your organisation’s PR and communications department. They won’t bite!
Many of you will already be doing these things, but maybe you’ve slipped into a routine? Just because you’ve planted trees and run swap sales for the past few years, doesn’t mean your job is done. Look around at some of the new options you can use to inspire your staff and customers.
Bring in an environmental expert to give guidance on best practice, and then invite the local media to cover it. You may not get Greta, but it’s surprising how much support you can raise for a specialist.
On one of our Ducky campaigns we invited a chef to demonstrate how to create delicious vegetarian dishes on a budget. It was super popular, and inspired lots of people to think a little differently in their kitchen.
There’s never been a better time to step up and take the lead on sustainable action in your organisation. Not only are top executives increasingly being tasked with taking genuine environmental action by government, media and customers, but there are a growing number of creative ways to deliver what they need.
The world is running out of time, and we need your expertise as your organisation’s eco evangelist more than ever. Don’t let us down!
For help with your sustainability vision, contact us here.