Persuasive Sustainability


“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.” – David Ogilvy

Last week I was at a conference and I was asked what was one of the main things I would suggest that people do when they start talking about sustainability initiatives. I think I surprised everyone with my answer. I got the impression that they were looking for some deep insight that would part the murky sea of sustainability. I told the moderator that I would recommend that they talk about sustainability in the same language that their coworkers and managers used.

That’s why David Ogilvy’s quote is here. I’m more the Mark Twain kind of guy, never use a ten dollar word when two bits will get the job done. If your company is concerned with ROI or EBIT, frame you discussion in those terms. Use terms and issues that they are familiar with and can relate to. Your passion is great! But, not everyone is going to have the same level of passion or commitment that you have. You are looking for buy-in. You want to be able to sustain your efforts.

I’m not talking about selling out. Keep your values, principles and passion. We need these to lead change, Peter Drucker said, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”

I once had a discussion with a senior executive and he started off the discussion by telling me that he didn’t believe in all this climate change global warming business. After he finished I asked him if I could help his company reduce their waste and energy cost and oh, by the way lower their carbon footprint along the way, would that be a problem? He took a second and said “No”.

That’s what I mean, find out what is important to them and make sure that your great ideas and efforts can tie to the same things that are keeping them up at night.

One thought on “Persuasive Sustainability

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s