Engaging the Disengaged
Engaging with the Disengaged Around Sustainability
A round table discussion investigating how the SME community and general public can be encouraged to promote sustainability held in partnership with Kyocera and C8 Consulting. The event was sponsored by Clarks Legal and held on 22 June 2011
It would be difficult in 2011 to imagine sustainability being too far down the list of priorities for enterprise organisations. Our guess would be top 5 for most large corporates, and even higher, for some. But how important is sustainability to the SME community and the general public? Over the years there has been a strong element of 'greenwash' and a view that sustainability doesn't apply to the SME community, many individuals hold the view of 'what difference can I make?'
So how do you get the disengaged to engage? One great example is the Global Cool Foundation, a charity which aims to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging, educating and enabling the public to change their behaviour. Global Cool's approach is to 'sell' a low-carbon lifestyle by focusing on how it can be desirable to the individual with campaigns like:
• Get on a bus because you get lots of lovely time to yourself.
• Go on holiday by train rather than flying, because you'll have a better adventure.
• Turn your heating down because it's better for your skin.
This contrasts with many other green/environmental campaigns which focus on the benefits to the environment but often leave employees disinterested and with the feeling that it is all a bit too 'worthy' and not practical. Often they don't really associate with the end goal - saving the planet often feels like an unachievable task.
But is this pandering to self-interest? Is immediate self-interest a bad way to get things done? Should we be adopting this approach more within the business world for the greater good of the environment? Global Cool doesn't presuppose that people are interested in carbon, climate or the environment. Instead, it 'sells' green lifestyle choices by making them appealing. Should more businesses be using social networking, film, fashion, music and entertainment to reach and inspire people to change, and to point out the fun, adventure and cost benefits of green lifestyle options? Instead of talking about your businesses sustainability agenda and espousing the benefits of recycling, switching off lights, energy savings; should you be talking about what the 'customer' cares about?
Topics under discussion included:
• Sustainability goals are often deemed as unattainable - such as curbing climate change - how can employees and individuals be convinced that their behaviour will make a difference?
• New ways of encouraging the General Public to associate with the end goal, and feel that sustainability is achievable.
• Which media channels are most effective? Would using social media and other popular media tools be a more effective way of spreading the message?