Achieving ‘buy-in’ from leadership is no easy feat for sustainability professionals trying to implement positive change throughout their business. In this list, we share the top 5 ways for how to get leadership buy-in for green initiatives.
Any organisations leadership team is responsible for setting the direction of a business – looking to foster growth and maximise its long-term returns. In doing so, they conservatively select prospective initiatives or projects they believe can take the business further.
Thankfully, sustainability is becoming common practice in businesses of all sizes; however, there is still no guarantee leadership will be willing to invest in this essential purpose. For those struggling with leaders who are resistant to these changes, we present some best practices to help encourage buy-in from business leadership.
#5 Commercialise the business case
Historically seen as a costly and superficial obligation, offering little benefit to the bottom line, sustainability is now widely recognised as a provider of numerous benefits for businesses that integrate its practices into their operations.
- Operational cost savings
- Improved stakeholder reputation
- Better staff retention
- Increased financial performance
To add context, between 2017 and 2020, B Corps (companies that have been certified by B Lab as ‘beneficial for society’) experienced an average turnover growth of 26%, compared to the national average of 5%. Similarly, these companies also saw an average employee headcount growth of 14% compared to the national average of 1%.
Leadership are often more likely to invest in initiatives when they see a clear return on investment. By demonstrating the benefits of sustainable strategy, you can commercialise them, making the decision to invest more realistic and appealing.
#4 Highlight industry trends
Sustainability has become increasingly prevalent over the past five years, with almost all large organisations making some form of effort to reduce the negative impact of their operations.
Amazon, for example, founded its Climate Pledge in 2019 which aims to hit net zero by 2040 –10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement. The cross-sector collaboration now boasts 253 signatories, including Uber, Visa, IBM, and Microsoft.
Sharing data and examples about how sustainability is becoming more important to customers, investors, regulators, and ultimately other businesses will help strengthen the benefits it provides, encouraging leaders to get on-board rather than being left behind.
Additionally, governments are looking to bring greater accountability and consistency to large businesses through rigorous disclosure regulations. Notable examples include the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and upcoming regulations from the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB).
Businesses that are prepared for changes in the industry are well placed to evolve alongside them, instead of possibly facing sanctions or fines due to non-compliance.
#3 Communicate the benefits effectively
Effective communication is critical in gaining buy-in from leadership; if you’re unable to articulate your case with adequate detail, it’s unlikely to gain approval. Use clear and concise language, provide data and evidence to support your case, and engage leaders in discussions about sustainability in all aspects of the initiative.
If you are unable to communicate the benefits of your proposal without available evidence, try suggesting smaller pilot programs that can provide concrete proof, such as energy and resource savings. This will demonstrate the impact sustainability initiatives can have and lend credibility to any future plans.
#2 Aligning with business values & goals
As previously mentioned, leadership focuses on fostering growth in order for the business to continue developing, or, during economically turbulent times, keeping it afloat.
By aligning your green initiatives with the organisation’s overall business strategy and goals, it becomes far easier for leaders to jump on-board. The good news is there are already several benefits that come with implementation of sustainable initiatives, which should align with most organisations goals.
Additionally, if your organisation prides itself on a set of strong values, highlight how a sustainable initiative can help demonstrate them to customers.
#1 Be proactive, be prepared
When assessing the best path forward, leadership will commonly push back on ideas, subjecting them to rigorous scrutiny to see which ones hold water and deserves investment.
Anticipate possible areas of pushback on your sustainable initiatives and prepare to address them early on, you can build trust and credibility with leaders and demonstrate the value of sustainability initiatives.
Many leaders know they have to do it, but it’s up to you to make them want to do it – give them that reason.
So, there you have it, 5 ways for how to get leadership buy-in when promoting the sustainable agenda at work.
Working hard on a project, only for the decision to come down that it’s not the right choice for the business can be demoralising. But don’t despair – instead, consider the reasons behind the decision and use it as an opportunity to improve and make a better-informed case in the future.
If you believe what you’re presenting is truly the best way forward, keep plugging away.
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