This Tuesday, we continued our Beyond Business as Usual luncheon series by hosting a discussion focusing on the challenges and methods to engage executives on sustainability. Leadership commitment is widely considered the most important factor for the success of sustainability and CSR programs. Whilst many leaders agree and verbally support sustainability, often their actions speak otherwise, and this can be one of the most frustrating challenges sustainability managers face.
To help participants gain an inside perspective on the topic, we invited Harriet Gaywood, Group Account Director at Blue Focus; and Vivian Xiao, APAC Communications Director, Eaton, to provide practical insights, cases, and tools to better engage with board members.
Speaking in front of professionals from leading companies and international organizations, Harriet shared her insight on how to approach the board members. She emphasised the importance of knowing one’s own industry and understanding the latest trends in order to fully identify the company’s over arching business goals. Harriet also stressed the necessity to demonstrate the business relevance of sustainability strategy, and to provide insight that can add value to actors and departments right across the business. Finally, she discussed her experience of using different communication channels to deliver the message she want to get across and some tips on how to frame those messages with a strong story.
Following Harriet’s presentation, Vivian discussed her experience in engaging board members in sustainability programs. Initially she spoke of the positive impacts that sustainability can have on business and shared Eaton’s success in translating sustainability into real business development: after Eaton issued its first CSR report in China, the business operation team started to use the sustainability reports as business brochures for trade and promotional events. Speaking about how to engage board members, her strategy can be summarized into ‘ABC’: A, align with corporate strategy; B, benchmark top companies; C, calculate the value and communicate.
The presentations were followed by an interactive case study which generated a lot of interesting and engaging discussions. Early next week this conversation will be followed by similar discussions in Beijing as we engage industry leaders in similar topics and areas of business development.