How do you sell a sustainability initiative to the C-suite?

Our partner EarthShift Global wanted to create a full-day workshop as part of their Sustainability Assessment Bootcamp to help sustainability analysts speak the language of business and sell their initiatives more effectively to the C-suite. We developed a hands-on approach based on our Sustainability Roadmap that included a fun and engaging role-playing exercise. Participants learned to apply basic finance and strategy concepts to map the impact of their proposed project on the core business. They then prepared their pitch for the CEO.

I really enjoyed the Sustainability Integration workshop. Matt Mayberry’s perspectives resonated with and reinforced my experiences in GE, while providing a more structured approach to thinking through initiatives and preparing leadership communications. The pacing was just right, allowing plenty of interaction and discussion, and time to absorb the concepts and practice applying them. I think this workshop would be of interest to anyone tasked with developing and implementing sustainability projects or initiatives.
— Bill Flanagan, Director, Ecoassessment Center of Excellence, Resource & Environmental Strategies, General Electric Company

Situation

  • Sustainability analysts are passionate about their work and have highly-developed technical skills needed to conduct studies using Life Cycle Assessments and other tools. However, relying on technical or emotional arguments to gain sponsorship for new initiatives from high-level executives is usually ineffective.
  • Many sustainability specialists lack the business acumen needed to communicate the value of their projects to the business in terms that senior executives understand. As a result, they often fail to get the support they need.
  • EarthShift Global wanted to create a one-day workshop to help sustainability professionals gain senior management's support of their strategies and programs. Target audience: beginner or experienced sustainability professionals and beginner or experienced LCA practitioners. 

Project Goal

Develop a one-day workshop to provide sustainability professionals with the concepts and tools they need to create a compelling business case for their initiatives and gain support from business leaders. 


Our Approach

  • The workshop was based on our Sustainability Roadmap which provides a practical path for integrating sustainability with the core business.
  • We introduced basic business concepts and tools such as materiality, strategy mapping and financial value creation. These helped participants think in business terms and build an explicit case for how their sustainability projects would produce benefits to the core business.
  • To make the learning more experiential, we created a fun and engaging role-playing exercise where participants assumed the role of the Chief Sustainability Officer of a well-known company. Working in small groups, using templates we provided, the participants then developed their business case and prepared a pitch to the CEO of the company (played by an actor). They received feedback from their peers and the instructors.
  • Participants then had the chance to prepare a similar business case and receive guidance as they created a pitch for a project in their own organization.

Workshop Agenda

Sustainability Integration Roadmap

Template for Connecting the Dots


Results

  • Participants in the workshop found the role-playing experience a fun and effective way to learn new business concepts and apply them right away.
  • Working in small groups gave participants the chance to learn from each other, share different perspectives, and provide useful feedback to each other.
  • Participants experienced a new way of selling their initiatives to executives. Many indicated they would be more likely to do more homework before their next proposal to create a clearer business case.