Environmental data and analysisLast week we had another fantastic turnout for our annual Green Academy on employee engagement for sustainability. There were some really big names taking part – including some who are seen as sustainability exemplars.

The two points I really try to hammer home on these sessions are:

  • People's feelings are a much stronger driver for their behaviour rather than rational thought;
  • You can't bludgeon people into changing their feelings.

You can see this in the climate debate where a significant chunk of the population still 'feels' that climate change can't be real despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that it is and manmade. It just doesn't feel right to them. Instead they cling to some very flimsy straws which appear, superficially, to reassure this position – an extreme form of 'confirmation bias'.

My response, Green Jujitsu, is to start at any point where the sustainability agenda and the feelings of the audience overlap. So if you are talking to a climate sceptic, it may be that energy security, local air quality or job creation through the low carbon economy are better starting points than statistical analysis. For engineers, getting them to solve sustainability problems will produce positive feelings about the agenda as they love to solve problems. For health care professionals, finding solutions which save carbon and improve patient care will hit the right button.

So the first principle of employee engagement must be to respect people's feelings. Not just because it is right to do so in a moral sense, but also because it's right to do so in a practical sense.

 

 

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