It was great to spend a day with environmentalists and psychologists, at the IEMA/British Psychological Society conference on pro-environmental behaviour change. People with real insight into what's going on inside our funny old heads are bringing that expertise to these problems.
Stonewall and P&G's work to promote equality for LGBT staff in Spain, Rype Office's repurposed office furniture for Public Health Wales, Willmott Dixon Interiors working with the Amber Foundation to help vulnerable youngsters into work... These are just some of the businesses featured in part six of my seven part series for The Environmentalist on how business can help support the SDGs.
Credit: Nicki Priem. Mafikizolo raised a flag to represent Goal 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth, at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa, to support the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development.
If that all sounds like too many clicks, there's a pdf of it here.
In September 2015, the United Nations agreed a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Covering everything from gender equality to the ecology of the deep oceans, they form a comprehensive description of the key challenges we face in making sustainable development a reality.
The UN sees businesses as a key player in meeting the goals. Why should business bother? And where do you start?
I'm writing a series of articles for The Environmentalist exploring these questions, and the first one is out today (11th February). It introduces the goals, and looks in detail at Goal 1 End poverty in all its forms everywhere and Goal 5 Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
You can access the article, and plenty of other environmental news, here, either sign in with your IEMA login, subscribe or take a free trial.
Alternatively, there's a pdf of it here.
I have found myself having a lot of coffees with people who are on the path to self-employment. As someone who embraced this particular type of freedom over 16 years ago, I have a thing or two to say! Some of these neophytes have taken voluntary redundancy amidst organisational shake-ups. Others are responding to new caring responsibilities. Some have just tired of trying to change organisations from within.
I just love these conversations. It's great to be asked for advice on a subject dear to your heart and about which you think you have something useful to say. And it appeals to the coach in me: asking questions to draw out what they really want from the change: their dreams and ideals; boundaries and fixed points.
Advice from experienced freelancers
Most were about networking for support and leads:
"It takes a long while to build consultancy relationships, so start early, and keep feeding in new possible clients to your portfolio so that you have always got an eye on one year from now as well as the now." Christine Garner
"I would suggest that your first piece of paid work (and your second...) will come from your network rather than any 'advertising' or external marketing you might do. The people who know you will be the ones to trust you first - and to tell others about you." Mark McKergow
"I was advised (many years ago) to have a great, but short, answer to the question, 'What do you do?' My answer was 'I'm a developer, I develop people!' That often prompted a deeper discussion led by the other person, that occasionally led to work. So much easier than a long ramble about what I actually did." David Shepherd, AMED member
"Start with the people you know, and build from there." Edward Kellow
"Reach out to friends and acquaintances in consultancies/agencies, become their associate. This will multiply ways you get work." Adam Garfunkel
"After 25 years in the field, I became self-employed 5 years ago. If I can summarize in one word, it is Contacts. Maintain and expand your list of contacts. Stay in touch with them, such as with a newsletter. Let them know you have your own firm and will give them the same level of service you have in the past (with perhaps, lower overhead). Get out there." Marc Karell, Climate Change & Environmental Services, LLC
"It could fill a book! But perhaps the most important lesson I learned was that going independent should not and does not mean going it alone! If the work does not involve other people, find other people to interact with around the work. Get a coach to help step outside the work and think. Join an association. Get associates. These things helped me not to be isolated and continue to help me infuse my work with new, creative ideas and insights, and to not spend all my time in my own head!" Chris Grieve
Some were about the kind of work you do, and how:
"Stay true to your own values [so you] project that you feel good about what you do" Christine Tuson
And some were very practical:
"Remember to invoice them and make sure they pay." Christine Garner.
"Work out what income you need and how much work (in paid days per year at different rates) you need to do to achieve it, and use that as a personal KPI." Christine Tuson
"Especially for women, don't charge too little." Julian Walker
And I can't resist linking to Sarah Holloway's blog post on the same topic, with her deeply practical "when you see a loo, use it".
Glass half full?
