How to present your sustainability business case

How to present your sustainability business case

5 tips to communicate, influence, and motivate our colleagues


Making our internal stakeholders collaborate in our sustainability programs could be as hard as making kids eat vegetables. We know that our project has a real bottom-line impact. That is as true as the fact that veggies are good for everyone.

If you have presented your business case obtaining little support or limited resource, or if you simply want to improve the engagement of the Board and senior management, you may want to start applying modern mums’ techniques.

Did you know that some of the best tips to plate-up a dish to make it irresistible (even for the fussiest eater) have a lot in common with the advice that business gurus give in the Harvard Business Review on how to successfully present a business case? Follow these top 5 tips and you will see what I mean.


  1. Personalise your plate

The most common mistake when presenting a business case is to imply that all your stakeholders have the same profile, interests, and needs. That is as real as to say that all people like crushed peanuts in their desserts.  Some certainly do but what about those that are allergic to nuts?

We need to start thinking that an individualised approach, despite being more time-consuming, is also much more effective. That means that you’d better put up a presentation and a pitch elevator for each stakeholder or person you want to convince; that is; one for your CFO, another different one for your Marketing manager, and so on.


  1. Know your person’s concerns and style

Raymond Sheen, author of the HBR Guide to Building Your Business Case suggests that we need to identify our audience’s individual concerns.

You can ask this to your person; the CFO or the Marketing Director, or simply pay attention to what they say while they are talking. What’s that concept that they repeat the most? Is it reducing costs, is it developing new markets in Asia? That’s what they want to see on their plates. Is their style rustic and simple? Or is it modern and sofisticated? That’s how you should plate it.


  1. Solve their concerns with “translated value”

Although obesity is a current worldwide problem, most kids care little about wellbeing so telling them that they have to eat broccoli because it’s healthy won’t be enough. But they most likely want to grow taller to do what big kids do, so you’d better tell them that broccoli will help them grow.

Likewise, “value” is very popular in CSR&S nowadays. We always say that sustainability adds value to the business or creates value for the society. That is all true, but what exactly does that mean to your person? Translate “value” into their language; show him/her how your project will reduce costs or how it will help them to put a step on the Asian door. This should be the focal point and the first thing you need to display; the hero ingredient in the dish that will make their mouths water.


  1. Plate-up your project artistically

A recent Oxford University study reinforced that “we eat first with our eyes”. It revealed that diners prefer, and are even willing to pay more for those plates arranged in an artistically-inspired manner.

Except for those who like eating supermarket prepared food directly from the package, we should start putting an artistic touch in how we present our projects. As celebrity chef George Calombaris states, presentation is all about creativity and details. And, if we are advocating for innovation and change, we should set the example by presenting our business case paper or PowerPoint presentation in a more appealing way:

  • Make it interesting using colour, textures, height and different patterns
  • Instead of just showing plain and nominal numbers use percentages and infographics to depict benefits and figures like ROI and NPV
  • Impress with unique images and avoid cliché photos (You know which, right? those that are our favourite; hands holding a plant, the recycling arrows surrounding the world, etc.)
  • Present what really matters and remember that less is more. (Don’t over use the climate change doom and gloom; illustrate it once and move on)


  1. Bon appetite

Let your persons know what the reward of “eating healthy” is. Show them previous projects’ benefits realisation and the recognition that internally and externally there will be, not only for the company but for them individually.

This could be a note in the internal newsletter acknowledging the Financial Department’s results, an “Eco-award” for those champions handed by the CEO in the annual dinner, or even an advertisement in the GoodBiz Network platform (show off!, remember that it is strategic and contagious)

Once you get them eager to dine on your sustainability dish let them know what the next steps will be and give them the call to action; bon appetite!

What are the techniques that have worked for you when presenting your sustainability projects to your colleagues?

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