Pitching sustainability projects to senior management can be tough – and creating a convincing argument around the commercial benefits can be even tougher.
We’re delighted to be writing Enabling Catalysts blogs on transformational change for our partnership with Manufacture 2030. Our first short blog gives 3 transformative perspectives which can be tailored to your project and proposal and can get you closer to that all-important ‘Yes’. This is the first in a series – look out for the second instalment next month!
1 – “It’s who we are”
When John F Kennedy was pitching for the Apollo missions he famously said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard”. Many great leaders are blunt about the challenges, but they speak about them in a way which inspires, because they put the challenge in the frame of “I know this is hard – that’s why we’re the right people in the right place at the right time to do it.” His speech, which is well worth a read, makes repeated reference to the nature and quality of the audience. For example, “Some would have us stay where we are a little longer to rest, to wait. But this city of Houston, this State of Texas, this country of the United States was not built by those who waited and rested and wished to look behind them.” And he cited “All great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.”
By the end he wasn’t selling the mission, he was enabling a people to fulfil their destiny. Inspiring stuff. You don’t have to be a speech writer; the ability to link the task in hand to a higher sense of purpose is a characteristic of great leaders. If your company values include engagement, integrity, innovation, caring, leading, responsibility or similar, how can your proposal be a fulfilment of who you are and what you stand for? What values is the organisation demonstrating by taking on, (or backing away from) certain decisions? If the decision makers like to be bold or heroic, how can them saying ‘Yes’ to the challenges and any risks be an opportunity for them to show themselves as the leaders that they are? Behaviour is the highest form of communication.
You can also look at “It’s who we are” through your customers’ and partners’ eyes. We live in a world proliferated by choice. Customers’ buying decisions can be marginal. What message would delivering this project give your customers? How will it build your reputation? And brand loyalty? What’s the PR potential? How might it make the competition look like dinosaurs? And remember that a whole brand is affected by doing the right things. And doing the wrong things (diesel emissions, anyone?). How will your decision look in 5-10 years? The benefits extend far further than the project on the table.
2 – “We learn through doing”
Talk and reflection are good. But immense learning comes through doing it and gaining the experience. What will the people and organisation learn through delivering this project? How can that make subsequent projects easier? What does that do for the resilience of and future opportunities for the organisation?
3 – “What else would you be spending the time and money on?”
Kennedy looked at the numbers in a way people understood, and made a powerful comparison: “That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year – a staggering sum, though somewhat less than what we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United States.” He’s clear about the numbers. In psychological terms this is about meeting people where they are and acknowledging objections. But he then immediately gives a way of seeing the figures that makes them look achievable, and indeed desirable – do we want to spend our money on cigarettes or on making history?
They went to the moon – and made history. Good luck with your proposal.
We’d love to hear from you about your experience of building convincing business cases. How did you convince unengaged stakeholders of the value of your initiative?
The Manufacture 2030 Platform’s mission is to make sustainable manufacturing happen at scale. Their 1000+ membership includes leaders and professionals from over 700 companies including Co-op, Mars, Johnson & Johnson and many more. Their platform and events help bring inspiring people and great ideas together to accelerate change.