Snapshot on Sustainability: Are you a Sustainability Rockstar?
Last week I was at the Women in Green Forum – if you were there, you’ll recognize many of the ideas here and I hope you will add to them. This blog’s title is borrowed from Sarah Backhouse, one of the many inspiring and thoughtful speakers from the day. There were many messages – threads – that formed the fabric of the day, but there are a few that still tug at me —
If storytelling is in our DNA, as it was suggested (and I must agree, given this blog), then our story is our truth. It resonates when it is genuine. Integrity is powerful. You know it when you see/hear it. In such a moment, the story reaches across and through all kinds of barriers grabbing at your soul and pulling you in. You can tell our story now in more ways than ever before in history: through images – still or moving; words – written or spoken; movement; music; and all combinations of these and beyond. So, it is no small matter to recognize that it is our job to shape – to own – the narrative. When it forms a dynamic tale, it moves the recipient to emotion and then to action.
So, what does this have to do with being a sustainability rockstar? Rockstars are out there doing what they think is cool, getting just as many “no’s” as anyone, but getting comfortable with them and finding a back door to get the job done anyway. Rockstars are persistent and create their own networks to find support and inspiration. Rockstars can be in every role of the production. We don’t have to be the front vocalist, though some of us are. Many are behind the scenes, like the concert roadies, making it all work without being seen.
The challenge is to stop thinking about sustainability as a trend, but instead, as a baseline. There is an impactful story to tell about the energy, water, food, building materials, etc. that we use, save, or waste. We, the companies we work for, and those we support, all have a brand and this brand is telling us something about what we believe in and how these are articulated in our actions. When our story is unexpected, even people with an 8-second attention span, take notice. That means our ‘elevator speech’ just got shorter, so it’s time to learn shorthand.
Our brand is speaking all the time, 24/7. The key is to engage the brand, influencing behavior. Whatever people think of us or our organizations, these preconceptions can be useful. They can be tactically positioned to nurture, confront, or surprise us. They can break or perpetuate bias. Brand is communication and communication is education. Selling ideas or products requires educating the consumer, creating an emotional tie, establishing recognition.
Last year I worked on a report where I recommended what to keep or delete based on one thought. When someone reads the information, I wanted him/her to say, “[the organization] does what?” with interest.
In a time when images are replacing text and so many of us are on information overload, how do we remove barriers to understanding sustainability and make caring for this planet part of who we are rather than a luxury that only some can afford? We will need to up-mentor and up-manage. It may feel like Sisyphus pushing one more boulder uphill, but it’s easier to push with a friend than alone. The Forum reminded me of the community that I am now a part of and just by being in it, I am creating new habits and I’m on my way to a new lifestyle. My brand is continually developing. Some threads in my fabric are getting deeper and richer in color. Others are changing hue. Can you see where I’m going?
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Thank you to those who contributed to my learning:
- Beverly Macy, Instructor, UCLA Anderson Center for MEMES
- Delila Vallot, Director, “Can You Dig This”
- Mikela Eskenazi, Chief Commercial Officer, Blipper
- Sarah Backhouse, Managing Director, Communications 50 and Sustainability 50
- Shirin Laor-Raz Salemnia, Founder and CEO, PlayWerks
- Shona Quinn, Sustainability Leader, EILEEN FISHER
- Sonika Malhotra, Global Brand Director, Love Beauty and Planet, Unilever