60-second sustainability skill - The Storyteller

The penultimate episode of our series of sustainability skills videos sees Carillion's chief sustainability officer David Picton explain the importance of being a good storyteller when looking to drive positive change within your organisation and beyond.

Carillion's chief sustainability officer David Picton discusses the role of ‘The Storyteller’ within a sustainability team. (Scroll down to play video).

Carillion's chief sustainability officer David Picton discusses the role of ‘The Storyteller’ within a sustainability team. (Scroll down to play video).

This series of short videos breaks down some of the essential skills that sustainability and CSR professionals can utilise to take their abilities onto the next level; delivered through 60-second pitches from a selection of highly-experienced sustainability leaders and advisors.

Each video features a different sustainability expert discussing a particular skill, with the series running throughout edie's 'Sustainability Skills Month', which concludes with the Sustainability Skills Workshop on 30 November.

VIDEO: 60-second sustainability skill - The Storyteller

In the above video, Carillion's David Picton discusses the role of ‘The Storyteller’ within a sustainability team. How important is it to be able to tell good stories when trying to persuade and influence key stakeholders on sustainability?

Picton uses his experience leading the construction firm's international sustainable business strategy to explain that being a good storyteller is all about bringing your company's sustainability strategy to life, and engaging with people on a personal level.

"Storytelling is the only way we can share good information; we can share targets and we can share ambition,” Picton said. “When you link that together as a story, it can come to life for people; if you can bring it to life for people and help them to see how they make an individual contribution, how they perhaps were inspired by some other actions, they can then get involved as well.

“When everyone gets involved with sustainability, we start to work together; when we work together, we achieve far more than we ever would individually.”

David Picton's top tips on telling a good sustainability story

- Tell different stories to different people. Each of your sustainability stories will need to be pitched in a different way for people to understand. If you try and just tell one story you’ll end up being seen as a fanatical campaigner and you’ll lose your own people and the people you are trying to influence outside of the business. If you’re talking to customers; you need to show them what’s in it for them in terms of a better service. If you’re talking to communities in the wider sense, you need to help them to see what’s in it for them.

- Make it personal. Sustainability is a massive and complicated agenda. It’s like a menu – if you opened it out in a restaurant, you would think that there are too many dishes to choose from and it’s too complicated. The reality is everybody’s choices can be different, you and I might choose completely different meals and I think that’s the same as sustainability. So, you must have enough chapters in your story that one or two of them will resonate with different audiences because they will be looking for different things and they will process the information differently because they’re individuals.

- Try not to alienate people. For a lot of our people who are busy with day-to-day operations, if we just say we’re going to link ourselves to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), most them have never heard of the SDGs (we have just found this out from a survey). So, we have to fully explain what they are and why they matter to us.

- Use ‘accessible’ language. This is critical. No matter the audience, you must ensure you choose simple language that makes sense and isn’t full of sustainability jargon. Phrases like ‘circular economy’ or ‘social value’ can be something people might shy away from unless they are a part of our world. You’ve got to explain what these things really mean. You must make the story accessible for people and relate it to their everyday life.  

- Show them the money! Nowadays, it’s not just about making money, it’s how you make it - you need to make it in a way that you can continue making it and be responsible with it. So, when telling your sustainability story, you always need to think about what the investors want to see – a better, more profitable business.


edie's sustainability skills month and workshop

The month of November sees edie shift the editorial spotlight from green building to sustainability skills, ahead of the edie Skills Workshop on 30 November in London (find out more and register to attend here).

From presentation skills and building the business case to the power of influence and persuasion, this month of exclusive videos, features and podcasts will pro-actively address the sustainability skills gaps and lay the foundations for businesses to take the next steps in their sustainability journey.

Read all of our sustainability skills content here.


Luke Nicholls


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| Sustainability Skills | video | Skills & training | training

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