Transitioning to Green Business Practices: Persuasion and Other Methods

Recently, I read a few articles on the roots of our beliefs and listened to a podcast on persuasion. Like many, I have always been fascinated by negotiation, persuasion and convincing people. It is essentially the art of making others do what you want them to, think what you would like them to think and get your parents to buy you the last Sims CDs, but there I digress.

Aside from a philosophical debate on whether everyone can change their mind on everything, there lays the hope that climate deniers can accept the science behind climate change and believers can act for a better future. In times of a global pandemic, sometimes, hope is all you need. Anyway, I diverge again. I wanted to put in writing concepts and ideas that will help convincing people of climate change and prompt them to action.

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with

If no one around the person has taken action to lighten their footprint or demand better policies, you are unlikely to do it. For a corporation it starts with individuals, no matter their role, who push to implement ideas and actions but it also relies on your recruitment. Do you attract and retain people with a purpose ? Or are your employees here to do what is demanded and never questioned further. While it can lead to strong opinions, people whose decisions are led by their life purpose are happier, healthier and more fulfilled. A Harvard article found that people who lived with a sense of purpose were 20% less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than the ones who said they did not – this sounds as effective as the last diet trend. If your employees live with purpose they will be in turn spending time with people who live by their purpose and encouraged to support change in your company. This can be environmental protection another strong belief they hold.

Hand holding a cup with the writing embracing mediocrity
Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

social pressure – the good one

If you are to trust that no one recycles around you or bring their own bag, you are unlikely to do it. You do not want to be the only one on your street with a petrol car if everyone has moved to electric or the one with an untidy garden. You will do what you see being the norm in your world. If a puppet competitor showed a heightened care for sustainability, your company would raise the bar to stay afloat and catch-up with the competition. Related to the previous point on who you surround yourself with, you are likely to match your social groups. You could try an experiment in your team where your whole team uses reusable mugs and bottles in an office where it is not the norm. It is likely to spark some changes around you. Your office has long stopped using single use cups? I hoped so too, you can graduate from that and move onto another less resource intensive practice.

People do not like to be told what to do, they need to reach the conclusion themselves.

The podcast presents the Thai government’s approach to tackling smoking. They tasked kids to ask adults for a lighter. After being lectured and refused access to a lighter, the children would question the adults’ irony and offer them a leaflet for a smokers’ helpline. Calls increased by 400% . Yes you read this right: 400% through kids challenging the double standards of adult smokers. I noticed the same thing with recent lockdowns, people are proud of fighting against rules and not being caught. You are not flaunting the rules, just putting yours and others’ health in danger. With the environment, present the facts and reasoning behind the idea you want to implement and let your stakeholders assess whether this is a good idea or even necessary themselves. To push this idea even further, think about something you don’t agree with. Let’s pick death sentence for me. I am unlikely to change my mind with someone forcefully telling me to trust this is the right thing to do. Albeit with some facts I may be able to change my mind.

Monkey in the jungle with hand next to her face thinking
Photo by Juan Rumimpunu on Unsplash

give choices

Offer your audience a limited choice of ideas that they could select, even if they all point in the same direction. If you offer only project A you will find a lot of push back but by providing a choice between A and B however, your audience has a choice, although limited. They can make their own mind and decide what is best for them! A technic derived from that is implicit or explicit comparison. You endeavour to present a good project and an average one. It is a marketing technic for encouraging your customers to buy one of your products, you price one too high for its specifications and another that you want to sell just slightly above that for more specifications. One is clearly better value for your money and other products being benchmarked against it it will sell. You can also raise all prices around your product giving the impression that the market is higher. This article goes over the method in details.

Reduce the friction

Limit the risks and smooth the transition. People are risk adverse, some more than others but one is keen on taking necessary risks only. Your stakeholders will be afraid of switching to a green supplier, encouraging to stop using paper or stop offering a disposable coffee cup at the coffee station. To sell your project you need to reduce the friction to adopting the new idea. This can be by negotiating a lower price for the sustainable supplier, a freemium membership (free trial before the purchase) or a test of the product. We see that regularly with subscription services such as Spotify or apps who offer a free version to test the product and a paid one afterwards. You can also find that in car dealerships, you get a free ride in the vehicle before you sign your bankruptcy contract.

Infographic summarising the content of the article with a picture of Planet Earth, clouds and a light bulb


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