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Effective communication to achieve climate action in the workplace

Now, more than ever, there is immense pressure to change the way we do business.

Becky Sedman

Now, more than ever, there is immense pressure to change the way we do ‘business as usual’ in order to prevent uncontrollable climate change. We must urgently enact sustainability in every day operations, and this requires a drastic shift in behaviour. But how do you persuade people to change their hard-wired behaviours, routines and norms?

When it comes to implementing necessary climate-friendly changes at your workplace, it is important to communicate your vision effectively with your team to ensure that people understand the end-goal, in order to achieve maximum effect. When people simply follow instructions, this only has short term impact.

According to Rose et al. (2010) effective communication involves ‘letting the receiver of information grasp the intended meaning of the message’.

This way, your message is more likely to change people’s hearts, and/or minds, and lead to action. Only then, will you persuade your team to change their hard-wired behaviours and norms in order to enable climate action.

So, what is the key to effective communication? How do you ‘sell’ sustainability?

  • CONTEXT: Why now? What has triggered this change in mindset? In order for people to believe the need to act you must explain your thought process and the factors involved in the decision making process.
  • TRANSPARENCY: What is your motivation? Climate change is a humanitarian crisis which is justification for concern in itself, but if you have any motives other than moral obligation, then be open and upfront, or you will lose the trust of your audience. There is no shame in having other motives, but disguising these underneath an altruistic agenda will be negatively received.
  • CREDIBILITY: Choose the right person to deliver the message. Who are you more likely to concur with, someone who is evidently very passionate about environmental protection and regularly participates in beach clear-ups, or someone who frequently travels in a private-jet and lives a highly consumerist lifestyle? Also ensure that the message is evidence-based and factually correct.
  • EMPATHY: Understand the emotions involved and individual difficulties faced by members of your team. Their concerns must be heard and addressed, so that barriers to sustainability can be overcome.
  • COMMONALITIES: Try to find some common ground in order to connect on the same level about environmental issues; for example, if you both have children, you will both understand the need to protect the future generations from the effects of climate change.
  • STORYTELLING: Now this technique tends to work better when communicating with a new audience. Storytelling involves describing your journey, from start to end, and communicating your message in an entertaining way.
  • EXPECTATION: How do you expect your team to respond to your message? People need to know what the goals are, how they fit into the plan, and what they are expected to do next. You must explain their role in achieving a sustainable future together.
  • POSITIVITY:Climate change is worrying, unpredictable and catastrophic. But you do not want to shock people into a state of hopelessness. Of course, outline the facts, but emphasise the solution; a better future can be achieved with collective action. Paint a compelling vision of how things could be different if we try.

Sustainability leadership is all about empowering those around you. No-one can stop climate change by themselves!

By taking people on the journey of sustainability ‘with’ you rather than ‘for’ you, it is possible to achieve a much greater impact, and a more promising future for all.

Together we can help to prevent further decline of diverse wild plant and animal species

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