Some freelancers think their diary can never be too full, but I'd offer some contrasting advice on that point. I know I have a weakness in saying 'yes' too readily, so I have practised saying no and enjoying the downtime. It's time to spend with family, on community activity, or just clearing out the cupboard of mystery (everyone has one).
I'd agree more with these comments:
"Downshift. Make your home earn money. When you have gap days you don't need to panic, it may be better to take that as a reboot yourself day. Oh yes, and enjoy the freedom it gives you. Good luck." Nicola Baird
"Learn how to say no. when I first went freelance, I was terrified of ever saying no for fear of never getting work again, so found I over committed and worked silly hours. Took me years to have the confidence to say no." Pippa Hyam.
These are my top tips:
- Network, use your contacts, tell people you are available, ask them for help and ask them what help they need.
- Spend a little time daydreaming about your perfect, ideal work and then tell people that's what you do / what you're looking for.
- Trust your own judgement - if you don't seem to have the whole picture, keep asking questions; if the client seems to have missed something, mention it.
- Don't be scared of the money conversation - clients expect to have to talk about it!
- Know your own limits, be it term dates and sports day, or the sectors / kinds of creepy people you don't want to work with and stick to them - you are the boss!
- Do things that challenge you and get support from fellow independents.
- Find great places to have client or networking meetings for free - in London I like Kings Place and the Royal Festival Hall.
Over the years, I've got great support from a few organisations which are great for networking, both online and face-to-face: AMED; IAF; IEMA. I have also started to check out meet-ups - an online way to find and set up networking events. For example, I've gone along to collaboration meet-ups in London [update 5/5/16] and these facilitation meet-ups organised by the IAF. Check out what’s available in your area.
More advice, your advice?
Please do add your own experiences, questions or tips, in the comments below.
Organisational culture. Where to begin? Like behaviour change and values, it's one of those phenomena of human experience that promises to unlock sustainability if you can only work out how to harness it, but tantalises by just not being reducible to simple rules or mechanistic predictions.
The canny editorial team over at The Environmentalist invited me to write a two-part feature to introduce IEMA members to this scotch mist, and I love a challenge like that. Even though I know the result will be partial and full of holes, I'd love to help people begin to navigate this treacherous territory with a few useful landmarks.
The research and planning process for the article was fun too, once I'd decided to focus right down on something manageable. (After all, this was for a 1,400 word feature, not a thesis.)
I chose to re-read Edgar Schein's classic Organizational Culture and Leadership. The resulting mind map of notes is two A4 sheets of close tiny handwriting. I also finally got round to properly reading William Bridges' Character of Organisations, which I was introduced to by Lindsey Colbourne (I still have your copy Lindsey!) when she was helping Sciencewise think about designing approaches to public dialogue which match the organisational cultures found in Whitehall Departments and government agencies. Her insightful background research report on the "Departmental Dialogue Index" is here and the summary paper containing the diagnostic tool is here.
Schein's book is wonderful for its stories. I enjoyed being alongside him as a reader, as he gradually realises how little he understands the organisations he is exploring. He opens himself up to not knowing, thereby allowing himself to hear the new (more accurate) interpretations of the behaviours and artefacts. There's something of the anthropologist about him, understanding organisations by being present in them as a participant observer.
Bridges' approach starts from a framework more commonly used to understand the individual - the MBTI's contrasting pairs of judging / perceiving; sensing / intuition; extraversion / introversion; thinking / feeling. He takes this and looks at how it might manifest in organisations.
This is arguably a less intellectually rigorous approach than Schein's. I definitely find myself drawn to the open-endedness and ambiguity of the anthropologist. But there is also something attractively pragmatic in Bridges' work. And the book contains a questionnaire that readers can use to assess an organisation - good for people (and organisations) which like applied theory.
Sharing TUI Travel's journey
Many thanks to Rosie Bristow and Sarah Holloway who took the time to talk to me about how understanding organisational culture within TUI Travel helped them to tailor their sustainability work to be more effective. As well as reading about this in my article, you can see the enthusiastic buy-in they've generated here.
