6 ways to screw up any sustainability message

Junk messageNot getting the results you want?  Maybe there’s a reason.  We’re repeatedly amazed at how little many (extremely smart) sustainability advocates seem know about the art and craft of influencing.

Poorly crafted sustainability messages are as destructive as any other form of junk mail.  How many of these screw-ups have you seen recently?

1. Only talk about the bad news and a dire future…

Where have you seen people ignoring the research evidence that that permanent, pervasive, personal problems generate helplessness and inaction?

Keep banging the catastrophe drum.  Count on fear to motivate people to change, but don’t give them any constructive, plausible action to take.   Definitely don’t tell them about the decades of successful development and testing that have been done.

(Alternative: Learn about how to create optimism and find ways to deliver a positive message that’s tailored to your audience.)

2. Keep telling people WHY to change…

Don’t tell them WHAT to change or what the alternative is; don’t tell them HOW to go about making change happen;  don’t tell them WHAT ELSE could benefit from implementing the change.

(Alternative: Find out about different learning styles and how to meet the needs of all your audience.)

3.  Keep having conversations where you only SHARE what’s required…

Don’t move on to more active conversations asking people to CONSIDER a new practice, to TRIAL it, or to SUSTAIN it.

(Alternative: Get your head around the craft of Generative Innovation – learn how to influence, blend around resistance, and move from idea to adopted practice.)

4. Keep going on about exciting new technologies and revolutionary business models…

Ignore the stats that only 2.5% of the population are innovators and 12.5% are early adopters.  Don’t work with the reality that the majority (both the early majority and the late majority) are primarily concerned with social needs and want social proof from their peers.

(Alternative: Learn how about innovation diffusion and what it takes to migrate products across the chasm.)

5. Focus on arguing a logical, rational case for action…

Keep on pretending that humans are rational.  Ignore the emotions, core needs and values that motivate over 85% of the population and drive their behaviour.

(Alternative: develop a basic understanding of human motivation and what speaks to different groups – and the deep needs and values outside most people’s awareness.)

6. Keep propagating the myths that government action and consumer frugality are “critically important”…

Keep the designers, engineers and architects who develop and deliver the products and services we use thinking that it’s not up to them.   Keep telling the executives who brief them it’s up to government and consumers.

(Alternative: Spread the news about the design alternatives – to the designers and their bosses.  Find ways to put Regenerative Economics, Circular Economy, Cradle to Cradle principles, the Blue Economy Innovations, Systemic Design, Integrative Design, etc. into mainstream business conversations.)

Make your sustainability messaging more effective

Along with the wealth of technological advances of the past few decades, there are great tools for influencing and turning good ideas into adopted practices.  If the result you’re getting isn’t working, study innovation delivery.

See our RESOURCES page and visit our BLOG for some of our favourites.

Want to get into action – now?  We deliver this information and more, tailored to your needs in our coaching program “Conversation Skills for Change-Makers


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About Leigh


Leigh is the principal of the business innovation practice Balance3 and her clients have included corporations such as Amcor, National Foods, Dair, SPC Ardmona, Kobelco, Corporate Express and New Balance as well as a range of smaller businesses and individual clients.