I think these kids have the right idea…
Happy Earth Day! The past week has felt like Mega Earth Week to me.
The environmental brief I wrote for the Marin Community Foundation, Marin’s Environmental Legacy: Moving Toward a More Sustainable Marin was just published on the MCF web site.
April 15 and 16th the Ceres conference was held here in San Francisco. Their conference has always been one of my favorite green business conferences–it brings together investors, NGOs and businesses all working toward accelerating progress toward sustainability and green innovation. A highlight was a conversation between Robert Redford and Sally Osberg of the Skoll Foundation. His ability to bring issues to life through story telling and authentic presence is a model for other speakers to emulate. I left inspired by his remember to take risks, be prepared to fail, but also remember we don’t always fail.
Lester Brown, of the Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization, listed off in impressive detail the litany of statistics on how the world is going down quickly. Honestly, it left me a little depressed. We have so much work to do in a short window of time. He reminded us scientists say we need to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2020–since that it only 11 years away, I think we have an Earth Decade ahead of us!
The Goldman Environmental Awards cheered me right up. What an inspiring event where unsung activists and heros from across the globe are celebrated for their achievements. Al Gore spoke about the need for all of us to find that same place, deep within ourselves, that motivated the Goldman Award winners to work selflessly for a better future.
While a key theme at Ceres was collaboration and cross-sector dialogue, the theme that ran through the Goldman winners was advocacy and taking a stand for local communities and ecosystems in the face of threats of violence and imprisonment.
Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement
My path has always leaned more toward the collaboration and dialogue model. After attending several sessions at Ceres on stakeholder dialogue and collaboration, a few issues to consider if you are considering engaging your stakeholders:
1. Mix of participants: Think strategically about who to invite to the table and stretch as much as possible into your discomfort zone. Bring critics into the room. The groups you don’t want at the table might have important insights or be a catalyst for a new solution to emerge.
2. Activities: Are you gathering stakeholders simply for a dialogue or are you going to commit to joint activities? Will the group only meet once a year? Monthly? In person or remotely?
3. Build trust: This can be a process–build into your meetings processes for stakeholders to understand each others perspectives and create stronger relationships.
4. CEO endorsement: An obvious one, but stressed several times. Get your CEO to the meetings for bigger impact.
5. Focus on solutions: True dialogue can generate increased trust, new solutions and creative partnerships. A key to a successful stakeholder engagement is designing the process to lead to action and solutions. Challenge stakeholders to be part of the solution.
The business case for considering stakeholder engagement?:
1. NGOs can help raise awareness of issues outside your four walls, identify your weaknesses and bring issues to life for the CEO. Issues coming from a stakeholder community often bring credibility to an issue.
2. Reduces reputational risk and helps you identify areas for improvement.
3. Allows you to grapple for solutions with a diverse group of perspectives.
4. Stakeholders can help you push the envelope and stretch for higher performance.
There are some great upcoming events:
1. Sustainable Brands 2009: I am hoping to be there to cover it for Shades of Green.
2. Green Business Camp: I will be attending this sold out event with an unique format for bringing together green entrepreneurs.
3. Sustainable Enterprise Conference: A green conference focused on the North Bay.
4. Greener By Design: With a focus on greener products and green design.