For Diageo, the drinks company, agricultural suppliers typically represent more than 90% of its water footprint, so of course it's vital that the company’s water strategy looks beyond its own four walls to consider sustainable water management and risks in the supply chain. By contrast, what matters most for Unilever in tackling its global water footprint is reducing consumers’ water use when they are doing laundry, showering and washing their hair, particularly in countries where water is scarce. Asking office staff to report dripping taps will contribute to the firm’s water efficiency, but it is much less useful than innovating a generation of products that use less water for cleaning.
Once you know what the main water-using phases are in your product or service system, you can prioritise and target. the audiences you want to engage.
This article in the environmentalist looks at the questions you need to ask yourself, to work out how to engage people in water efficiency. You can download it here or read it online on the environmentalist's website (you may need to log in or sign up for a free trial to read it online).
Well done for finding this page! You have already shown tenacity, imagination and great googling skills. This practice doesn't offer work experience, apprenticeships or internships. We're not hiring at the moment. You need to find a slightly bigger organisation for that sort of thing.
Here's some advice and links, which I hope are helpful.
- Use your contacts - people you met while studying, both students and staff. Let them know what kind of work you are looking for and what you can offer.
- Join a relevant professional body and network like crazy: for environmentalists, IEMA is great. If you have found these pages because you're interested in facilitating then check out the IAF. And if you want to spread your wings into coaching, organisational consultancy and change management check out AMED.
- Linked-In is good too - look for active discussion groups related to your interests and location.
If you can afford it, look for volunteering or internship opportunities with organisations relevant to the kind of work you are interested in.
The field of change for sustainable development is one I have found exciting, challenging and satisfying. I hope you find a place here too.
Here are some fascinating examples of staff behaviour change initatives, particularly about travel, which have been carefully thought through, using creative responses to the elements which might enable and discourage the new desired behaviours. I've analysed them using the six sources of influence framework which still feels very intuitive and helpful to me, a few years after I first came across it. (There's a very useful summary here.) This article was published in the environmentalist on paper and on line, last month. The article didn't have room for the table below, so when you've read it, come back and see this more systematic matching of actions to sources of influence in the case of Akzo-Nobel's sales team car travel.
Using the sales forces’ existing strong competitive instincts and love of gadgets. Not using eco-awareness as a motivator.
Provide targeted training.
Popular simulator game, competing for highest mpg.
Not used for this behaviour change.
One for the future – considering how to incorporate a fuel-efficiency aspect into the reward scheme.
Fuel-efficient choices and real-time mpg displays in cars.
The article was written some weeks ago, before the encounter with a disgruntled staff member which I blogged about here. (Neither of the organisations in the article is the one in that blog.)
Pondering on the approaches take by Lloyds and Akzo-Nobel would have avoided this response, I'm thinking that this is probably less about the specific initiative, and more about the sense of alienation that staff have from the organisation they work for. If you're grumpy generally about your workplace, then an initiative like the low-carbon diet will exacerbate and provide a focus for that anger.
Greenwash or win-win?
Trewin Restorick at eco-behaviour NGO Global Action Plan has also blogged recently about staff travel. A good period of internal engagement prior to setting up systems and initatives - to make sure that incentives and polices are aligned rather than contradicting each other - seems needed, given some of the insights he describes. He makes an interesting point about greenwash - in this case, dressing up a travel reduction initative as an environmental benefit when it is 'really' a cost-saving measure. This is in contrast with Paul Turner's experience, described in my article, of seeing the dual-benefit as a win-win which enables Lloyds' to appeal to different groups of staff.
Back in March 2011, I enjoyed working with the IEMA to facilitate a workshop for environmental professionals, ably supported by Debbie Warrener. The workshop was organised to give some of the UK's most long-serving and successful internal environmental specialists a chance to share experiences of leadership around sustainable business practice, and collaboratively sketch out the skills environmental professionals need if they are to shift their organisations strategically towards sustainability. There were no presentations - it was a collaborative venture where everyone in the room had wisdom and expertise to contribute.
During the workshop they created a mind map of key skills. This was done very rapidly, following several rounds of discussing challenges successfully met and skills used in doing so.
