The Sustainability Challenge In Business and How to Get Buy In


We’ve all heard the saying that consumer would prefer to buy than be sold to, right? Well, after doing some reading and research, it turns out that “selling” sustainability is no different.

My Sustainability Journey and The Buy-In

I still am careful about how I approach sustainability. I don’t use the term “global warming” because I prefer to use “climate change”. I don’t use terms like “save the environment” but rather prefer to promote “environmental stewardship”. In a nutshell, I decided that I’d be here based upon my decision, and on my terms, and not based upon the propaganda wagon that took off with Al Gore. I bought in, but didn’t want Al selling me.

I bought in as a political conservative, laying siege on the sustainability battleground many years ago. The changes that I saw taking place economically perpetuated a change in our sustainability and transformation plans, and we had several roads to choose from as we moved forward. Needless to say, after a painstaking process of research and dialogue with many professionals, I found that sustainability was a smart choice personally and economically, for our business and for others.

 How to Get People to Reuse Their Towels

I read a recent article by Ted Page called “How to Get People to Reuse Their Hotel Towels”. This dives to the core of how consumers make decisions involving the buy in. They want to be part of a community that makes sense to them, be part of the herd, the tribe, or the pack. We can all relate to the signs we see in our hotel rooms referring to the reuse of our towels. This article is worth a few moments of your time to read. Many of the principles come from a book that spent 47 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List, and one I highly recommend on my list of best business books –  Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath.

 Implications for Sustainability

The implications for this school of thought are huge for sustainability. Think about this theory the next time you come to a crossroads on a sustainability decision. As a consultant or “seller” of sustainability, would I be better off herding as opposed to selling? As a consumer or business owner, do I want to get onboard with sustainability because it’s a great personal and economic decision (and for some perhaps even a moral decision), AND because other smart consumers and business owners are joining the herd?

Most of the largest and most profitable businesses across the globe have Sustainability Template Plans, and have incorporated sustainability into their missions. Don’t get left behind. Incorporating sustainability is a train that left the station long ago, so it’s just a matter of when you choose to jump onboard.

Scott Van Kerkhove is the CEO of EnergyWise and writes on issues surrounding sustainability, energy efficiency, sustainable products to sell, and renewable energy.

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