Few people (except perhaps Donald Trump) would deny that reducing our impact on the environment is important.

But it is often difficult for businesses to act with a united voice and purpose around sustainability. Many organisations will say that they’re doing the right thing, but if their employees see a different picture from within it can create a crisis of authenticity.

So if there’s a growing need for businesses to be engage authentically with sustainability, how can this be achieved?

In this episode of ExperienceCast, David Goldsworth, Head of Innovation and Strategy at Virgin, argues that the first thing to do as a business is to look at whether you are sustainable. According to Goldsworth, it is important to begin by looking at your own carbon footprint before beginning to build a customer proposition. One way to do this authentically is to involve colleagues from across the business in exploring the issue, and importantly before you have the answer.

The next step is to identify a business opportunity in sustainability for your organisation. Focusing on opportunity creates a positive message that is much easier to sell internally, and so for sustainability this is as much about what you start doing as what you stop doing. Just as importantly, a positive sell within a business can really help to motivate employees. This can be particularly effective if it involves some vulnerability along the lines of, ‘this is a complex issue, we might not get it right straight away, but we want everyone to be involved in shaping our approach’.

Then it’s a case of engaging employees across the business in an open debate on the issue. To make this work, Goldsworth believes that you must: 

  • Provide a context and framework for the debate
  • Provide a clear timeline and end point
  • Provide rules of engagement and guidelines to enable positive participation
  • Provide multiple ways for people to engage in the conversation in order to obtain a full landscape of views and opinions from across the business.

By enabling everyone to participate in shaping the narrative around sustainability, you create an authentic narrative that people connect with and believe is genuine.

For lots of businesses, there are opportunities to satisfy a consumer need around sustainability.

And who wouldn’t want to work for a business that does that?

A huge thank you to our guest panelist David Goldsworth for generously sharing his experience for this podcast.

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Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash