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How to engage stakeholders when it comes to sustainability

by Stuart Bryan

March 25, 2021

It’s 2021, which means if your business doesn’t have at least one eye on its sustainability targets then it really should.

Public perception over the looming climate crisis is shifting. Awareness is growing, concern is rising, and pressure is building on the business community to take responsibility.

Brands are increasingly being judged on their green credentials, which makes getting the company stakeholders on side an absolute must if you don’t want to see your competitors make inroads with your target audience.

But how exactly are you supposed to convince people whose priorities may be more focused on keeping the company afloat amid a global pandemic?

It’s all about striking the right balance between passion and pragmatism.

Break the challenge down into actionable goals

One of the biggest roadblocks when it comes to taking action is the perceived intangibility of the problem. Climate change will affect everything and everyone; this makes it hard to pinpoint a place to start, which in itself can evoke a sense of helplessness. Confronted with this, many people freeze and shirk responsibility onto the flag-bearers of environmental collapse: fossil fuel companies, governments and agriculture.

We must avoid passing the buck, however – and this can be achieved by approaching stakeholders with actionable goals. By breaking it down into manageable pieces, a problem that appeared insurmountable suddenly looks less so. Start with a plan to become Carbon Neutral, which you can develop with any one of numerous companies that specialise in reducing business footprints. Look, also, at every link in your supply chain, and address each one methodically as part of a wider, staged strategy.

Develop an individually-tailored approach

Then there’s being aware of who you are communicating with. An individually tailored approach can work wonders when, say, one of your stakeholders has a head for numbers and the other is a lover of the outdoors. By focusing on the financial or new business benefits with the former, and the value of becoming an active protector of future generations with the latter, you’re deftly making compelling cases to each.

Ensure you understand the individual motivations and personalities of your stakeholders before approaching them.

Watch your tone

Finally, it’s imperative that you strike the right tone with your approach. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being lectured or accused, so try to express your argument in a calm and open manner, focusing on the positives of taking action and the opportunities such a commitment presents.

We hope this helps in your efforts to get stakeholders on side. Want to learn more about the challenges we face? Future Planet is an online community of professionals committed to driving positive change in businesses across the UK and beyond.

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