Clearly articulating why sustainability matters and why executives should integrate it into their business is arguably the most difficult part of the sustainability practitioner’s job. And very often, the simpler the business case, the more compelling it is.
Making the business case for sustainability in a convincing way will determine the sustainability practitioner’s credibility and its ability to be listened to by its peers. Therefore, this happens to be the priority no.1 of many of us. Below are three simple rules for anyone preparing to articulate the business case for sustainability:
- Be concise: Every business executive or MBA grad will tell you to that rule no.1 is to keep things simple and make sure you can articulate any business strategy in one sentence. Same goes with your business case for sustainability – make sure you can articulate it clearly within 30s by using a concise, targeted key message at its core. If not, you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention and not hitting home run.
- Speak the same language as your audience: Too often (as sustainability professionals) we assume that anyone understands the meaning of such acronyms as GRI, SRI and so forth. Do not make this assumption – rather than that, make sure you keep sustainability ‘mainstream’ like any other business priority your company has to deal with everyday. Do not make this a ‘niche’ or ‘add-on’ to the business by using jargon that just sustainability pros understand.
- Be specific: Make sure you link sustainability to the key business drivers of your company and avoid generalities.
These are (I know…) very generic rules. It is always easier said that done, but while reading the latest report published by Forum for the Future (Breakthrough Innovation)….I’ve found this concise articulation of why sustainability matters to one specific company:
“One company we work with says their past success was built on access to cheap, predictably-priced labour, raw materials and energy. After a very profitable twenty years, they are now struggling. Labour prices have gone up. Commodity prices have doubled since 2000, and have become much more volatile.
This company, and other sustainability leaders, has realised that to be successful it needs a new business model: one that has foundations that will be true in a future driven by sustainability issues.”
And you, what’s your experience in making the business case for sustainability? What have you found that works? And that doesn’t work?