VIDEO: 60-second sustainability skill – The Influencer (Part 1)

In the first of a brand new series of short videos produced as part of edie's 'sustainability skills' month, green business leader-turned advisor Richard Gillies explains the influencing skills that sustainability professionals can use to drive positive change within their organisation and beyond.

This new series of videos will break down some of the essential skills and techniques 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 will feature a different sustainability expert discussing a particular skillset, with the series running throughout the month in the build-up to edie’s Sustainability Skills Workshop on 30 November.

VIDEO: 60-second sustainability skill – The Influencer

In the above video, Gillies discusses the role of ‘The Influencer’ in a sustainability team. How can a sustainability professional effectively influence the financial decisions of a board; or influence the sustainability behaviours of an entire organisation and its customers?

Gillies uses his past experience as group sustainability director for Europe’s largest home improvement business Kingfisher and director of Plan A at British supermarket group Marks & Spencer to explain that being a good influencer is all about putting yourself in the position of the stakeholder before attempting to change any mind-sets or behaviours.

“We have to understand who it is we’re influencing – all of our colleagues across the business, the board, other businesses in our industry and, of course, consumers and wider society,” Gillies said. “That is a very long list.

“You need to put yourself in their position. It is not ‘how do I drive my point of view into those various stakeholders?’ It is about understanding those stakeholders’ points of view and being able to deliver the messages in a language that they understand.

“Ultimately, you want them to deliver against your objectives.”

Richard Gillies’ top tips on the art of influencing in sustainability

– Be prepared to influence at all levels. If you’re relatively junior, you’ve got to focus on influencing whoever it is you work for. If you move up to management or board level, you may spend more time influencing your wider sector – each audience is very different and this will effect how you go about trying to influence.

– Know your audience. Climate change or resource scarcity issues will have different implications for the customer than they will for the retailer, the manufacturer or materials provider. It’s about finding the bits are relevant to each stakeholder and then presenting it using the right language.

– Make the story relevant. The key thing is to tell the story in a way that meets the needs of an audience. Resource scarcity and the circular economy can be relatively abstract concepts for some stakeholders as it may not be part of their daily concerns. But if resource efficiency could take certain problems away for those stakeholders, then your story becomes a lot more relevant and they will engage more easily.

– Believe, be confident and have passion. You need to believe in what our doing; have confidence in the information you’ve got; and have the confidence in yourself and your team to be able to assimilate that data and present it passionately.

– Collaboration is crucial. You have to combine all of these influencing skills with the ability to collaborate, because you don’t have any levers yourself. Increasingly in an interconnected world, collaboration is going to be the only way businesses can achieve true transformation.

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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