Our usual Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group meeting last week went into 'general problem solving mode'. A couple of members couldn't make it due to last minute unavoidable personal issues and we decided to postpone the scheduled topic of 'Customer Engagement' until we were back to full strength.

We spent quite a bit of time discussing case studies. I've long preached that these should be in the style of stories rather than lists of achievements. We are naturally programmed to follow narratives, and most people's eyes simply glide over bullet points without really grasping the impact.

This took us on to "what makes a story compelling?"

Our conclusion was the structure of: challenge ➔ inspiration ➔ resolution.

When I interviewed people for my second book, The Green Executive, as a warm up I asked "What got you into Sustainability?" The answer to this question was always some kind of personal experience which triggered the change – the inspiration of my story structure. These were so compelling that I included one interview after every chapter to interspace the 'how to' stuff with these personal stories.

My own story trigger was standing by the roadside in the far north of Russia, looking at the devastation caused by acid rain from a nickel smelter. I could taste the acid on my tongue. I had been an armchair environmentalist before, I became a professional soon after.

When you are telling your Sustainability stories, whether personal or professional, try to identify such moments where everything pivoted towards the resolution. That's the essence of a story.


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