Skip to content

How to encourage business leaders to make more sustainable decisions

02 Apr 2024 10 min read

In this blog Hays provide advice on influencing relevant business stakeholders to consider the environment and sustainability in their decisions.

Man presenting data on a big screen. he is wearing a shirt and jacket.
27% of respondents from Hays’ latest Salary & Recruiting Trends guide aren’t sure where the responsibility for making sustainable business decisions lies within their organisation. So, who should be charged with implementing and overseeing sustainability policies?

In reality, it’s a muddy area – there’s no consensus on where this responsibility should lie. While a quarter of organisations have a board director solely in charge of sustainability, for the other three-quarters the task can lie with a range of different business functions, from human resources (HR) and operations to finance and estates.

It’s common for sustainability to be managed by a single person – the Salary & Recruiting Trends guide shows that this is the case for nearly a fifth of organisations, compared to only 8% who have a large, dedicated team in charge of managing an organisation’s sustainability function. For sustainability professionals working alone, it can feel like a huge responsibility to be the only one pushing the green agenda forward.

Here, we’re looking to lessen the load and provide top tips on how you can influence business leaders in your organisation to make more sustainable decisions. We’re covering:

  • How to develop the skills needed to influence others in business
  • How to emphasise the business value of sustainability
  • How to tailor your approach to different stakeholders
  • How to get the backing of your employees
Develop the skills needed to influence others in business

Although technical skills, like data reporting and knowledge of regulation, are undoubtedly important for sustainability professionals to have, it’s your core skills that’ll be put to the test when it comes to getting leaders to support your policies.

The top skills needed to influence others in business include:

  • Interpersonal and communication
  • Negotiation
  • Stakeholder management
  • Flexibility
  • Emotional intelligence

These skills, especially interpersonal, communication and flexibility skills, are in extremely high demand among sustainability employers and there are many online learning platforms with free courses that can help you develop them. If you’re able to demonstrate soft skills in your role, for example, displaying strong interpersonal skills during a meeting about sustainability strategies, you’ll likely impress senior members of staff.

People around a table with laptops, paper and pens. one person is talking to the others and showing something on a clipboard.
Emphasise the business value of sustainability

Many organisations have sustainability high on their corporate agenda, which is reflected in the above-average salary increases for green roles in the last 12 months.

You can remind employers who are striving to do the right thing and accelerate the transition to a net zero future of their mission and provide actionable ways to achieve it through their responsible decision-making.

If your organisation isn’t prioritising sustainability policies at present, why not point out the strategic risks associated with not pursuing an effective sustainability strategy? Your customers want to feel positive about buying your products or services, meaning many are demanding greater transparency regarding companies’ sustainability commitments. Thus, if you’re overamplifying your sustainability efforts, known as ‘greenwashing,’ or failing to communicate your commitments to internal and external audiences, ‘greenhushing,’ this could result in reduced consumer confidence in your brand.

What motivates your decision-makers? Tailor your approach accordingly

It’s often the case that what drives you in your role as a sustainability professional may not align exactly with what motivates those around you.

Take the time to figure out the metrics that different stakeholders in your organisation relate to – for a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) it may be overall business performance, a Chief Finance Officer (CFO) might be more focused on revenue and a Chief Operating Officer (COO) might relate best to employee engagement levels.

Once you’ve worked out your stakeholders’ “currencies,” you can use this information to strengthen your case for implementing sustainability policies. For example, pursuing an effective sustainability strategy may lead to your organisation achieving a higher Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) score, your targets being recognised by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) or even your organisation being verified as a B Corp.

Get the backing of your employees

As well as trying to get business leaders onside, it’s also important to bring all your colleagues with you on your sustainability journey.

Photo of employees in an office environment

Employees care about their organisation’s approach to sustainability, in fact Hays’ salary guide data shows that 74% of professionals across all industries believe an organisation’s commitment to sustainability is important when they’re considering a new role.

Your colleagues can be your biggest champions if you let them, so make sure you’re sharing your sustainability plans internally as well as externally. This’ll ensure your employees understand what you’re trying to achieve and how they can support you along the way.

Creating a robust sustainability strategy is a whole-team effort. Even if you’re the only dedicated sustainability professional in your organisation, you’ll likely need your operational team to provide the business context to support your plans and your communications team to share relevant information with internal and external audiences. If you establish two-way channels of communication with your colleagues regarding sustainability topics, they’ll likely feel more invested in your strategy and motivated to assist you.

Feeling inspired to drive the sustainability agenda forward in your organisation? Take a look at our Career Stories for further inspiration on growing your career in this space.

This is a guest blog written by Hays for the Green Careers Hub. Hays is a strategic partner of the Green Careers Hub.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Related articles

Created by

IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals