Lead sustainability initiatives that succeed
Even if you’re not a sustainability expert
The common factor behind successful sustainability initiatives?
Not what most people expect.
Successful sustainability initiatives, those that really make a difference, have one thing in common. It’s not specific sustainability expertise, not detailed carbon metrics, not a particular sustainability framework.
Time after time, we’ve found that successful initiatives are always led by people that have a purpose-centred mindset: people who don’t ask “why should we do sustainability?” but “how can we do sustainability?”
Are you a director or manager with a responsibility for sustainability? Even if you’re not a sustainability expert, if you care about the climate and nature crises – you can lead successful sustainability initiatives.
Too many sustainability initiatives get bogged down with “why should we do sustainability?”
A purpose-centred mindset – “how can we do sustainability?” – is at the heart of successful initiatives. Watch our short (3 min) video to find out why.
We’ve developed our expertise in sustainability leadership working with organisations including:
You can’t lead sustainability initiatives alone
Being personally concerned about the climate and nature crises, and committed to making a difference, is at the heart of effective sustainability leadership. But you can’t do it alone.
- Whatever your position – director, head of department or a programme manager.
- Whatever your expertise – sustainability, marketing, finance, technology, etc.
- Whatever your initiative – embedding sustainability in core strategy, implementing a climate change plan, or a bringing sustainability into particular programme.
For your initiative to succeed, you will need the support of senior management, colleagues, clients, suppliers or other stakeholders – and their ongoing participation in its development and implementation.
Why many initiatives fail to engage people
Initiatives often fail to build strong support and attract significant participation because they assume that people don’t care about sustainability and won’t get involved unless there’s “something in it for them”. That’s a mistake.
People might not understand the science of climate change or biodiversity loss, nor feel moved by the abstract idea of “sustainability”. But research shows that most people do care about what’s happening and want to do something.
In 2021 Ipsos MORI found that among G20 countries:
- 73% of people believe Earth is close to “tipping points” because of human action;
- 83% of people want to do more to protect and restore nature.
The initiatives that fail to recognise this reality miss the opportunity to tap into powerful motivators: people’s existing concerns and their desire to make a difference.
How to build support and maximise participation
Working with the assumption that your colleagues and other stakeholders do also care about the state of the world doesn’t mean overwhelming them with doom and gloom. Nor does it involve trying to frighten, persuade or shame them into action.
Instead you aim to engage their existing concern and unleash their desire for action. While the details will vary depending on your situation, the key steps are:
- Generate interest by recognising that they care, and identify connections between the initiative and the social and environmental issues that matter to them.
- Foster a desire to support and be involved in the initiative, by showing how their actions can make a meaningful difference.
- Remove or work around any barriers that might hold them back so it as easy as possible to take the actions that they believe are worthwhile.
Identify the key success factors for your initiative
In this video, Osbert Lancaster explains exactly how you can identify the specific factors that are most likely to help, or hinder, the success of your initiative.
Once you’ve identified these factors you can create a plan to build support for your initiative and maximise participation. Register and watch the video (17 mins) to find out how.
Knowing more about how to make change has given me a feeling of empowerment. I’ve been really pleased to see how the approach has worked and is valued.
Senior Associate Architect
The systems approach was a bit of a lightbulb moment in recognising that we need both direct action on those things we could easily influence as well as pushing for more strategic change.
Strategic Service Manager
At last I seem to be getting some real traction and influence in this and the programme has helped me identify the parts of our organisational system where I could have the most effective influence.
Subject Lead – Arts
University of Plymouth
The framework has allowed me to identify where I could be most effective within my neighbourhood system to support people and places to flourish.
The Village Hub
Hi, I’m Osbert Lancaster
co-founder & director
I’ve been helping people to be more effective sustainability leaders for over twenty years. I have consulted to numerous organisation, large and small, supporting them to design and deliver sustainability strategies and climate action plans. I’ve taught sustainability at masters level and developed the University of Edinburgh’s first online MSc for professionals tackling the global challenges of environment, development and health.
Hello, I’m Morag Watson
co-founder & director
I’m a climate change and sustainability policy expert and former UNESCO adviser. I have been advising individuals, organisations and governments on sustainability, leadership and change strategies for nearly twenty years. A previous sustainability leadership programme, with Osbert, was recognised as an Outstanding Flagship Project by UNESCO for its contribution to UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
And I’m Richard Profit
co-founder & director
I’m the former Global Operations Sustainability Senior Manager, PepsiCo, where I led the company’s climate strategy. I now work with organisations around the globe, supporting their sustainability journeys as they decarbonise their supply chains.
At Realise Earth we help directors and managers who care about the climate and nature crises to develop and deliver successful sustainability initiatives – even if they aren’t sustainability specialists
Podcast & Guides
Insights, inspiration and practical advice to help you develop and lead sustainability initiatives that deliver results and make a real difference.
Masterclass: Build support for sustainability
For directors and managers – win the support of senior colleagues for your ESG, climate or sustainability initiative using insights from social science.
Sustainability Leadership Programme
Six extraordinary days in nature to realise your full potential to tackle the climate and nature crises, and social evils like poverty and inequality.
Coaching, Consulting & Facilitation
Tailored support for directors and managers with responsibility for their organisation’s ESG, climate and sustainability agendas.
It was such a positive experience. It gave me this feeling of life and empowerment, and direction. It helped me clarify my strengths and how I can bring sustainability into biomedical research through the European research networks I’m involved with.
Sanquin Blood Supply Foundation and University of Amsterdam
A transformational experience I will always treasure that helped me develop a stronger sense of what matters most and where I should allocate my time and energy.
Environment Professional | Trustee, Wellbeing Economy Alliance Scotland
It helped me feel less overwhelmed by the change that I and others need to make. The safe space allowed me to develop my thinking, which has had a hugely positive impact on how I incorporate sustainability in all my work.
Sustainable tourism consultant and crisis recovery expert
I’ve been so devastated by nature being pushed to the wall that I tried not to think about it over the years. But you created a safe space which allowed me to face it and commit to embracing it as a core part of my work.
Faculty of Engineering, UCL
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