Making the case for sustainability in the boardroom
I’m a big fan of The Apprentice – both for entertainment and, controversially, the business angle. I know it is fashionable to say that two teams of preening egotists rushing around backstabbing each other and making bad snap decisions has nothing to do with business, but I think the tasks are genuinely difficult – I wouldn’t like to try to formulate, market and sell a new product from scratch in two days. Anyway, as fellow fans will know, the climax of each episode is the showdown in the boardroom, where barrow boy made business mogul Lord Sugar and his two sidekicks take apart the teams’ efforts, cut through the flannel and make them face up to brutal reality.
Selling sustainability in the boardroom can be an equally daunting experience – and that comes from someone who has sat on both sides of the big table. You need to have your facts straight, your business case worked out and the risks of inaction and action thoroughly assessed. But unlike the bull in a china shop approach the Apprentice candidates tend to take, I have found that a more subtle approach can pay dividends. The first time I ever engaged a client at boardroom level, I put the Sustainability Maturity Model (below) up on a screen and asked the board members where they thought they were on it. The result was extraordinary – they all assumed they should be as far to the right of the model without me trying to persuade them that they should be there.
This more subtle approach is part of what I call “Green Jujitsu” which is all about bringing people with you rather than trying to bulldoze past them. Another tool in the Green Jujitsu box is the killer question, such as “what risk do rising oil prices pose?”. Using such engaging techniques and avoiding bluster might have saved a few Apprentice candidates from the chop over the years and they certainly work in read boardrooms too.
On Tuesday 17th April 2012 I’m giving a webinar on behalf of 2degrees on Making the Case for Sustainability in the Boardroom. It’s free and you can sign up here.