Culture Change Tips from the Sustainability Masterminds
Last Thursday I hosted a meeting of my Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group. This is a small group of sustainability practitioners from leading organisations who get together in exclusive locations (this time the wonderful Lumley Castle – see pic) to bounce ideas off each other in a semi-structured way (I provide an outline structure and templates to stimulate debate, but ultimately I let the discussion go where it wants.) This time the broad theme was stakeholders and culture change and we ended up with just shy of 50 key learning points from the session.
The meetings are run under Chatham House rules, so generic learning points can be shared, but contributions are anonymous. Here is a selection:
- Culture change takes time and requires high levels of energy and perseverance;
- Reward effort as well as outcome to encourage innovation;
- Take care not to penalise those who move first;
- Awards are powerful stimulators, but should be aimed at pride rather than personal gain (eg the prize is a donation to charity);
- Need to accept ambiguities of sustainability and leap into the dark – otherwise you’ll achieve nothing;
- Target and eliminate perverse incentives eg one participant has restructured their company, fleet and hire car policies to incentivise efficient vehicles and minimise mileage;
- Some NGOs are easier to work with than others – but those open to conversation can add significant value and avoid later misunderstandings/conflicts;
- Over last 12-18 months, stakeholder interest has shifted from internal operations to the supply chain;
- Procurement teams have huge influence over the organisations’ environmental footprint – small changes here can make massive differences;
- Suppliers must be made to understand they will be de-listed if they don’t change, or they won’t change;
- Need to translate sustainability language into language relevant to the audience (often said, rarely done well);
- Use communications professionals to produce communications, don’t rely on amateur DIY;
- Case studies, testimonies and stories are powerful tools – people like hearing about ‘people like them’;
- Emotion then facts – start off by grabbing attention, then back up with data (on demand if appropriate);
- The ideal message is “sustainability for pensioners” the kind of communications that would interest people who know quite a bit, but can be selective about what they read – spice up messages with QI-style quirky facts “Did you know…”, “Carbon myths” etc.
One delegate said that they have been to many different sustainability events in many different formats, but the Mastermind Group is the one they get most value from by a long, long way. Oh, and that the lunch was fantastic, too!