I came across my notes of this mind map in the nether reaches of my filing pile just now, and it struck me as one of those things which you could work away at for a long time and not improve much.
So here it is.
I was really pleased to see how much was to do with interpersonal skills, influence, collaboration and mainstream management and leadership skills. We have heaps of fantastically technically expert environmentalists working in organisations. Too often they are marginalised and lacking in power or influence. They can find themselves shaking their heads sadly at the decisions made by the people with power, who don't see the unsustainability of their actions or can't see how to change. Combining technical excellence with the savvy of the change-maker is essential.
IEMA's current framework
IEMA have since developed a skills framework at a number of levels which draws on this work, and other research and engagement they have done with their members. You can see it here and read more about how people are reacting to it here.
And there's another framework mentioned in this earlier blog post and the article it links to.
In November 2011, IEMA's magazine published this, looking at the skills and aptitudes needed by some very senior sustainability people in UK businesses, and includes personal stories from a number.
There's a typical pattern for sustainability change agents: enthusiastic spotting of an opportunity to change (a solution) followed by a flurry of activity and then the obstables begin to show themselves. Then it can go two ways:
reflecting on the 'stuckness', exploring it and finding a way beyond it,
Actually, you need to see the obstacles clearly to be able to deal with them, but that doesn't stop people feeling downhearted if they'd set out imagining no obstacles at all!
Theories for the perplexed
I find it reassuring when a bit of theory (or framework, model, checklist) explains that the low points are predictable, expected and indeed part of the journey.
And theories can also help us make sense of a complex reality, find the patterns in chaos, see "what's really going on here" and understand our unconscious assumptions. If we bring them to conscious attention, we can make choices about doing things differently. Our assumptions might be about organisations (what they are, how they work, what's amenable to change), or people (how to interact respectfully whilst intending things to change) or sustainability (what might the journey look like, how you know you're going in the right direction).
So I've assembled some bits of theory which I find particularly useful and popped them in a slide show here:
View more presentations from PennyWalker
There should be some notes pages with more explanation and references, but I haven't managed to get Slide Share to show these yet. So here's a pdf with the notes. This is a presentation I give at the fabulous Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business course, developed and run by CPSL and Forum for the Future.
Ideas into action
So theories are all very well, but what might it mean for your situation? I love to help people work out what their next steps might be, and a good way of doing this has proved to be the one-day Change Management for Sustainable Development workshop I developed and run with the IEMA.
We've got one in London on May 25th. So why not come along and we can help each other use some practical theories to make more progress? You can book here.
When the new editor of the environmentalist, Paul Suff, asked me to write a kind of 'how to' article on understanding what sustainability means to an organisation, it took me some time to figure out how to make it fit into a two-page article. I'm pleased with the overall framework, and the questions which it seems to all boil down to:
- What's the best thing we can do?
- What's the best way we can do it?
“Ask yourself what sustainability means for your organisation, because finding the answer is one of the biggest contributions you can make to building a sustainable future.
When you ask what sustainability means for your organisation, you are effectively asking: “what’s the best thing we can do?” and “what’s the best way we can do it?”. These questions get to the heart of the organisation’s purpose and activities, daring us to reinvent them for the world of tomorrow, where the purpose responds perfectly to the environmental and social context and is delivered with the best possible impacts. You will find the answers in conversations with other people: colleagues, critics and stakeholders”
See what you think: access a pdf of the article here.
This is the first edition of the environmentalist under its new editorship, and you can access the whole mag for a limited time here.
Every day in every way I'm getting better and better. But how would we know? My latest 'engaging people' column looks at different ways of assessing sustainability leaders: our strengths and our areas to build on. First published in 'the environmentalist' , IEMA's magazine.
You may also be interested in this survey, which explores your experiences of being a "sustainable development change agent" trying to transform an organisation. The survey is part of my research for a forthcoming chapter in a book on organisational change and sustainability, due to be published by Greenleaf in 2011.
NB the survey is now closed.
Update, Dec 2010
Distilling practical experience and really helpful theory, the 2006 Change Management for Sustainable Development practitioner is my modest contribution to helping sustainability professionals harness the insights from organisational development, change mangement and behaviour change. It also features blank spaces for you to make your own notes, so it's as much like a conversation as I could make a paper-based book. And there are downloadable worksheets on IEMA's website, it you want to run workshop sessions using some of the exercises.
I'm delighted that people have found it helpful, and that - for example - it's been drawn on in subsequent IEMA practitioner guides like this one on climate change.
One of the things we do at the one-day Change Management training workshop is to look through a decision tree (aka flow chart) to see which approach to change might be most effective, given the starting point of each person on the course. Questions to ask yourself include:
- what's my mandate?
- what is the stated position of my senior team / Board, and do they know what they've signed up to?
- how much of an appetite is there amongst my colleagues?
The next workshop is on 20th July in Leeds - why not book to join us?
We have three dates in the diary for this one-day workshop, which I've been running since 2005. The day is very interactive, with everyone sharing a specific sustainability challenge which they are working on, and using various frameworks and exercises to explore and understand the challenge better.
During the workshop, people
- Hear about some theory on organisational change and approaches to change, including a scale of strategic engagement, visioning, identifying key players, choosing a change strategy, identifying barriers to change and planning first steps.
- Apply this to their own organisational sustainability challenge.
- Hear from others in a similar situation, discuss common challenges and discovering sources of further information and support.
As you’d expect, the contents have evolved since I ran the first one. But the approach is still one of making selected bits of change theory as accessible as possible to people, and giving them time to work on their own particular situation during the workshop. And everyone still gets a free copy of the workbook, so they can carry on making their own notes and using plenty more exercises and frameworks at their own pace.
If you'd like to come along, you can book through IEMA's website.
London: 28th April 2010
Leeds: 20th July 2010
Newcastle upon Tyne: 12th October 2010
I've been running a training course today, helping sustainable development specialists get some insights from the world of organisational change. As part of this, each person identified a sustainability challenge that's real for them and their organisation right now. One of the participants was grappling with how to get people from across the organisation to look at the sustainability impacts of the services they provide. This will entail having a much better understanding of what the social aspects of sustainable development are, and how you might measure or assess your performance on these aspects.
We came back to this question about the social aspects of sustainable development when looking at Dexter Dunphy's phases of organisational strategic engagement with sustainability. There's a pdf of a presentation summarising this here. One of the phases in this typology is ‘efficiency’.
If your focus is on the environment, it’s clear that this is about eco-efficiency or resource-efficiency. If your focus is the economic aspects of sustainability, then financial and labour efficiency (productivity) are easy concepts to grasp. But what does this mean when you are thinking about the social aspects?
With wonderful serendipity, I had just been reading Jonathon Porritt’s valedictory report, published yesterday. Jonathon recently stepped down as Chair of the UK Government’s Sustainable Development Commission, and in this report he examines what he calls the mystery of why sustainable development hasn’t been better embedded in the various strands of government in the UK. He blogs about it here and there's also a link to download the report.
As it happens, he provides a very useful summary of what social sustainability is and what efficiency means in that context. He does it so well, that I’ll quote at some length here.
The two overarching ends [of sustainable development, as articulated in the UK Government’s 2005 strategy] (“Living Within Environmental Limits”, and “Achieving a Strong, Healthy and Just Society”) require very different approaches. The test of “living within environmental limits” is a strictly empirical test: define the limit (as in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for instance, or threshold limits for pollutants in the air or water), measure levels of compliance against these agreed limits, and then adapt policies accordingly. By contrast, “achieving a strong, healthy and just society” is a predominantly normative aspiration rather than an empirical test, with very different metrics and very different value judgements as to the weight that should be attached to different aspects of “strong, healthy and just”.
At the heart of the concept of sustainable development lies the concept of “dual equities”: inter-generational equity (living today in such a way that we aren’t ruining prospects for people tomorrow), and intra-generational equity (living today in such a way that we reduce – or even eliminate – current unsupportable inequalities in wealth, opportunity and broader entitlements).
In that respect, sustainable economic development means “fair shares for all”, ensuring that people’s basic needs are properly met across the world, while securing constant improvements in the quality of people’s lives through efficient, inclusive economies. “Efficient” in that context simply means generating as much economic value as possible from the lowest possible throughput of raw materials and energy.
…Once basic needs are met, the goal is to achieve the highest quality of life for individuals and communities, within the Earth’s carrying capacity, through transparent, properly regulated markets which promote both social equity and personal prosperity.”
This idea of efficiency in the use of the Earth’s carrying capacity to give as much social well-being as possible must mean, in some situations, redistributing carrying capacity from those who have an unfairly large share of it, in order that those whose needs are not being met can better meet their own needs. This is the case because it is not possible to ‘increase the size of the pie’ – we only have one planet.
The New Economics Foundation (NEF) produces the Happy Planet Index which uses official statistics to reveal, as they put it, “the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered” in 143 countries covering 99% of the world’s population. (I know you want to know – the UK score is 43.3, the USA is 30.7, and Costa Rica is 76.1.)
I wonder how this approach could be used to measure performance in organisations?
The latest issue of the environmentalist includes an article I've written, entitled "who can help me make this change?". In it, I share an approach I've used successfully in training courses and (as my daughter would say) in true life: it helps people to systematically identify key internal and external players who can help them bring about the change they want to see. If a particular person or group are crucial to making the change happen, then you want them to be supportive of it. Ask them what they'd like to see happening, and how you can help them. Find common ground and enlist their support.
If someone is already very supportive, but not really needed, then see what they can do to influence or recruit those who are needed. Or enlist them to support you.
Remember, the art of engaging people to help create transformational change involves listening and letting go.
Well as promised, here are my thoughts having attended the morning of the IEMA Conference 09.
- I'd gladly hear Jonathan Porritt again. He talked about the need to get off the hedonic treadmill, and the challenge of getting marketeers to sell austerity. His slides are here. I'm intrigued that he found Dr Steven Chu's speech to the Nobel Laureate's symposium inspiring - because JP says the speech was about energy efficiency. And in the words of Theodore Roszack,
...prudence is such a lacklustre virtue.
I couldn't find a way to read, hear or watch Secretary Chu's speech (please let me know if you know of one) but the symposium site is here. The other insight which caused me to stop short is that, apparently, family planning is the single best intervention in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, from a cost benefit point of view.
I didn't really understand what Lord Jenkin was trying to tell us. Insufficiently relevant, at least to this member of the audience. Sorry.
Peter Jones is always interesting, although his acrobatic mind can leave me behind sometimes.
Skills for Change
The workshop I ran was an hour's worth on skills for change. I chose to focus on inter-personal influencing, through mirroring body language, asking facilitative questions, and sharing the six sources of influence that I learnt about through the 'all washed up' video which I've blogged about here.
The handouts from the session are here.
It was a lot of fun - it's amazing how quickly you can find three things that you have in common with a total stranger - and I hope stretched some people to think beyond 'awareness raising' as a way of influencing others.
I hope that it also helped people to be braver about networking later in the day, because making connections and building trust within a group such as this one, composed of IEMA members and fellow-travellers, will - in the long run - have far more impact than speechifying.
I was delighted to be asked to run a skills-based session for IEMA's 2009 conference (London, September 22nd), because it's a chance to help environmental specialists get better at the soft stuff. I'm going to be sharing three different skills which change agents really need if they want to influence other people, and I'll blog about how it went when it's done. The skills are - developing rapport, asking facilitative questions, and understanding six key sources of influence.
This Autumn's IEMA workshop, Change Management for Sustainable Development, will take place in Leeds in November. As you'd expect, the contents have evolved over the four years since I first ran one. But the approach is still one of making selected bits of change theory as accessible as possible to people, and giving them time to work on their own particular situation during the workshop. And everyone still gets a free copy of the workbook, so they can carry on making their own notes and using plenty more exercises and frameworks at their own pace. They can also use these exercises with colleagues and in teams, to help get insights from a broad range of perspectives, and to build a coalition of change agents.