Gaining Sustainability Stakeholder Buy-in: In the Workplace and at Community Level
The RBC Susty Dialogue Series inaugural event took place on May 11, 2023 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm EAT. Organized by Responsible Business Consulting (RBC), over 45 sustainability professionals came together at Baraza Media Lab in Nairobi, Kenya to share perspectives on engaging stakeholders in sustainability in the workplace and at community level. The participants worked in breakout groups to co-create ideas.
Here are some ideas on how to build stakeholder buy-in:
- Include everyone in sustainability discussions and practices. At the workplace, conversations need to shift from the boardroom to the living room where everyone can participate. At community level, the participatory approach should equally be at the center. Leverage community champions such as chiefs and village elders in spreading the message and also contributing towards the project design.
- Make use of the digital platforms for greater reach. With over four billion social media users worldwide, social media platforms have undoubtedly massive potential in reaching a wider audience. Companies championing sustainability should give their audiences accessibility to useful reports and other materials to help them stay informed. Company digital channels are when leveraged well can be one-stop-shops for timely, consistent and relevant stakeholder engagement. However, remember it is about engagement (2-way) and not a monologue – ensure that you interact/engage with your audiences on your digital platforms.
- Understand customers’ needs. Ensure you have a clear understanding of your customers to be able to tailor your strategy to their needs. This spans a range of demographics, including gender, age, region, level of income, level of education and occupation. Consumers will most likely invest in a value proposition that resonates with them. So it is important to have a clear picture of whom you are designing solutions for.
- Explore storytelling to influence change. Storytelling is a powerful tool, which can be used in spurring behavioral change. Successful brands should share stories, showcasing the positive impact of sustainability programs. By spotlighting beneficiaries, other companies are likely to be inspired to adopt and implement sustainability policies. Additionally, sharing sustainability stories is a great way of creating awareness and informing the audience that sustainability is good for business.
- Engage experts to enhance understanding. Oftentimes people mistake sustainability initiatives for philanthropy activities –which amounts to zero profit. Debunking such beliefs, especially if you lack the right knowledge and expertise, can be challenging. To avoid falling prey to such deceitful notions, bring an expert on board to bolster understanding of the subject.
- Seek partnerships and collaborations. They say, ‘No wo/man is an island.’ Partnerships (both internal and external) and collaborations are probable enablers of achieving SDGs. Work with like-minded individuals and organizations that will help you generate ideas and strengthen your strategies and systems. The RBC Susty Dialogue Series provides an avenue for meeting such people, and you should aim to take part in the next episode.
- Invest in research to build evidence for action. The emergence of sustainability dialogues and promotion of SDGs has bred both good and bad news. The bad news is that some brands are ‘greenwashing’ their consumers, by preaching water and drinking wine. Well, consumers are now awake and on the look-out for such misleading products. To avoid falling in this trap and sabotaging your brand, invest in research to stand out. Research provides evidence. It communicates ‘the why’ backing your sustainability efforts.
- Secure buy-in from management by ensuring that your goals and purpose are clearly highlighted. Provide detailed information on the value proposition and share regular updates on the progress of the project. Building an understanding with the executive members in your company is the initial step to steering your project up for prosperity.
As sustainability-related conversations gain momentum in Kenya, there is a need to create awareness, understanding and buy-in with stakeholders to be successful. Convincing stakeholders that sustainability is an imperative for business requires thought-through and clear communication from the onset. Having a strategic direction, smart goals, reaching your stakeholder audiences effectively and including their views, will influence sustainability implementation and impact in the workplace and at community level.