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Our Comment: Encouraging behaviour change to reach your sustainability targets

Written by Amanda Campbell, SWM Associate.

It’s just over two weeks since SWM’s 20th Birthday Annual Conference and Awards and I have been reflecting since on what I heard from the platform and during the breaks. As a new SWM Associate, I was excited to meet the members that are at the heart of SWM and  was not disappointed. My first impression was how happy everyone was – shaking hands, bumping fists and touching elbows as we returned to a live event. And as I watched people navigating the new etiquette I marvelled, as I often have over the last couple of years, at our capacity to adapt our behaviour to our circumstances. The ability and desire to change behaviour was a theme that I heard throughout the day. Right from Jonny Fluffypunk’s call to ‘Put a child by a tree’ through the keynote, panel discussions, the awards and while meeting and chatting to attendees, the subject kept coming up. My impression was of a collective urge to change our trajectory and an individual commitment to do so. Hardly surprising given the nature of the Conference and the attendees. But it’s not just those who were sitting in Millennium Point who need to take action. The question was asked – ‘how do we get individuals and organisations to change?’ and ‘These impacts can feel a very long way off, how can we change behaviour here and now?’ As a former communications and corporate affairs director, a large part of my career has been spent encouraging a change in behaviour. I say ‘encouraging’ because to effect tangible, long-lasting change requires a recognition on the part of the person requiring change that their role is to build belief through being honest, consistent and importantly inspirational. Whether asking employees to change how they travel to work, customers to sort their packaging waste, consumers to switch to a greener product or suppliers to change their practices you need to make it real, make it relevant and make it personal. And it’s the same principle for your other stakeholders such as investors or politicians. It begins with understanding where they are starting from and what is important to them. And being genuinely interested. Only once you’ve done that can you begin to have a conversation that helps them to

  • Hear
  • Understand
  • Believe and importantly
  • Act.

Wherever you are on your sustainability journey, if you’d like to have a chat about how SWM can help encourage behavioural change or help you better communicate your story to your stakeholders, please get in touch.

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