The myth of bottom-up sustainability
I couldn’t have picked a better antidote to this dismal autumn than to spend 24 hours with the Interface Europe sustainability ambassadors in Scherpenzeel, Netherlands. Hearing the latest on Mission Zero (and beyond) was truly inspirational. Unfortunately I can’t share the really exciting stuff (yet), but I left with no doubt in my mind that Interface will continue to be the foremost sustainability exemplar for at least another 20 years.
I had a wee mission of my own at the event. Regular readers will know that I am not a fan of the ‘sustainability champions’ model of delivery. Every network of sustainability champions I have come across has atrophied except the ambassador programme at Interface. So what do Interface do right that everybody else gets wrong? What’s the secret sauce?
I spoke to about a dozen people at the event to see what I could glean.
And the answer, surprisingly, is nothing to do with the network (although Interface does nurture the network very well).
No, what Interface has, and others don’t, is transformational leadership at the top of the organisation and a robust sustainability framework in place. This gives the ambassador network the space, direction and resources to thrive.
In most other organisations sustainability champions are simply recruited/press-ganged and set loose in the sustainability jungle without a map, compass or provisions. Even if they manage to stumble in the right direction for a few steps, it is no wonder they usually end up wandering around in circles, getting lost and perishing.
In other words you have to do top-down before you can do bottom-up. Then the two can meet in the middle.