3 Tips for Communicating About Sustainability within Your Organization

By: Net Impact staff | August 18, 2012

New data looking at sustainability experts on the job from Vox Global, Net Impact UC Berkeley Undergrad, and the Weinreb Group suggest that interpersonal skills are critical to these employees' successful sustainability efforts. The report, Making the Pitch: Selling Sustainability form Inside Corporate America, also indicates that internal staff and executives are the top contributors to successful initiatives. But how do you turn numbers into action? Here are three tips, pulled with permission directly from the report, to help you communicate about sustainability more effectively within your own organization.

1. Learn to speak the language of other business units

'If you're talking to a business or operations person,' [says Linda Fisher, Chief Sustainability Officer, DuPont], 'and you talk about productivity improvement, their eyes brighten up. They get excited. [If] you talk to them about making that same facility more sustainable, they might not get it...'Every year, Fisher's team conducts a sustainable growth review with each of DuPont's 13 businesses. Prior to the review, they conduct a thorough analysis of the business's environment, safety and health performance, product stewardship, product regulatory analysis, as well as a trends analysis. 'From that trend analysis we'll talk about what are the key issues and opportunities for that particular business unit...We really tailor these reviews to identify what are the key societal trends, challenges and issues facing that business.'

2. Overcommunicate, then communicate some more

'People want to feel like they are part of the journey,' [explains Jennifer Silberman, VP of Corporate Responsibility for Hilton Worldwide]. Silberman places a heavy emphasis on communication to ensure people throughout Hilton Worldwide's global operations are part of the company's sustainability and corporate responsibility journey. 'You can't overcommunicate enough,' she says. She uses multiple channels, including executive communications, the company intranet, newsletters and quarterly team meetings, to communicate Hilton Worldwide's progress to a diverse group of executives and team members.Along the way, she has learned that broad communication tools alone do not always 'cascade' the message to all team members, and that various groups within the organization may require more personal follow-up. In this way, Silberman and her team play an important role in connecting stakeholders back to corporate responsibility and its integration into all levels of Hilton Worldwide's business.

3. Create small wins to build advocates across the organization

By integrating a culture of genuine credit and recognition for the employees that make it happen, new initiatives come with their own internal advocates: 'I think having some early small wins builds an important foundation,' [says Beth Adcock Shiroishi, VP of Sustainability and Philanthropy for AT&T]. 'A few pilots that went well, and making sure everyone involved in the effort is recognized inside the company, goes a long way inside our company. So while you're building your evidence base, you're also building your arsenal of success stories, and your champions. Now those people are turning into advocates for the cause.'

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