Low Carbon Best Practice Exchange Round Up
Yesterday’s Low Carbon Best Practice Exchange at Olympia London was superb. There are two things I like about these events, firstly the attendees tend to be end users of the advice flying about (as opposed to service providers), and secondly, the format favours interaction over death by bullet point. I was responsible for two sessions and here’s my take on them:
1. Environmental Strategy Discussion Group
I covered my sustainability maturity model, the business case for sustainability, the components of a strategy and converting strategy to action (links take you to back issues of The Low Carbon Agenda – subscribe on the right hand side of this page). Maybe a bit too much info for 50 minutes, but the participants seemed to enjoy it. Some reflections on the discussion:
- Most were being hampered by lack of leadership from above. No leadership, no strategy;
- Most had targets, but not strategic principles;
- Nobody was familiar with backcasting – but they liked it;
- Adopting stretch targets is synergistic with backcasting, incremental targets with forecasting.
2. Staff Engagement
This was a panel discussion, chaired by myself, and featuring the stellar cast of Martin Blake of Royal Mail, Liz Lipton-McCrombie of WH Smith and Trewin Restorick of Global Action Plan. Most of the time I managed to keep my trap shut and let the panel do the talking. My fear of zero questions was unfounded, in fact we ended up with disappointed customers who hadn’t been able to ask theirs after 50 minutes. To be fair, I had addressed the early arrivals and asked them to get their ideas together to avoid any embarrassing silences.
There were loads of great points:
- You’ve got to understand what makes people tick;
- If there is fear around (eg from redundancy), trying to get people on board with sustainability is a waste of time;
- Speak people’s language: talk finance with accountants, asset value with estates, carbon with environmentalists;
- Ask questions;
- You can’t ask people for their opinion and then ignore it;
- Middle management a key target audience – fighting with lots of other demands;
- Competition is a great way of engaging people;
- In a leadership vacuum, you can start a guerilla campaign, but at some point you have to mainstream it – not easy.
Great analogy from Trewin – employees are like a church congregation during the first hymn – the organ starts up and you get nothing, then two people start singing out of tune, followed by the bulk of the rest of the crowd. But there will always be some smart arses at the back, miming – that’s life!
I summarised the discussion by pulling out three nested themes – the broadest issue was respect for those being engaged, within that, the issue has to be made relevant to them, and within that theme, careful language must be used to deliver that relevance.
Overall, a great day, enjoyed by everyone I spoke to!